Last month, due to an unfortunate clash of dates (one of those evenings when I could easily have attended four top quality events, but had to choose just one), I missed the London Bloggers Meet-up, The PR Edition, which discussed the interface between public relations and bloggers, but follow-up blog posts (eg: EdelmanDigital, Gary Andrews, LondonBloggers.net) have some very interesting perspectives.
First, though: my position. I am a PR professional and a blogger. I have been working in business-to-business PR for over 20 years, both as a consultant and in-house, and during one long stint in-house, I gained enough deep knowledge of the use of web-based technologies in construction projects to write a textbook, published in 2005. Being something of a technophile, but also thinking instinctively as a marketeer and PR person wanting to promote the book, it was almost inevitable that I started blogging on the subject matter – and my niche technology blog ExtranetEvolution.com continues to thrive today.
“Pleeeease, publish my press release!”
During the past five years, I have received numerous PR approaches. Some have been desperate, clumsy approaches almost screaming “Pleeeease publish my press release!”, which I have routinely binned. However, I did write about one persistent offender (see Not a free press release service), eventually writing 10 ways for PR or marketing people to engage with me, the blogger in this blog.
Other PR approaches have been much more professional and well-targeted.
In August, Hewlett-Packard, for example, contacted me about a launch event they were holding in Copenhagen regarding large-format printers. As this was not a technology that I had ever covered in my blog, I could easily have binned the email immediately after a quick scan of the email, but it was clear the writer, Johanna Payne, had done some background research. The email was focused on my recent interests, referring to “today’s ever-changing online & mobile environment”, and asked if we could talk on the telephone.
We did, and Johanna quickly overcame my initial scepticism by pointing out there would be significant announcements regarding collaboration, software-as-a-service (SaaS) and ‘cloud computing’ as it particularly applies to the needs of the architecture, engineering and construction sector. Curiosity suitably piqued, last week I flew to Denmark as a guest of HP to attend the launch of two new HP printers and its new ‘ePrint & Share’ service, about which I have just written a blog post.
I wasn’t the only blogger there either – I had counterparts from architectural blogs in Germany, Holland and Spain, for example (one of whom I was already following through Twitter) – so HP was clearly doing its best to engage with bloggers as well as the mainstream journals and industry freelance journalists who also attended. I also found myself engaging with HP on Twitter before, during and after the event, and I received links to content shared at the event, including various videos on YouTube, photographs on Facebook, etc (I’ve also added some to Flickr).
From some of the face-to-face conversations I had with Johanna and with people from their UK PR agency, Bespoke, it seems this initial event was intended to establish longer-term dialogue with relevant industry bloggers. At no stage was I asked to write anything particular about the event, or about HP or its products or services – though the event’s content was certainly interesting enough. Follow-up emails have also asked about bloggers’ feedback from the event and there is a clear desire “to see how we can continue to work together in the future”.
Some event feedback
Thinking about the event, HP, perhaps the following might help:
- Help the bloggers identify each other before the event (some of us were on Twitter, for example – so a #followfriday recommendation might have been useful)
- Explicitly highlight a hashtag or hashtag combination for the event so that Tweets about the event can be easily followed (#hp and #designjet were sort of just mentioned in passing)
- The launch venue had good wifi, but access required a login and password (if I had checked-in at the hotel beforehand, I would have known these details)
- Some strategically placed power points (and/or extension leads) would have helped if anyone fancied live-blogging or live-Tweeting from the event – I have covered other conferences (and unconferences) in this way but my ageing laptop soon gives up unless powered up
A PR perspective on HP’s blogger outreach initiative
- There was no indiscriminate pitch to the bloggers – approaches were respectful, well-researched, targeted and quickly converted into personal conversations
- No expectations were set by the PR team about what they wanted from the bloggers
- There was plenty of time to talk with HP, Bespoke, HP customer representatives and others before, during and after the launch (which included a tour of a nearby housing development, the “8 House”, above, by HP customer, BIG Architects)
- Conversations have been continued through email and by other social media channels such as Twitter
Of course, this was just the start. It will be interesting to see how HP develop this initiative over the weeks and months ahead. If they are genuinely looking to establish good long-term conversations with relevant industry voices, then the communication should extend beyond the initial publication of blog posts about the event. I look forward to seeing how HP builds on the foundation it established in Copenhagen.