Growing numbers of Silicon Valley tech companies are placing content writing assignments on the PR pro’s plate, with an emphasis on internal blog ghostwriting. That’s because many marketing operations are consumed with posting literally hundreds of blogs on their websites.
Attention to blog production is so great that it takes corporate attention away from the importance of the PR role. All blogs extol and promote products and endless features. Their products are the best. No competitor can come near them is, essentially, what each blog says.
The original blog format has mutated into a variety of forms to suit marketing and execs. In marketing’s case, blogs provide another form of blatant sales communications. Nothing subtle about it. Blogs become glorified data sheets combined with sales pitches. Execs also use blogs to further their careers by taking the product sales pitch to another level explaining their products’ benefits to the buyers and trying to get potential employers to notice them.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '21 Technology PR Magazine
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This isn’t to say that normal blogging based on accepted journalistic standards isn’t an important aspect of a company’s website. But when you go beyond those boundaries, there’s an issue for the PR pro. Also, it’s important to remember the original blog definition: “Blogging is an online journaling activity where writers share their opinions on a subject for personal or business reasons.”
But that’s not exactly what’s happening
In effect, tech marketing is having its way with blogs in many instances. To the outsider, it sounds like those company employees penning those blogs are talking to themselves. Site visitors—including potential customers—are looking for answers and not breast-beating.
The drill goes something like this: The PR pro submits his or her ghostwritten blog into a PC doc sharing system and sends the manuscript to several people to review and make their suggestions, changes and/or additions. In effect, that’s an online re-write room with people eager to put in their two cents. In other words, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen. What happens is those so-called editors drop in their interpretations and what they believe to be a preferred way of stating the facts and/or amplifying them with hyperbole. Meanwhile, there’s a high probability that the story loses its key messages due to so many changes.
A PR pro at a Silicon Valley cybersecurity firm said blogs in his company go through so many iterations that the text becomes “incomprehensible.” He further said that an executive blog usually takes four to six weeks to complete because so many marketing people are encouraged to add their own perspective.
From another end of the spectrum, some execs don’t fully understand the basics of journalism and don’t give a hoot about it. Other execs just don’t have the common sense to realize the ghostwriter first has to get information on which to write their articles or blogs. They strongly believe the ghostwriter should know all the facts to write their blog to their satisfaction.
Further, it’s important to point out that the original blog format has mutated into a variety of forms to suit marketing and execs’ objectives. In marketing’s case, blogs provide another form of blatant sales communications. Nothing subtle about it. Blogs become glorified data sheets combined with sales pitches. Execs also use blogs to further their careers by taking the product sales pitch to yet another level to subtly detail their own professional prowess with technology. In short, blow their own horns.
What to do? Where to go?
So, what is the PR pro to do in a company steeped in a blog culture? Primarily, you’ve got to be an in-house evangelist for establishing a strategic PR plan by huddling with supporters for such a plan while simultaneously educating blog-intensive proponents. Turn those individuals into contributors who can help you craft customer-centric rather than company-centric product stories and articles.
It’s your job as a PR pro to get the company story out by re-structuring all that misdirected, hyperbole-laden blog content into editorially acceptable stories and byline articles. In cases where there’s a strong blog culture, you move forward—cautiously watching your flanks—to execute your strategy a day at a time and work with company personnel that closely associate with your PR strategy.
Let’s tackle the strategy first. The initial critical step is to collaborate with trusted execs, marketing and sale people, those who aren’t adamant about blatantly pushing product, but more intent on listening to you and educating their customers. Working with such individuals will soon lead to a consensus about the key subjects you, as the PR pro, should pursue as the foundation for stories and articles you create. That’s the strategy.
Next, you take the initiative to select execs, directors and managers, especially from engineering ranks to be your subject matter experts or SMEs. They’re the ones who will be your trusted team members to develop byline articles for submission to key trade publications.
Here’s an example of how byline article sourcing is performed: The PR pro at a Silicon Valley cybersecurity software company arranges for a Zoom discussion with an engineering senior vice president. The subject to be discussed is secure access service edge or SASE, pronounced “sassy” in industry jargon. SASE is defined as the convergence of wide-area networking and network security services.
The PR pro and exec set out to discuss the most prominent SASE issues customers face. But immediately, the exec naively begins talking about the virtues of the company’s SASE product. That’s natural because that exec lives day in and day out in that world. The PR pro politely interrupts him and lets him/her know that the editor will throw out the piece if the focus is on the company’s product. The exec resets and talks about the issues the industry is facing. But he/she apologizes that they may not know all the key issues and needs to do more homework.
Another Zoom discussion is arranged. This time, the exec is fully prepared to discuss all the issues and then talks about how the company’s software product has certain features that resolve those issues. That’s the classic problem/solution byline article format editors love and are willing to accept for publication.
Once you get the rhythm going with one, two and three execs, your thought leadership keeps building momentum and other top company leaders—finally getting the message—will eagerly jump on the bandwagon. But it takes time, patience and a keen eye toward selecting the proper and cooperative executive SME team.
Dan Garza is a marketing PR professional and veteran observer of Silicon Valley PR. He’s collaborated with top technology companies and was instrumental in creating and implementing successful PR strategies at these firms.