Blawgs for marketing, sure, but what about for PR?

One goal of media relations should be to make it as simple and painless as possible for the media to keep up with you. Don Ledford is someone who understands this. I don’t know Don, but I do know that, as public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the western district of Missouri, he has launched a media blog to disseminate news coming from his office. “Consider this an online press briefing, sort of a virtual courthouse steps,” he explains, “where reporters and editors can find more information they need to make coverage decisions.”

At a time when it seems that every law firm is at least thinking about launching a blog as a marketing tool, few are giving thought to the usefulness of launching blogs as PR tools. In my mind, firms are missing out on what may be the quickest and surest route for getting their news to the media — and beyond the media direct to consumers and businesses.

How do firms distribute their news now? Most use one or several press-release distribution services. They may also have their own snail- and e-mail lists of editors and reporters. The front page of their Web site probably features the three or four most recent news items. Somewhere on the site is an archive of older items.

As measured by simply getting something to the desk of editor, distribution services or lists are probably the most effective, but that’s not saying much. Do they reach the right editor for your story? Is their information up to date on the publication and its staff? (Example: It is nearly three years since I left as editor of the National Law Journal, and I still get calls and e-mails from PR folks who think I’m still there.) Even if they reach the right editor, how many other releases has that editor received today?

As for putting firm news on a Web site, this is of use only to the extent someone comes looking for it. If a journalist has a strong interest in a particular firm, he or she may regularly check the firm’s site, but this would be rare.

In contrast, by posting firm news to a blog — a blog with an RSS feed, of course — the firm would be providing a vehicle whereby interested reporters and editors could subscribe to the blog’s syndication feed and quickly scan the firm’s headlines. I can’t cite hard-and-fast numbers, but my sense is that journalists are among the most avid readers of blogs. They are comfortable with the format and comfortable with using syndication feeds. By posting its news to a blog, the firm would enable journalists to receive its news in a format that they find comfortable and that is delivered direct to their desktops. PR blogs would allow firms to circulate important news in real time, as it happens. Most importantly, journalists would decide for themselves whether to receive the firm’s feed. Because they will have opted to receive this news, they will be more likely to read it than they would an unsolicited piece of e-mail or snail mail.

One other advantage: Non-journalists would also subscribe to the firm’s news feed. This means clients, potential clients and anyone else who is interested in the firm will be able to keep up with its news in a direct and easy manner.

So, law firms should learn a lesson from Don Ledford, and let blogs help them reach the media.