Chronicling the highs, lows, quips, quotes, comings and goings of Washington, D.C. spokesguys and spokesgals

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sucking Up to Bloggers, DC Edition

In conversations with Hill press secretary friends, trade association PR folks, and other colleagues around town, it's pretty clear that plenty of DC PR pros are still trying to figure out how to interact with bloggers. Many Members of Congress and their staffers seem to view bloggers as reflexively hostile toward politicians, but the truth is that showing bloggers respect and engaging with them goes a long way.

The latest Business Week has a piece on how businesses are engaging with the blogosphere, noting that "blogger relations specialists" at PR firms (including yours truly) "are monitoring posts and chatting up bloggers to gain credibility."

Former Apple marketing chief Guy Kawasaki has put together a great list of blogger-relations tips on his blog, appropriated titled, "How to Suck Up To A Blogger." Go read it.

These are all great tips for DC flacks, but PR campaigns here are unique, mostly because most of us are trying to influence policy debates or get something done on the Hill or within the Administration. So, I humbly offer a few DC-specific addenda to Kawasaki's tips:
  1. Suck up to the bloggers who matter to the people you want in your camp politically. Need to influence Republican Members to see an issue your way? Reach out to PowerLine, RedState, or The Corner. Need to influence Democratic Senators? Butter up the folks at HuffingtonPost, MyDD, or Kos. But also think about several steps down the blog food chain. You better believe that Connecticut Democratic pols and their staffs are reading My Left Nutmeg, and that VA Dem staffers are reading Raising Kaine. Remember, an obscure blog is just one Political Wire referral link away from being very well-read.

  2. Don't pitch a political blogger on a policy issue, and vice versa. Some bloggers in the political arena only blog about politics (campaigns, who's up, who's down, etc.). You probably won't have much luck sucking up to them about, say, the new Medicare bill that's on the floor this week. So, do your homework and look for the bloggers who are most likely to actually write about policy debates.

  3. Give sympathetic bloggers an action item. You've found a blogger who's likely to see things your way, and you have them all teed up with a sympathetic post on your pet issue. But don't forget to suggest a concrete step that supportive readers can take -- whether sending an email, signing an online petition, or calling their Member of Congress. Many uninformed pols see bloggers as do-nothing layabouts who are contemptuous of politicians. But if you can encourage bloggers to flex their muscles with their Member of Congress, all of a sudden bloggers are a real force in the eyes of politicians. The Save the Internet campaign is a prime example here.

  4. Pick your battles. Some policy battles lend themselves to blogger sympathy better than others. If you're fighting for a corporate tax cut, reaching out to bloggers to push your case will probably earn you more scorn than support. On the other hand, if you support the creation of an earmarks database, that's the kind of transparency-minded, blogger-friendly crusade that can really catch on. Just ask the bloggers attending the WH bill-signing today.
Those are just a few DC-specific rules that come to mind. Got any more?

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