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The New Channel You Can’t Ignore

In the five minutes it takes to read this article, more than 100 new blogs will be created. Perhaps the hottest topic in the public relations industry, blogs have emerged as the most important new communications tool since e-mail.

Weblogs — personal online journals written by anyone from celebrities to chief executive officers — have created a world of “citizen journalism,” where news reporters and editors are no longer the only ones to determine what is news. According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 27 percent of U.S. online adults read blogs. A majority of those readers are young, media-savvy consumers in their 20s and 30s.

Many companies and organizations have already started using blogs to communicate with stakeholders. Why? Once dismissed as fads, many blogs have proven to be very powerful alternatives to mainstream media. And, as key media such as MSNBC continue to create their own blogs, the new channel becomes increasingly integrated with established media.

Another key reason blogs should be on your radar: more and more journalists are receiving streams of blog content via automatic feeds called RSS (Really Simple Syndication). RSS feeds deliver relevant content directly to a personal news reader, similar to a wire service. It’s an easy way for journalists to wade through the blogosphere and follow their favorite companies or topics.

Locally, blogs are also gaining momentum. In April, the Rocky Mountain News announced plans for YourHub.com, an ambitious network of community Web sites that will rely on the community to share news, photos, opinions and event information. For Colorado public relations pros, a new medium like this represents a terrific opportunity to reach local audiences.

If you haven’t considered blogs as part of your comprehensive public relations strategy, it’s time to take a closer look. To get yourself up to speed on blogs, try the following:

– Try It: Download a news reader of your own, add your own feeds and see for yourself how it all works. News readers are available for free download on sites such as FeedReader.com and NewzCrawler.com.

– Do Your Homework: Spend some time searching the Internet for blogs that post content of interest to your company or clients. For help, find an expert who already knows the most influential blogs and how to find them. For many organizations, a good first step is to conduct a blog audit to see what is posted about your company or industry.

– Create Your Own Blog: For many organizations, it makes sense to create a blog that functions as an authority on industry issues or communicates with stakeholders. For help, find an agency familiar with blogs that can help you assemble a blog, brainstorm topics and create updates.

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