Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Blogging Relations Case Study: Nokia Gets It Right

Public Relations and blogging is an issue that has come up many times. I was on the panel at BlogOn that Jeff Jarvis didn't like (but didn't stay to see, either), and one of the main points through the panel was whether or not PR should interact with bloggers, should they post comments, and other fun things in this new world of blogging relations. Now, I have argued with other PR bloggers that blogger relations does not mean launching a blog then walking away. Not everyone needs a blog. Heck, I get a few press releases a week that announce this blog launch, or that blog launch ... and really they are not doing much for the conversation. Do we really need another blog on kitchen accessories or anything else trite? No. Do we need more blogs that are just Del.icio.us tags pretending to be posts? No.

Now, this does not mean that I will not look to blogs - or podcasts - for new projects. Why? Because depending on the client and the project, it might make sense. I am in the midst of counseling someone on crisis communications, and suggested an RSS feed and blog platform that we can immediately flip the switch on, just in case we need to. I recently put together a proposal that included a whole portion that was just about video podcasting, because if it was done correctly, it would have been viral. Heck, if I take the Nokia N90 to CES, I plan on Video Podcasting with Audioblog.

But, I digress as I wanted to set up the picture: blogging relations is not about setting up a blog like others too often suggest, but it is about working and communicating with bloggers. Let me say that again. It's about working and communicating with bloggers. And, that's what the Nokia Nseries blog about the N90, a real blogger relations program, is all about: working with bloggers.

This post is about how Nokia got it right. No, I'm not jealous or envious, but oh, how I wish I had come up with the program,. It's a true blogger relations program, and about getting the community involved. In a way, this is a "smart-reviewers" program that was taken to the next level: bloggers.

Now, full disclosure, I have one of the phones in my little hands, and am looking at it from my digicam background and online photography, and one thing: the phone rocks.

All the photos in this post have been taken with the Nokia N90 (except the one of the phone itself). Another disclosure: I have interviewed Andy Abramson in the past. It's his 12 year-old Del Mar, CA firm, Comunicano, which is running the outreach program for Nokia, and the Nokia N90 blog. PR Week covered that but I wanted to look at it from a PR blogger standpoint on why other PR people should be looking at this as a way to move forward with bloggers - but first they need to know the bloggers.

So, here's what you get when you open the box. You get the phone - naturally - but you also get a Nokia blogger kit. The package arrives in a nice sleeve or as Andy calls it, a wrap. You slide the box out and open the lid. Inside before you get to the blogger kit is a hand written, personal note from Comunicano’s account team, then an inlay card. Once you lift the in-lay card you get to the kit. Inside is a letter from Andy about the phone and the program. The letter also tells you the link to the Nokia N90 blog, and includes a CD in a sleeve with the press releases, images, and PDFs on the product.

According to Andy, the phone and kit were sent to about 50 bloggers - ranging from mainstream influential bloggers to vertical bloggers to niche bloggers - with no demand that anything be posted. I do not know about other bloggers, but I was first contacted to see if I would like to receive the phone, and said yes to play with the digital camera part. In the letter, it is noted that the bloggers will need to return the phone to Nokia, when they ask for it, which is standard for any review program. Comunicano even included a FedEx slip already filled out to make it easy - I used to do that with Kodak, but inevitable the slip would get "lost" by reviewers. But, this is not a traditional review program per se - it's more of a blogger outreach program.

I quickly spoke with Andy to find out more about the program, and how they decided on the bloggers. I also wanted to know what risks they thought there might be, and if being a blogger gave him more street cred to do such a program (and, well, should I be milking my status more often).

Now, Andy has an interesting background that lends itself to being different, to pushing the envelope. That was one of the things that came up during the interview with Andy – he wants to push PR and communications, establishing new ways to work with media and communities – both online and in the real world. Andy's been doing PR since he was 14 – I was working for my English teacher at 14 – and doing things like being the guy who hung with the pro players then educated the sports reporters on things they didn’t know for the Philadelphia Wings in 1974, establishing the first amateur sports outreach program run by a professional sports franchise for the Philadelphia Flyers from 1976-88, and then at Upper Deck from 1991-1992 where he redefined how to work with the hobby and trade press. Today he still creates and executes his campaigns that push to redefine the role of PR, and how PR operates with the public and the media.

To me, the blogger outreach makes total sense. This is the perfect phone for someone that wants to start video podcasting as you can shoot small snippets - like me here messing around and mistakingly taping myself ...

Here's a very small snippet with no sound. I didn't realize I was recording ... but it's just to show how you can podcast.


Now, BL Ochman does not think it was such a great campaign. But I think she is taking a narrow view of the N90 blog, and the program as a whole. First, I think she thinks Andy is a newbie - Andy is far from a blogging newbie, or a PR newbie. He is regulalry approached often for blogging on various VoIP subjects or by the media to make sense out of what the companies in the industry are saying - he blogs on VoIP, not on PR.

Andy and I have spoken in the past about bad PR/Blogging relations, and he has a great post about it. BL recently ran her own campaign for Budget and I think she is forgetting that similar complaints could be made of the Budget campaign - that it's just an ad buy, and is not going to influence anyone but is buying influence and buying the people playing the game. Do I believe that? No - I thought it was creative outreach, just like the Nokia N90 is creative, but Nokia is getting bloggers just as involved, if not more so.

And, Stowe Boyd - another blogger that got the phone - has noted that if he thought the phone blew chunks, he would have said so. I have met Stowe. I have spoken with Stowe. And, I believe Stowe would have ripped the phone to shreds if he did not like it. Andy has even told bloggers, write what you want, pro or con and that their comments will go up on the official Web site. The bloggers in the review program will also get access to the site, to actually post. That's pretty daring, and something that makes the program really different ... and potentially dangerous.

And, that's the thing - PR firms are taking a risk when they send products to bloggers, but is it any different than the risk we take when we send products to newspaper reviewers? Not really, and if a PR blogger says it is, he/she are delusional. Yes, blogs are more viral and reach different audiences, but sending products to bloggers is a crap-shoot, just like it is with newspaper or mainstream media reviewers. It's slightly different, but not all together dissimilar.

Some might disagree – to a degree – that sending products to bloggers is not much more dangerous than sending to a newspaper reviewer. First, though, the newspaper review might not even write a review, but it’s likely that a blogger will – and I can attest to this, as I have product out to reporters that sits there idle for months. But, newspapers will review with some decorum – not the Forbes nastiness that us bloggers are known for.

My issues with the phone? The instruction book is terrible - and I read it all the way through, and could have saved time by just reading the quick start manual. I have yet to figure out if I can post from Lifeblog to Blogger, but I do not believe so, so the images you see here were transferred from the card to my computer but I did learn how to transfer to Flickr - thanks atmasphere! Otherwise, the phone and camera rock.

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