Thursday, January 12, 2006

Blogging Outreach for the US Army

Well, when you are running a successful blogging initiative in a successful PR firm, companies and organizations are going to come to you for advice, and to lead blogging initiatives. Yes, I am speaking of Hass MS&L and the BlogWorks team. Ha! Bet you thought I meant someone else, but geez, come on, I said successful blogging intitiatives that go beyond blog launches.

From O'Dwyer's, comes the story that the US Army has contracted Hass MS&L's BlogWorks for a blogger outreach program. From the story:
The U.S. Army has hired Manning Selvage & Lee to do outreach to pro-military bloggers, Jud Branam, managing director of Haas MS&L, told O'Dwyer's.

Branam said he could not go into any detail about the work. He would only confirm that the Detroit office was recently hired by the military.

A Haas MS&L e-mail sent to bloggers says the Army is interested in testing a "new outlet for public information." The Army promises "exclusive editorial content" on selected issues.

The blogs are viewed as a way to distribute "good news" about Iraq stories. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believes stories about progress in Iraq are largely missing from the mainstream press.

France's Publicis Groupe owns MS&L, which also blogs on behalf of General Motors.
Well, this is an interesting way to go about it, and the full pitch letter to the bloggers can be seen on One Hand Clapping. My only complaint on the pitch letter is that it's way too long for bloggers. Short and sweet and to the point is my new mantra for pitch letters, especially ones to bloggers.

The Washington Post's Early Warning Blog had a different take, though. They think that the Army hiring MS&L is a desperation move, but I have to disagree. MS&L did quick outreach, informing the political bloggers that there is information and access out there, if they are interested. It's about access, which is never a bad thing. It's not like all bloggers work in the Beltway, or for the Post, so it's a way for them to get information and interviews as well, should they so desire.

Now, it also depends on how the Army brass are going to work with bloggers - but I don't think MS&L has that full control of the Army press officers. If the Army is upfront, honest, and doesn't try to spin - but just communicates - I think the program could go well.

As a side note, this is not the first proactive blog campaign undertaken by BlogWorks. Last November, they did blog outreach for Hefty Serve 'N Store plates and bowls. There were a few mis-steps there - bad targetting, bad mail merges - but they learned from that experience, and seem to have done a better job with the Army. Full disclosure, I asked for some of the plates and bowls, and they are pretty neat. :)
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