Five BlogTalkRadio Hacks for PR Practitioners

PR Week, the bible of the public relations industry, recently published an article about BlogTalkRadio.  The trade pub reported on Fleishman-Hillard’s plans to use BlogTalkRadio as a communications vehicle for its client, H&R Block. 

It turns out Fleishman got wind of BTR via a Media Orchard Live show with PR doyen Steve Rubel. Thanks, Steve — the check’s in the mail.

Although BlogTalkRadio, still in its infancy, is today primarily used for non-business purposes, the platform has numerous applications for business communications.  It’s only a matter of time before PR agencies and corporate communications departments start figuring this out.

Here a few PR hacks for BTR that come immediately to mind: 

1. Use BlogTalkRadio for telephone press conferences.  Media and analyst teleconferences can be very pricey; I was talking to a friend in investor relations the other day who said his company’s quarterly earnings call for analysts typically runs about $5,000 — not including a separate charge for posting an archive on the Web. 

While BTR is probably not the best tool for an investor call (public companies generally prefer that analysts each have dedicated lines, and like to pre-screen all participants) , it is an excellent tool for press announcements.  And it’s been my experience in working with companies large and small that while cost is usually not a factor in the decision to hold an investor call, it is almost always a factor in deciding whether to have a media teleconference.  

Using a free service like BTR takes the pressure off to make this kind of communication more informal.  Before, if you sprung for a telephone press conference and got only three trade reporters on the line, you looked pretty bad — you’d wasted an exec’s time and the company’s money.  Now, there’s no reason not to have press conferences as frequently as you’d like — just post the archive next to the press release on your site and you’re providing the media, and the public, with an additional level of information about your announcement. 

2. Use BlogTalkRadio to supplement media announcements with executive audio. If you don’t think an announcement is worthy of a press conference, you can at least get the relevant managers and execs together for a BTR discussion of the announcement.  BTR allows you to have five people on the line at once, so you can have a free-flowing discussion about your latest product launch, strategic alliance, etc.   Post the archive on your Web site, and if a reporter doesn’t have time to do an interview with one of your execs, he might find a comment he can use in the audio file. 

This is also a way for reporters to get a preview of how various managers and execs present themselves.  They might hear one of your tech gurus pontificating and say, “Hey, this guy explains stuff in a way that I can understand it.”  And guess what?  The next time the reporter is working on this-or-that tech trend story, she may call you up and ask to speak to your expert by name.

3. Use BlogTalk Radio to connect with customers and answer their questions.  Is your company an expert in tax preparation?  Then why not have a BTR show to provide tax tips for 2007 and answer consumer questions?  Does your company provide consumer IT support services, a la the Geek Squad and its competitors?  Then why not have a show where you cover common problems people have with their PCs?  Whatever your company’s brand, you should carefully assess every possible platform for getting your message out to your customers — including BlogTalkRadio.

4. Use BlogTalkRadio for employee communications.  While BTR is obviously not the best forum for confidential internal communications, it can be ideal for other uses. For example, I used to work for a company that gave out an employee-of-the-month award.  The awards ceremony consisted of an executive calling everyone in the corporate office together and saying a few nice words about the employee, then having the employee say a few words.  Or, if the winner worked at a field office, the same ceremony would be conducted at that location. Then — poof! — plaque awarded and event over.

What if, instead, the exec had a brief BTR show each month, explaining the purpose of the award, citing the winner’s achievements, and letting the employee explain what he liked about the company?  The archive would be available for all company employees — corporate and field.  It could also be posted on the HR section of the company’s Web site as a real-life illustration of the company’s priorities and values. 

5. Use BlogTalkRadio as a supplement to a company blog.  If your company is hip enough to be blogging, why not add a BTR show and podcast?  It promotes real, unvarnished dialogue — with consumers, employees and the media — in a way that a blog simply cannot.   If you’re a customer of XYZ Corp. (sorry, I went to business school), would you rather post a comment on the CEO’s blog — or ask the CEO a question directly, live?  What seems like the more open, interactive venue to you?

Again, a key thing to remember when considering all of these applications is that BTR is free.  Particularly for clients or employers who are sensitive to expenses (are there any other kind?), this is a huge plus.   Without having to worry about cost, you may be able to break through any institutional resistance and teach your client or employer a few new tricks.   What’s the harm in trying it out?

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