The mid-Missouri chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently asked me to lead two breakout sessions at their Fall Professional Development Institute. The topic: “How public relations professionals can use new media, particularly blogs, more effectively.”
The liveliest discussion in both sessions centered on what I call “blog psychology.” I believe that public relations professionals need to become familiar with three distinct areas of blog psychology – efficacy, comfort, and the desire for recognition – and identify ways in which those areas impact their company or organization’s online campaigns.
Efficacy: The people who create, post to, and/or comment on blogs want to feel their efforts have impact. Does your company have a strategy for dealing with bloggers and the people who comment on blogs? If so, how do you let Internet chatter impact your company? Is it constructive feedback or just noise?
Comfort: Some people enjoy actively participating in online discussions. Other people – known as “lurkers” – may visit their favorite blog every day for years without ever leaving a comment or sending an e-mail to the blog’s operator. Consider your target audience, then ask: What is their comfort level for participation? Do most members of your target audience simply seek information, or do they desire more active interplay?
Recognition: The most successful online campaigns – from corporate blogs to viral video and all new media in between, acknowledge the natural human desire to be appreciated by peers. Whether you’re creating a community forum or planning an online contest, ask: Am I providing a mechanism to reward good behavior (participation, loyalty, etc.) with appropriate recognition? And how would members of my audience best like to be recognized?
Men and women who run online campaigns succeed when they see their target audience not as statistics on a site meter, but as humans with real emotions and valid desires. When working with a client, I stress these elements of blog psychology so they can create the most effective web content for their audience.