Contacting me: High-tech PR in the age of blogs

In June I met Mark O'Neill, CTO of Vordel , at the Web Services Edge conference. Today Mark sent me a pointer to his new blog . As you can see by glancing at my channelroll , I've subscribed to Mark's blog.

Six months ago I said we were reaching critical mass . Now I'm sure that's true, and I think the time is right for an essay I wrote then, but shelved, on how blogs will change high-tech PR.

Here's how it used to work, and still mostly does. A PR firm sends out an email blast to a bunch of tech journalists, announcing that a tech company's CTO will be speaking at an upcoming conference. Then come the follow-ups: "Did you get our message?" "Will you be attending the show?" "Can we arrange a time for you to speak with our CTO?" These follow-ups have earned the unflattering term flak . Like every tech journalist, I'm on the receiving end of a lot of this stuff. I've always understood why it was necessary, but was always frustrated by the inefficiency of the procedure. It was never clear how to change the equation, until now.

It happens that I've met Mark, and what Vordel does (web services security) is of interest to me, and although I won't be in SF on Sept 5 for the event Mark mentions in his blog, we'll undoubtedly be in touch. But quite often, I won't know the principal, or the company. What I hoped would start to happen, and am now certain will happen, is something like this:

Hi, I'm XXX, [CTO|Architect|Product Manager] for YYY which does ZZZ. I have started a weblog that describes what we do, how we do it, and why it matters. If this information is useful and relevant, our RSS feed can be found here . Thanks!

The PR folks at YYY now have a couple of ways to gauge the effect of this probe. The access logs for XXX's blog will show whether or not it provoked a clickthrough. They'll also show whether the RSS feed was hit, and if so, whether it continues to be hit on a regular basis.

If the journalist's blog runs in transparent mode (i.e., reveals its subscribed feeds as I do with my channelroll), things get even more interesting. The PR folk have a much clearer idea of what the journalist really follows than they can get from, say, MediaMap . If I tell MediaMap that I follow "networking" or "security," what does that mean, really? By exposing the RSS channels that have passed my filters and become part of my daily inbound feed, I am helping others who would like to become part of that feed understand what my filters are. And I'm helping myself by attracting related channels that ought to be part of my feed.

The larger themes at work here were stated first and best in the Cluetrain Manifesto . As a tech journalist, my work revolves around conversations with those of you who are continually inventing the stuff. (We're usually on the same wavelength because, in the modest ways appropriate to my interests and skills, I'm inventing stuff too.) As more of you begin to speak directly in weblogs, in your own voices, our conversations (both public and private) will deepen. There will be more context. I'll know where you're coming from, and why, and how you got where you are, and we can jump straight to the really interesting bit: where you're going (and why). Our conversations will inform and improve the quality of what ends up in the print version of InfoWorld . They'll enhance your web mindshare . And -- not coincidentally -- they'll be a lot of fun.

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