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SERVICES: Blogs
Blogs enable companies to engage in online give-and-take with their most loyal customers - the evangelists who will introduce others to products and services they value highly - and keeps relationships with them strong. Marketers increasingly target this core group of customers to give them a "heads up" on soon-to-be launched products or services so that they can act as an informal focus group in the development phase, and then spread the word to others in their sphere of influence when the product or service is launched.

Some 30 percent of Internet users in the US - 50 million people - visited blog sites in the first quarter of 2005, according to an August 2005 report by comScore Networks, "Behaviors of the Blogosphere: Understanding the Scale, Composition and Activities of Weblog Audiences." Among the report's key findings:
  • Blog readers visit nearly twice as many Web pages as average Internet users.
  • 51 percent of blog visitors made an online purchase, compared to 39 percent of Internet users overall.
  • Blog visitors are 11 percent more likely than the average online user to have household incomes of $75,000 or more, and are 11 percent more likely to connect via broadband.
  • Blogspot.com, a major blog-hosting service, now has more visitors than the NYTimes.com, USAToday.com and WashingPost.com, which is "clear evidence that consumer-generated media can draw an audience on par with traditional online publishers."
Some of the highest-ranking managers at companies like Sun Microsystems, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, and Boeing have entered the blogosphere [F]ind out what Bob Lutz, vice chairman of global product development for General Motors, has been driving lately
(preproduction models of the Pontiac Solstice and G6 Coupe, and a Hummer H3) [R]ead the thoughts of Randy Baseler, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, about why Airbus's strategy is dead wrong What's driving these busy executives to carve hours out of their busy week to cast their views into the sometimes hostile world of Web logs? Partly it's the appeal of a bully pulpit to promote their views, unfiltered by the media. Partly it's the desire to create a new kind of dialogue with customers, industry observers, and employees. And partly it's the hope of crafting a more human face and voice for the company.
Source: "Blogging Bosses," US News & World Report via Yahoo! News, July 21, 2005
Blogs also allow a company to:
  • Highlight expertise of key practitioners or specialists by offering real-time commentary on relevant breaking news events and/or advice on highly specialized, complex or esoteric topics that cannot easily be researched via Google or another search engine.
  • Facilitate crisis communication. Because of their immediacy, blogs can also be invaluable in a crisis, when a company needs to "get ahead" of the news cycle or to disseminate vital information to a wide variety of stakeholders quickly.
  • "Fill in the gaps" between newsletter issues to stay on top of breaking news developments in a particular field of importance to clients or potential clients.
  • "Continue the dialog" after a Webinar; answer questions from participants that there wasn't time to get to during the time allotted; or augment "canned" Webinars to enable viewers to ask and get answers to their questions.
When General Motors Corp. wanted to stop speculation this spring that it might eliminate its
Pontiac and Buick brands, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz took his case directly to dealers and customers who were up in arms about the possibility. He wrote about it on the company's blog.
The Internet journal format lets businesses expand their reach, generate product buzz and encourage consumer loyalty - while bypassing traditional media. It's hard to quantify how many companies, executives and employees are blogging but there are probably more than 100 official corporate blogs, with hundreds more in the works, said Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for Intelliseek Inc., a company that analyzes and tracks blogs.
Source: "Corporations Entering World of Blogs," Associated Press, June 5, 2005

Florida security firm Sunbelt Software president Alex Eckelberry announced the discovery of a possible international identity theft ring in a blog on his company's Web site: "[T]he company's spyware researcher, Patrick Jordan, discovered suspicious server activity that was delivering malicious spyware Jordan discovered a keylogger program running on a test computer and succeeded in accessing stolen information in a large text file stored there [that] contained bank account numbers, financial URLs, user identifications, search terms, social security numbers, credit cards, user passwords Eckelberry wrote in his blog that company officials were so disturbed by the impact of the identity theft on some of the victims that they were compelled to contact them right away. Eckelberry said he personally contacted one family in Alabama whose father was recovering from heart surgery and had very little money. All of their financial and personal information was exposed."
Source: "Sunbelt Discovers Major ID Theft Ring," Newsfactor Technology News, August 8. 2005

Legal blogs (or "blawgs") are a prime example of how this emerging form of marketing can boost an online marketing program:

"Pick an area of law - trademark, employment, appellate - tack "lawyer" onto it, and search the phrase on Google. a legal blog will be among the top-ranking results - often at the top of the
list. many law firms are missing [a] sure-fire route to the top of the search-engine heap - blogging. And higher search ranking is just one of the marketing advantages blogging offers lawyers "
Source: "Blogging and th e Bottom Line," Legal Tech Newsletter via Law.com, May
And like E-mail newsletters, blog content can be disseminated via RSS to journalists, professional bloggers, knowledgeable cognoscenti and other influentials to augment online and offline branding and image-building initiatives.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS works with your in-house or outside marketing and public relations specialists to:
  • Develop a scope of coverage and frequency of blog postings that meets marketing objectives of clients in specific industries or providing specialized services - as well as the informational needs of their customers and other stakeholders.
  • Develop templates and content management systems for updating and uploading content.
  • Identify hot-button issues, trends and breaking news that key personnel or in-house professionals who have specialized expertise can comment on - using sources of well-researched, objective and accurate content - including, RSS feeds and syndication.
  • Provide editorial guidance to in-house personnel who contribute to blogs to ensure that postings are on-message, and do not divulge proprietary information, use inappropriate language, etc.
  • Develop a publishing schedule with deadlines for content creation, editing, design/production and uploading.
  • Extend the reach of the blog by registering it with the leading search engines that track blogs, as well as disseminating the content via RSS aggregators.
  • Research and evaluate the appropriate blog platform and hosting package for your needs and objectives.