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PRSA Akron Steppin’ Up

I'm pleased to announce that the Akron Chapter of PRSA joined the blogosphere in March. Even Constantin made note of it. Sponsored by Akhia Public Relations (and hosted by Six Apart's Typepad) the blog is titled, "A side of Blog."

First of all, I'm thrilled to see that NE Ohio has entered the "conversation", as it were. When I read the email my friend sent to me about the blog, I nearly fell off of my chair. I was so excited. I have, for eight to ten months now, been very disappointed not to see more PR firms or professionals in this area engaged in the blogosphere. Not to say that these people aren't doing great PR work, it's just that I felt like our area was lacking an online presence. I must not have been paying close enough attention, as I note that Chris Thompson of Edward Howard has a blog, too. I'm interested in other NE Ohio new media communication efforts. Anyone? I applaud Ben at Akhia for stepping up to the plate to spearhead the Akron PRSA Chapter project and I applaud the professionals that are taking an interest. 

The news and announcements for this on the PRSA Akron Website reads:

Blog! Get Your Blog Here! Hot off the press!
Posted: 3/13/2006
Ok… hot off the keyboard may be more like it. Akron PRSA has started our very own blog! We are proud to announce the addition of one of the latest movements in information sharing to our bank of communication methods. So stop by, check it out. Read as our chapter members discuss everything from movies and sports to PR ethics and government.

I'm a little concerned about the topics listed here. Not to say we don't need a little levity, humor, and water cooler talk in the PR world from time to time (because we do), but – well, the idea of discussing government frightens me a little. Does that mean politics? I was happy to see an email sent out to PR pros that clarifies it a little and asks for contributions. It reads:

Visit http://prsaaa.typepad.com/akron/ and check out the…posting, "A Day in the Life of an Intern." Add it to your favorites and check back often for updates and new postings. It's a great forum for you to submit feedback about your PRSA experiences, offer reviews of local vendors, exchange information with other PRSA Akron members, and more.

Since its inception on March 6, Chapter President Carrie Kandes posted, Ben from Akhia posted three times, the Akhia Intern has posted twice, the Chapter VP sent a thank you to professionals who helped with our PRSSA Student Development program, and I sent in a post. Lots of hits to the site, the email had said, but I think more content and more focus is required. Judging from the blockquote above with a list of topics. I'm wondering if a discussion board or Yahoo! Group wouldn't be more applicable for creating an online community for PRSA Akron members. This goes back to the question of "when is a blog a blog?" Just because it uses blogging tools? I don't think so, and many in the blogosphere would agree. This shows us that new tools can be used to fulfill important functions, but should not be used just because they're cool. PR bloggers have been telling their clients that for months. "Do we want to blog?" is not the right question, the proper one is "why should we be blogging?"

So, my observations:

  • What's the purpose? Answering this question will determine the blog's direction.
  • Who can write? I believe that everyone has the right to contribute in some way.
  • Who can post? Ben is clearly the moderator for this. And he already told me he's not going to censor things, which is great. But this adds another step to the process. Like all PR pros, Ben already has a full plate, why make it more difficult for him?
  • There aren't many links.

In sum, what I'm seeing is that A Side Of Blog is currently like a meeting with no agenda and no scheduled speakers. Conversly, a blog is more of a virtual conference with one or more presenters who take requests and suggestions from the audience to start a discussion. It is not an open forum. That's what Listservs and Usenet groups are for. Not surprisingly, I have a few suggestions:

  • Find the purpose. This will give direction and life to the blog.
  • Post more often and give it one voice. The benefit of a blog is that it's a way to conversationally share information that invites discussion. If everyone can post, there's no discussion, just random thoughts. What would readers gain from it?
  • If you don't want one voice, maybe give a handful of select people rights to post. Sharing the responsibility among a few will push them to write. Friends and colleagues of these few will visit and participate in the conversation. Soon, word will spread and a community will form. Develop a page of contributors that list each person, her job, and her background. Have the authors write about industry trends, interesting asides, lessons learned, and chapter information.
  • Have one person do the posting, Ben is the logical choice. The Forward Blog, for instance, works because Erin Caldwell has assembled a crack team of pros and student authors. But only one person posts to the blog, which ensures proper timing and minimizes overlap of topics. It works, it works really well. There is no shortage of posts and the content is excellent. In the spirit of disclosure, I'm one of the contributors to the Forward Blog.
  • Link, Link, Link!
  • Have fun.

So those are my thoughts. Don't let me fool you, I'm really excited about this and I'm looking forward to joining the Akron PRSA chapter in the future. But I have some concerns about the blog. A great idea that needs a little molding and Ben is already leaning that way. His most recent post brings me hope, except that he doesn't link to the blog where he got his info. A blogosphere faux pas. This initiative is new and I'm hopeful. I'm on board. I'm ready and eager to listen and contribute.

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