Blog, Schmog: Why You Absolutely, Positively Don’t Have to Blog

You hear “blog,” and think, “Blah!” As in, “Yuck!”

No, make that “Blah-blah-blah!” As in, “A royal waste of my time—as a reader, and certainly as a writer.”

OK, I hear you. And it’s true—you don’t have to write a blog. Isn’t it so 2007, anyway?

Of course, if you are looking to grow with the 21st Century way of doing things, then there’s got to be some online formula to help you promote and grow your cause, business or widget of the moment. Try this combination on for size:

Hone the Discipline of Reflecting

Take some time to actually think about what you’ve done, what you’re doing and what you plan to do. Then distill those thoughts into words. It’s not simple, but on the other side is a huge pay-off: improved processes and practices.

Psst, let others in on your mental journey. It increases their understanding of and respect for what you’re up to.

Display Your Expertise

Through anecdotes and insights that only you possess, convey what separates you from the pack. Give a bit of yourself away—not the whole store, but enough to add value to those who come across your path.

Send a Signal That Your Cause or Business Is Alive and Well

When you haven’t updated that website in years—or, God forbid, haven’t gotten around to creating one in the first place—think of some simple way to let this cat out of the bag:

“Hey, everyone, I’m still around and gainfully engaged in the marketplace.”

Hint: if you’re thinking of cutting-and-pasting those very words into an e-mail, then sending it to everyone you know, it’s time to ponder Plan B.

Create An Anchor for All Your Communication

In the online realm, it’s a good idea to figure out a way to rise above the din that comes with billions of options.

So, amid enticements to check out this video, to read that product review or to study your baseball team’s latest box score, how do you help cyber-surfing Hansels and Gretels find their way to your home?

By consistently leaving trails of crumbs—on your e-mail signature, in comments on websites and everywhere in between—that all lead back to the same URL (Uniform Resource Locator).

That’s a good start: engage in reflective thinking; show and share your expertise; regularly remind the world that your business is in business; and establish a reliable communication anchor.

By now, it should be abundantly obvious that you absolutely, positively don’t have to blog. Then again, you don’t have to harness one of the most multi-dimensional, dynamic ways for kick-starting your efforts.

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Just Who or What Is `Mainstream Media’?

Lately, there has been much discussion and debate on my Medill School of Journalism alumni list-serv about what constitutes “mainstream media.”

Of course, the phrase is often used in the context of claims that the aforementioned nebulous institution is biased, out-of-touch and worthy of tongue-lashings from all quarters.

On a related note, someone recently got huffy with Peter Shankman’s Help A Reporter Out source-and-storyteller matching service. The reason they unsubscribed from his so-called HARO: he was including too many source requests from bloggers in his thrice-daily (Monday-Friday) outreach.

To me, much of it shakes out thusly: what influence and impact does a given entity–whether it’s a person, a website, an organization, or whatever–have on your target audience?

In some cases, a blog with a relatively small, but intensely interested, passionate and motivated following, can represent a much better and more relevant “hit” than a national publication with a huge, but diffuse, reach.

Anyone seeking to increase their sales, their profile, or otherwise attain a goal needs to intelligently assess the entire landscape of communications outlets–and it’s growing bigger and murkier by the hour–and then make thoughtful decisions about where to devote its story-telling resources.

Today’s mainstream may well be tomorrow’s footnote, and today’s alternative media may well be tomorrow’s mainstream.

Terminology aside, if you’re a publicist, this is my bottom line: If your media outreach list isn’t constantly evolving, then you’re not paying nearly enough attention.

Blog A Vital Cog in Paralympian Coverage

How important are blogs?

Sometimes, they can provide essential information and help spur on media coverage. A recent case in point was Chicago Sun-Times reporter Andrew Herrmann’s story on U.S. Paralympian Melissa Stockwell, the first female U.S. amputee in the Iraq War.

Over the past nine months, Herrmann wrote two fine stories about Stockwell.

The first time, last December, he interviewed her in person at the Oak Park location for Scheck & Siress, the region’s top private prosthetic and orthotic provider and where Stockwell is interning. The second time, Herrmann caught up with her by phone while she was the Olympic Training facility in Colorado–no easy feat, given her jammed schedule after she qualified for the Paralympics.

But this time around, she was half a world away, in China, and essentially unreachable by traditional means. On Friday, keeping the media posted on Stockwell’s efforts, I passed along her most recent blog update.

Three days later, Herrmann resourcefully tapped into the blog in filing this piece. And I believe the blog will continue to serve as a valuable resource for other media outlets that will consider profiling her journey upon her return to the Chicago area.

On a related note, to see a moving tribute about her amazing qualification for the Paralympic Games–she was a longshot to make the team–check out this 4 1/2-minute New York Times video.

Media Free-For-All Presents Opportunity

Some thoughts spring to mind on the heels of the Democratic National Convention, where bloggers played an increasingly influential role.

In 2000, when I began working a four-year stretch as a freelance reporter for Time magazine’s Chicago bureau, I was amused by the speed with which sources returned my calls.

If I had called those same people less than a year earlier, toward the end of my eight-year stint at a relatively small daily newspaper (see my newspaper photo, circa 1998), the response rate would not have been nearly the same.

Back then, sources could pretty well gauge the reach and clout of a given media outlet and respond–or not–accordingly. Nowadays, as communication channels have expanded exponentially, the landscape has changed. Today’s media titan may well be on the outs tomorrow, and vice versa.

This presents a major opportunity for any professional communicator, whether they wear the hat of blogger, journalist, publicist or beyond, to jump into the fray and distinguish themselves as a first-class story-teller.

That is something that will never go out of vogue–the ability to tell stories in a clear, engaging way that informs and/or entertains your audience.