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Dan Gillmor’s latest post is illuminating. I recieved a similar note from a different PR firm pitching their blog ‘manipulation’ – sorry, ‘influencer’, and measurement services. It’s in the round file on the floor.

We would all be wise to spend time understanding what the blogsphere actually is. It’s a conversation. And a rich one at that. It requires listening as much as it does ‘speaking’. If you can alter the debate by participating in it – more power to you. But I fear that the communications tool-kit used by most to shape and respond to online debate is going to be of little use in this new world. I’m more and more convinced that you don’t manage the blogsphere – it’s unmanageable. Your only hope is to embrace the sphere, participate in the dialogue or watch from the sidelines.

Media tracking services are as much a commodity as blog tracking services – with a difference. Blog tracking services are actually less valuable in that the dialogue moves at light speed. Your tracking is out of date before your report on what is happening. Aside from that, tracking is much less valuable than participating.

Just as traditional journalists (thanks for the link Dan) point to their role as the gatekeepers of news, I hear more and more PR people complaining about their declining role as the transmitters of the news. Get over it. We’re at about an hour before daybreak for a new era in public relations and news reporting. It will be interesting to see the impact on traditional news wires as we reach the inevitable tipping point where news comes to us first through the blogs in our RSS reader.

This new era is going to place a greater onus on PR folks to really know their content, position and evidence. It’s going to require that they have a point of view – not just their executives or product people (maybe they’ll align, maybe they won’t – maybe it would be nice if they didn’t from time to time?).

And, I don’t say this lightly, it’s going to require agencies really raise the bar. To participate in the blogsphere they will need more than experience, executional savvy, content and writing skills – they will need content and subject matter knowledge. Agencies will then need to free their pros from the tyranny of hourly billing rates to engage in the dialogue – not just for their clients, but for themselves. What a new business tool that is going to create.

OK, so now I’ve upset a whole lot of people off I’m going to get back to work…

The game is afoot.

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