Just Monitoring Blogs Isn’t Enough

The rise in consumer-generated Web content is leading at least one interactive agency to branch into blog relations in an effort to help clients steer online chatter about their brands.

Ripple Effects Interactive, a Pittsburgh-based independent agency, last week formed an online relations unit to monitor and influence blogs, message boards and other user-generated media.

By going beyond monitoring into outreach, Ripple Effects is tackling ground typically covered by public relations agencies. CooperKatz, MMW Group and Ketchum PR offer blog-related services, and start-ups like New Media Strategies have blog-influencing services.

“We’re trying to create buzz on the Internet for our clients,” said David Gong, head of the Ripple Effects group. “Given the explosive nature of blogs, message boards and social media, we feel this is a great time for agencies to leverage them.”

The Ripple Effects online relations practice follows a move into blogging by Aegis Group’s Carat Interactive, which formed a blog unit in April as part of its media planning and buying service, although the agency monitors and does not try to influence.” Traditional roles for an agency have been landscape analysis and consumer insights, and blog monitoring feeds both of those things,” said John Cate, director of media at Carat Interactive.

Ripple Effects’ online relations unit is an outgrowth of its work this summer for the Pennsylvania Tourism Board, which produced six blogs of road-trippers in the state. While about 95 percent of the blog postings about the campaign were positive, said Dave Heidenreich, director of strategy and online planning, Ripple Effects noticed a few bloggers questioning the authenticity of the blogs. Rather than respond from the agency, Ripple Effects phoned the bloggers about the negative buzz, which led them to respond on their own. “It turned some people around,” he said. “You can impact what’s being said about you out there in a real way.”