How Google Uses Its Blog to Break News

Google News Blog

In February 2010, I wrote a blog post titled “Google News.” In November 2010, I revised it. Yet it took almost another year and a half to finish the thing, which appeared last week on Mashable. Since the text from 2012 doesn’t include the text from 2010, I figure I should publish the original for posterity.

Google’s announcement earlier this year threatening to pull its business from China stirred the proverbial hornet’s nest. Leaving aside the merits of what the company did, consider the way in which it broke this news.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, “Google’s vice president of public policy and communications, Rachel Whetstone, began crafting and revising a number of versions of a possible statement the company planned to release publicly.”

Pretty standard fare, right? There’s nothing special about your PR person drafting a statement. But this wasn’t your usual corporate spin. In fact, the statement wasn’t a statement; in its eventual form, it was a blog post.

A blog post to announce above-the-fold, A1 news? Indeed, for the world’s leading search engine, with a market cap of almost $200 billionit wasn’t the first time.

The reasons and rewards are many:

✔ Why pay a newswire when your blog already enjoys a vast and engaged audience?

Why drive traffic to a newswire when you can pull people toward your own site, which houses your e-newsletter, op-eds, event listings, staff directory, company history, and so on?

✔ Why force your visitors to provide feedback indirectly (through, say, Twitter or Facebook) when you can engage them on your turf?

✔ Why risk bad press when you can bypass the media and speak directly to your stakeholders?

Why indeed. Instead, why not write blog posts instead of press releases.

To be sure, this tactic works best for a company that already has a well-established blog, like GoogleZappos, and Twitter. For Joe’s Life Insurance in Mobile, Alabama, blasting a release to 50 reporters may not only be simpler but also more effective.

Where does that leave a small business that’s neither a mom-and-pop nor a Fortune 500? (According to the Small Business Administration, such firms employ half of all private-sector employees in the United States.) On one hand lies the LinkedInNetflix model: issue the release as usual, then rewrite it in a blog-friendly way and publish it as a post.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a blog, and aren’t ready for one, you may want to write your releases as if they were blog posts. Instead of manufacturing a quote from an executive we all know never actually spoke those words, free the individual(s) who managed the project to narrate its evolution.

Ultimately, the migration from traditional media to social media is inevitable. Whether you cannonball or dip your toes in, the key metric is making a splash: are you attracting attention and thus sales?

When was the last time your press release made a splash?

Addendum (9/10/2012): Here’s an important interview Danny Sullivan did in 2007 with Karen Wickre, the mother of Google blogs:

Karen: For us, the blog platform is a fast way to publish news and notes about Google and to directly reach millions of people. It’s so fast and easy compared to newsletters or, God forbid, press releases. It is a PR platform, but we try hard to make it not traditional PR-like. That’s why we want our individuals from teams actually “in the trenches” to do the bulk of the writing.

Danny: So are the blogs working well enough that you might give up press releases?

Karen: Press releases are not going away. There are legal requirements and business requirements for press releases, so they serve a function. Down the line, maybe the whole industry will adopt blogs for public communications. This isn’t up to Google to determine, of course. But we’ve never been a company that issues a ton of press releases. Much more often than a press release or a Google Gram [special email alerts sometimes sent to selected reporters], we’ll issue a blog post.

Danny: Indeed, over the past two years or so, product coverage I’ve done often revolves around when a blog post will go up announcing it, rather than a press release being issued. Google often will tell me and others, “And the blog post will go out on…”

Enjoy this post? There’s more where this came from on Twitter, where I test out ideas 140 characters at a time before fleshing them out into 500-word blog posts.

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