I am a little late to the party, but I did want to comment on the initial results from the EuroBlog 2006 survey, which were published last week (press release here). I was struck by the same things Neville was, primarily this slide:
Yes, you are reading that correctly. The perception of being cool is rated vastly more important than receiving feedback from your audience. Yup. Perception trumps reality. The subtext here is all about control, about pushing messages to the audience. In fact, the factor most limiting the use of weblogs was cited as "inability to control the communication content." Clearly, there is work to be done in educating PR professionals in Europe (and I would argue in the US as well!) that control is disappearing. In fact, in most conversations I have with PR people, the first question that comes up has to do with control. Actually having to have a dialogue with potentially hostile people is seen as tremendously frightening.
One of the researchers, Dr. Ansgar Zerfass, highlighted a troubling trend in his quote in the press release. He said, "It's not the technology, but the lack of ideas and concepts that holds back the spread of weblogs within public relations." For a purportedly creative industry to demonstrate such a widespread lack of ideas and concepts is scary. Perhaps PR people have become too wrapped up in process, in measured (and measurable) steps. The free-wheeling, chaotic world of participatory communications is an entirely different animal. It will force a rapid sort-out of critical thinkers vs. rote do-ers. And that is all to the good.
The most pressing need in terms of convincing people that blogging and social media is worthwhile is communication of their benefits. We see many case studies about the costs of doing it badly, but far fewer about the rewards of doing it well. With all of the blogging books hitting the market this spring, however, I suspect we'll start to see more positive examples.
Full results of the survey will be presented March 16-18 in Stuttgart, Germany, at Public Relations and Social Software: Meeting the Challenges of Weblogs, Podcasts, Wikis and RSS. I'll be speaking at the event, offering examples of those needed benefits as well as sketching out a theoretical framework for how to integrate social (participatory) media into overall communications strategy, one of the other factors highlighted in the survey as missing, and therefore holding back use of weblogs.