Peter woodBy Peter Wood, posted on The Wall 14 November, 2011

Blogger outreach is an interesting concept that in theory should work but often doesn’t. The idea is that brands approach bloggers and ask them to write about their products, services or initiatives. In an ideal world, this should be un-incentivised. The reality might be different, but the idea is that the opinion of a blogger, a web promoted authority on a subject, will be worth more than the opinion of a journalist or a glitzy write up on the company website.

It’s a great concept and if it’s managed correctly, the publicity can be fantastic. It doesn’t always work out that well. There have been many high profile examples of blogger outreach disasters. Probably the most prominent case of bad blogger outreach was the catastrophic failure of Facebook’s PR agency Burson-Marsteller. They thought it would be a good idea to offer payments to a prominent tech blogger in return for some negative press about Google and their disregard for privacy. Bad move. Bloggers don’t play by prison rules, the man approached grassed on the PR agency and let the world’s media take the story and dirty the good name of Facebook.

Arsenal Football Club is a brand similar in the sense that they have massive global reach and face almost 24hour scrutiny from their impassioned fans. They aggregate 300,000 social mentions a month, they boast 120+ blogs and a fanbase of 100million plus. Any news emanating from the club is big news.

The Arsenal problem…

Over the past three years, the Arsenal medical team had come under intense scrutiny due to the poor health of the players. The club responded by building a state of the art rehabilitation centre. They released the news to the fans to a luke warm reception. This meant nothing to the fans that had drawn their own conclusions on the problems the club suffered.

The solution…

Arsenal decided to act bravely and push their social media boundaries to the limit. They invited small groups of prominent bloggers, fans and supporter groups to meet with the Club Doctor and Head Physio. The occasion was a no holds barred walking interview about the medical set up and what the club was doing to improve things.

The results…

957 social mentions, five dedicated fan blog articles, 7,600 glowing words written on the subject, 300+ Facebook Likes, 496 tweets, and an estimated 120,000 reads and glowing fan sentiment around the globe.

Was it a success? You bet it was. Is this a model other businesses should consider moving forward? In my opinion, absolutely. Will many companies have the guts to put their employees in the firing line of informed brand advocates? Doubtful. What I can guarantee is the more prominent social media becomes, the more businesses will have to consider opening up their doors. We’re all broadcasters these days and a different approach to PR has to fuse with the modern way of social communication.