Like many new media and technologies, blogging is best learned by blogging. One can read bloggers, study suggestions and think about it, but, in the end, one blogs or not.
This is a lesson learned during 20 years of working with new media and technologies. For many, there is no clear reason to take a step into the unknown and they shouldn't. For some, there is a chance a medium or technology might be useful, and they should plow ahead systematically.
I started blogging for personal and professional reasons. It:
* Forces me to stay up with communications.
* Lets me think out loud where my thoughts are open to criticism.
* Serves as a daily complement to my web site online-pr.com.
Two of these three reasons apply to anyone.
If there is a criticism of PR in general, the field has been slow to look at how new technologies and other disciplines fit into the hard work of communications. Note the absence of the PR industry in the PBS Frontline examination of marketing that is on-air now, whether you agree with the program's point of view or not. Most of what researchers are doing focuses on how communicators should frame and present issues effectively. Isn't that what we are supposed to do? Note that researchers emphasize repeatedly the need to listen to consumers.
We say we listen, but do we listen well? Do we set aside assumptions and learn what is really happening? Steve Rubel made a strong case for blogging and listening yesterday. There is no need to repeat his argument. There is room for testing blogging to see if it works as a listening device, and it doesn't cost much to do.
The danger is that blogging can become blathering — a way to spout rather than to learn. Blogging tends to bloviating by the nature of what it is.
Blogging should spark discussion. Discussion should spark fuller examination of assumptions and ideas. It should force honest practitioners to look again at how they consider the world. Unfortunately, as a reader of many blogs, that isn't often the case — not yet, anyway. But, there is room to experiment and to learn.
If there is one tip I have learned already from blogging, it is to get away from a focus on what blogging is and can do. I have learned more about PR by looking across industries and news events to examine communications issues contained in them. Blogging records a journey into the world rather than into a new medium. You might find the same.