For any company interested in building a blogger relations group, I'd strongly suggest you take your lessons from SAP. Yet again this conference season, SAP takes the cake for upping the ante from a blogger relations standpoint. Not only did they keep the "Blogger's Corner" for us in the media room, SAP continued to facilitate the same level of executive access that the typical analyst or member of the press would dream about. In my case, I opted for a more customized, in the trenches agenda around SAP's SRM program this year than the higher-level one from the previous year which featured meetings with most of the key executives. The blogger relations team at SAP did an exceptional job not only at making me feel welcome by developing a customized program, but helped overcome a two-way spat I had with one member of their organization last year over my SRM 6.0 coverage by facilitating introductions to other members of the team.
What does SAP do right relative to other providers from a blogger relations standpoint? First, they know why they're making the investment in building out the program (such as covering the cost to fly bloggers out to the event, unlike Ariba). They've come to believe that bloggers will be among the most influential groups in technology buying decisions in the middle market and beyond and they're willing to invest ahead of the curve to influence this group. Second, SAP realizes that blogger relations is not media relations or analyst relations -- that it's something else entirely.
To this end, bloggers are blunt. Bloggers are subject matter experts who can be difficult to bullshit. But most important of all, you can't hold an advertising agreement or research contract over their head if you don't like what they say like you can with the two previous groups. In fact, when one client/sponsor approached me about coverage they did not like earlier in the year, I told them point blank that if they'd rather not continue a commercial relationship, that would be fine, and I'd be just as happy to cover them in the same way (I bet you won't hear that from some other "influencer" groups out there). SAP's blogging relations team knows this about bloggers and they respect our independence.
SAP also believes in fostering camaraderie among bloggers, encouraging us to mingle with each other as much as with members of the SAP team (even if we're focused on entirely different areas and topics). This acknowledgement that our coverage will only be as good as what we learn from SAP and our shared interactions and back-and-forth with our peers is a telling read of how bloggers like to learn and develop hypotheses. Since we don't have a large firm structure behind us to kick-around ideas, I think that I speak for many of my blogging friends and peers when I commend SAP for fostering an environment that encourages the shopping and trading of ideas to sharpen our virtual pens.
- Jason Busch