The Sports Blogging 101 Series continues with a look at how to monitor sports blogs for PR practitioners. In today’s post, I’ll help you know where to find the blogs covering your team or writing about something relevant to your product/service. Once you know where to find these blogs, you can then start to monitor them. But first, why should you monitor sports blogs?
- You’ll know what one subset of your fanbase thinks about your organization. Think of it as free marketing research from a passionate section of your target demographic.
- Bloggers may just be one portion of your fanbase, but they are very influential members. Their opinions are read by hundreds or thousands of other fans so what they say carries plenty of weight.
- You may think that bloggers just talk about the on-ice, on-court, or on-field product, but they’ll actually discuss the organization’s marketing and PR decisions from the season’s slogan to in-game entertainment to ticket prices. These areas are of particular interest for PR pros.
- You’ll see if the blog is reporting incorrect rumors or “facts” that you may need to combat either publicly or by preparing the appropriate parties in your organization (coaching staff, management, players, etc.).
- You’ll better understand the bloggers covering your team. This will make it easier for you to pitch to them and start to develop a relationship with them. If there’s a chance that your team may start credentialing bloggers, it’s important to know what each blog talks about and which one(s) you can trust with a credential.
Before you start looking for the blogs covering your team, you need to figure out what type of blog do you want to find. Are you looking for just team blogs? Blogs that also have a league bent? Sports media or business blogs? Mainstream media blogs?
Before I write a roundup link entry for the official Red Wings’ blog, I read all of the new articles or blog posts on the Wings. The sites I follow range from team-specific blogs and websites to message boards to general hockey blogs. This way I ensure that I cover a wide range of opinions, all of which relate to what I need to write about for Hockeytown Blog. I use Google Reader to put all of these Red Wings blogs and websites into a Red Wings folder so that it’s easy to flip through all of them instead of trying to type in and visit every website.
So how do you find these blogs?
I would first recommend visiting BallHype, a website that acts as a sports version of Digg. By checking out the top sports blogs rankings, you can see which blogs are the most popular for your respective league and even team. You should note that the higher ranked blogs are typically league-wide so you may have to check out the next couple pages of rankings before hitting your team’s blogs. You can even filter the rankings by league to quicken the search.
If you wanted to find Red Wings blogs for example, you could filter BallHype rankings by NHL. You’ll then come across a blog called Abel to Yzerman that is labeled as a Red Wings blog. Upon visiting A2Y, you’ll find a list of other Red Wings sites and blogs in his right sidebar. The blogger has already done a lot of the legwork for you. Obviously you’ll want to look around the web a little more to make sure you’re not missing anything, but a popular team blog is always a good place to start.
There are other ways you can try to find blogs related to your topic: Google Blog Search and Technorati to start. Now I’m a little biased as I run a blog there, but SB Nation is a network of sports blogs that includes a blog for almost every single NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL team as well as other sports including cycling, soccer, and MMA. You can view a list of the SBN blogs on their homepage. If you find a SBN blog on the league, sport, or team that you’re looking for, you should be able to find other worthwhile blogs from there.
Once you find that top-ranked league blog and/or team-specific blog, check out their blogroll that is usually found on the left or right sidebar (possibly even on a separate page for links). They will usually divide it up by other team or league blogs, making it easy for you to spot other blogs that they enjoy and respect.
As you find the blogs you want to monitor, add them to your RSS reader whether its Bloglines, Google Reader, or Yahoo! Pipes. That way you’ll be sure that you’ll never miss a new blog entry or article from each source and it’ll save you time by keeping it all in one spot.
In addition to using a platform like Google Reader, I also suggest signing up for Google Alerts. This feature allows you to come up with terms that you want to keep tabs on. So if I want to make sure I stay on top of Red Wings’ news and commentary, I would want to have alerts for phrases like “Detroit Red Wings,” “Red Wings,” Detroit hockey, NHL, etc. You can then choose to have these alerts e-mailed to you as they appear online, once-a-day, or once-a-week. I prefer once-a-day so that it doesn’t overrun my inbox and I can still keep on top of things, but that’s just my personal preference.
How to Monitor Sports Blogs
Now we get into the meat of how to actually monitor the sports blogs that you’ve decided to follow. I’m going to offer a couple of different options so that you can decide which option works best for you and your organization. You can even feel free to combine or modify the options — it’s all up to you.
Please do note that these options are my ideas and do not represent what the Red Wings organization actually does in regards to blog monitoring. I tend to use the Red Wings topic as an example because it’s a topic that I am most familiar and comfortable with using.
Option #1: Measurable Monitoring
This option enables you to keep a detailed record of what bloggers and websites are saying about your organization, allowing you to classify it as negative or positive coverage.
1. Create an Excel spreadsheet. Label the columns by dates and the rows by the titles of the blogs/sites you want to monitor with three subsections (Topic, Pos or Neg?, and Length). Instead of trying to visualize what I’m describing, you can see an example for yourself here.
2. Go into your RSS reader and select the first blog or website. Read a post or article there that you have not yet read.
3. Find out what topic the article or post is all about. Are they talking about a big trade or signing that just occurred? A game recap? Be as specific as you want. When you reference this spreadsheet later, it doesn’t help to note the blogger’s attitude in a post and the entry’s length if you’ll have no idea what the post was about two days later so it’s important to note the topic of the post.
4. Determine if the overall entry is positive or negative and enter it into the spreadsheet. If the team lost, it’ll likely be a negative entry while it’ll be positive if the team wins. If there’s a trade or signing, the blogger will probably lean to the negative or positive side. If the blogger appreciates a new marketing campaign or advertisement, it’s a positive. If the ticket prices go up, they’ll probably view it as a negative. If you honestly can’t tell, put down neutral.
5. Enter the length of the article/post into Excel. You can either opt to guesstimate or copy and paste it into Word and get the exact word total. This way, you can tell if it was an in-depth post or a quick hit entry when you refer to the spreadsheet later. A really in-depth, negative post may go a long way harming your brand then a brief mention for example so the distinction is important to note.
6. Do that for each blog you’re monitoring every day and you’ll soon have a spreadsheet of measurable information. What was the ratio of negative to positive blog posts overall (e.g. 1:5)? What’s the average length of a blog entry? Do these blogs spend a lot of time talking about team business decisions or do they just stick to the on-field product?
- You now have information that can be used to help you reach out to a specific blogger. Do you notice that one loves to analyze statistics? Be sure to e-mail them your set of game notes before each home game so they can note any relevant stats on their blog. Does another blogger love to look at what the team does off-the-ice? Send them quick e-mails about upcoming charity events, autograph signings, or fun things that the team did together (e.g. BBQ, paintball, etc.).
- In addition, your PR staff can now see exactly how much coverage your team gets online. It helps you better understand the importance of blogger outreach whether it’s including them on the press release e-mail list or credentialing bloggers for practices and/or games.
Bonus: You can even try to find out how many daily readers (unique and page visits) that the blog receives as well as how many RSS subscribers they have. That way, you can gauge how much influence and authority this blogger truly has online. You could note these stats (including the URL of the site/blog) on a separate worksheet in the same Excel document.
Option #2: Qualitative Monitoring
This form of monitoring would be quicker for the PR staffer in charge of blog monitoring, but would not allow the organization to refer back to the blog entries in a quantitative manner.
1. Create a Word document and title it something like “[Team Name] Blog Clippings — July 15, 2009.” You can view an example of what I mean here.
2. Go into your RSS reader and select the first blog or website. Read a post or article there that you have yet to view.
3. Copy and paste the blog entry and URL into the Word document and then place a horizontal bar after the entry or separate each post by creating a new page.
4. Continue to do this for each of the new blog posts and articles that day.
5. You now have a packet of blog clippings like you would press clippings. It gives you an understanding of what the blogs are talking about today and allows you to save them so that you can refer back to them later.
Congrats on sticking through a long post on how to monitor sports blogs. Now that you know how to do that, we’ll get into how to comment on sports blogs and message boards tomorrow so that you can start developing a two-way relationship between your organization and the bloggers who are talking about you.