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Blogs become a must to defend your firm and its lawyers

Bill Gratsch, founder of Blawg, a directory of law blogs, published an excellent piece on why having a blog may be an absolute necessity. The reason is to defend against an Internet tide of criticism and comment on something you may be involved in, whether it be a lawyer in your firm, a client or a particular case. And having a blog will not be enough – you’ll need to know how to work the blogosphere.

As Bill puts it “There has been significant recent buzz concerning the concept of a ‘blog swarm,’ wherein bloggers in increasing numbers write about, interlink and discuss a particular item or issue such that it takes on a life of its own. In some cases, the swarm is so frenzied that the original posting or news article that gave rise to it is left behind as bloggers frame the debate in accordance with their own views.

Bill discusses the buzz Google ran into with the release of Autolink. Bloggers across the country quickly tried out the technology and then immediately started posting their opinions. I saw the opinions without following the debate closely, and not even knowing what Autolink is, drew the conclusion this was something a lot of people thought was a poor or sinister feature. Because Google, unlike Microsoft, does not maintain an active presence on the blogosphere, they were unable to defend themselves.

Bill summarizes Google’s story well:

With Autolink, the risk Google ran is that it did not get out ahead of blog swarm by getting into the blogosphere early and often to help frame the debate over the technology. Indeed, it doesn’t appear that Google has many bloggers in the blogosphere at all. To be fair, Google likely had no idea Autolink would be subject of a blog swarm.

Regardless, it is now playing catch up and a quick glance at a survey of headlines concerning Autolink suggests that they are losing the battle in getting their viewpoint across. The blog swarm has framed the national debate. You can look for yourself, but I saw words like “evil,” “adware,” “outcry,…” in the same headlines as the words “Google” and “Autolink.” Obviously, these word relationships would not be Google’s first choice. Worse for Google, it is difficult to even find its view and explanation of the technology; it is as though their voice has been lost in the swarm.

He continues with why not having a blog may be playing with fire:

In these days of short attention spans and a focus on soundbites and buzz, I am convinced that the first impression is more important than ever. And, more and more, blogs are becoming the vehicle to that first impression. Corporations face a choice as to whether they should ignore the blogosphere or become an active participant. In the end, the real question may be whether a company is comfortable with the blogosphere creating its own first impression with no input or active participation from the company itself. Just one guy’s opinion, but that seems like a dicey proposition to me.

Wait until your law firm or one of it’s lawyers gets in the middle of a ‘blog swarm’ to get active in the blogosphere and it will be to late. Blogs read by tens of thousands will be writing about you, their words will spread like wildfire in the blogosphere and reporters in major publications will be picking up on their opinions. All the PR money in the world will not stop the negative tide.

Heck, in the case of Google, the Wall Street Journal even weighed in against Autolink – after the buzz on the blogs of course.

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