Forget about journalists, it’s bloggers that PR companies need to cultivate nowadays. As mentioned in past VIVA! blogs, journalists – especially health journalists – as we know them are a dying breed with the shrinking newsroom. This has helped pave the way for the rise of the ‘blogger’.

Bloggers are not a particularly new phenomenon. The term blog was first coined in the late 1990s for the emergence of web-based journals. However, they have only recently begun to gain recognition from the public, PR industry and the established media as a legitimate and influential force.

Only last year, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard showed how seriously she took the influence of bloggers and invited 25 of the nation’s top ‘mummy bloggers’ (women who write about all things mother and child-related.) to Kirribilli House for a morning tea, to leverage their popularity for her ‘mother of all PR campaigns’, heading into an election battle the following year.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, these ‘mummy blogs’ reach about 2.5 million people.

Health blogs are most common in US

A University of Arizona study about health bloggers cited recent data which showed an estimated eight per cent of adult internet users – totalling 12 million Americans – author a blog.

Their research into health-related blogs generally and mental-health blogs specifically, suggests that blogs focusing on a single individual’s experience with a health condition are among the most common type of health-related blogs.

The study’s authors wrote that these blogs foster positive outcomes for bloggers’ well-being. “First, blogs may make it possible to identify and connect with strong and weak ties who are motivated to provide information and emotional support.”

This group is of particular importance for health PR, as bloggers are becoming central to any good PR organisation’s media strategy. There is much to be learnt about issues patients face in relation to a particular illness and these bloggers are keen to publish about new treatments, awareness campaigns and anything related to their condition or disease.

Some Australian mummy blogging sites have been so popular they have morphed into full blown websites. Take for instance Mamamia, which was set up by former Cleo, Cosmopolitan & Dolly magazine editor, Mia Freedman.  It began as Freedman’s personal blog and now boasts over 1.3 million visitors (mainly women) each month.

That is a huge audience to tap into and PR companies ignore this legitimate and potent force in the media landscape at their peril.