Multilingual tools mine buzz in the blogosphere

A new multilingual blog search tool will help companies monitor their image online

Companies trying to navigate the maze of blogs around the world to find out what's being said about them will get help soon in the form of some localized blog search sites from Technorati.

The company has partnered with public relations firm Edelman to develop versions of Technorati's blog search tools that are localized in French, German, Italian, Korean and Chinese. Edelman will have exclusive use of the new tools until early next year, after which they'll be available to the public.

Edelman will use the tools to help clients find out who is saying good and bad things about them in the 'blogosphere,' with a view to getting involved in the discussions and shaping perceptions online.

It's an area that's becoming more important every day, according to Edelman. Research by the company suggests people are far more likely to trust the opinions of people like themselves -- i.e. bloggers -- than they are statements from companies and executives. And the number of blogs worldwide now stands at more than 57 million, according to Technorati, with more than 1.2 million posts added every day.

Getting involved in the debate may not be easy for companies, however, said Iain Dale, who publishes the U.K. political blog Iain Dale's Diary.

"The problem PR people will have with bloggers is that we are skeptical of what the agenda is," he said at an Edelman event in London last week. "There's no point in sending us a press release on your latest product, we don't want that. We want some sort of edgy story from it."

Edelman faces another challenge at the moment as it seeks to promote its blog-savviness. Thanks to bad timing, the company itself has been dealing with a public relations fiasco for some work it did for its client Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Edelman helped the retailer establish a blog that was apparently written by two ordinary Americans touring the U.S. in a holiday vehicle, which they parked at night for free in Wal-Mart car parks. In the process they made a series of enthusiastic posts about how pleasant and helpful Wal-Mart's staff have been.

What Wal-Mart didn't disclose was that the trip was funded by an organization set up for it by Edelman, and that a brother of one of the travelers works for the public relations company. With those facts reported by BusinessWeek last month, the trip has now ended with a rueful post explaining how the project was misunderstood.

After a few weeks of criticism, Edelman's president and chief executive officer (CEO), Richard Edelman, issued an apology on Monday in his own blog.

"I want to acknowledge our error in failing to be transparent about the identity of the two bloggers from the outset. This is 100 percent our responsibility and our error; not the client's," he wrote.

Steve Rubel, a senior vice president with Edelman, chalked it up as a learning experience.

"It's indicative that a lot of companies' experiences (in the blogosphere) are good and bad, and we live in a glass house and you can't credibly understand this space unless you experience it from all different angles," he said Tuesday.

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