Had a great discussion at work last week about emerging best practices in PR – with a focus on companies that are doing innovative things in the area of social media to drive their marketing efforts. At the top of the list was Nokia. An increasing number of companies (including mine) are using fully-loaded social media news releases – complete with links, bookmarks, tags and options for feedback and questions – but Nokia is leading the way in terms of outreach to influential bloggers. As detailed in this good summary post, Nokia is supporting product launches with targeted outreach to dozens of influential bloggers. Here is a post by Steve Rubel on the program. Not only do they send the bloggers the trial product in advance of launch – in this case the new N90 video phones – but they also set up a dedicated website where the bloggers can access additional information and materials, share comments with peers and engage in dialogue (online or off) with Nokia product reps. Beyond the dialogue on the Nokia blog, of course, these VIP bloggers posted comments on their own blogs. (One was so positive it was misidentified by BusinessWeek as a sponsored corporate blog.) Along the same lines, Nokia also recently launched a moblog (for mobile blogging) inviting users of the new NSeries phone to download their videos.

Consider this an evolved version of the traditional distribution of product samples for beat writers. But beyond using bloggers rather than journalists, the process has the added aspect of conversation and is inherently transparent – beefs and warts are there for all to see and discuss. It’s a courageous approach that is a big step in the right direction. As my good buddy Paul Walker from GCI says, however, Nokia still has room for improvement. Though Nokia seems to have mastered these social product launches, they still need work in fostering a more sustained conversation with consumers – not just the VIP bloggers – beyond the big launches.  Still, some good lessons there for the PR and marketing troops.