While more than 60% of PR executives interviewed believed that web blogs by unhappy employees or exasperated customers can damage corporate reputations, but 58% said businesses were insufficiently aware of the threat.
Based on interviews with US, UK and European and Asian PR companies, the Blog Relations PR Survey shows that more than one in four respondents believed that there were a number of influential blogs that could affect a company's standing.
With many blogs finding their way into mainstream media - such as Adrian Melrose's Land Rover rant, and high-profile blogs targeting the likes of Ryanair, Dell, BT and NTL, just over two-thirds admitted negative blogs could spark a "full-blown" PR crisis.
"Companies find it very difficult to get to terms with blogs and to get to grips with which ones are influential and what is the right way to proceed," said Hugh Fraser, the co-author of the report and a former journalist for the BBC World Service
"Public relations companies have long experience in dealing with appeasing journalists, but with bloggers they're often not sure how to react."
Respondents said it was up to PR companies to monitor blogs, with the Hill and Knowlton UK vice- president, Joel Cere, going as far to say that checking postings was a "prerequisite in crisis preparedness".
"The PR who ignores blogs is even a bigger fool than the those who think that blogs change everything," said Bruce Marshall, the founder of UK technology PR company Bruce Marshall & Associates.
However, the online survey, which the authors admit attracted responses from more blog-savvy professionals, revealed that some PR chiefs believed the threat from blogs was overstated.
"Why are blogs any different from any other form of company pressure or mad crank? If companies waste their time trying to deal with bloggers they will tie themselves up in knots," said the Gresham PR chief, Neil Boom.
The survey showed that American PR companies were ahead of their European counterparts when it came to looking at blogs.
More than 80% of US executives admitting reading blogs "at least five times a week," a figures which fell to just 36% in Europe.
"Just because we in the UK are not in a blog frenzy, doesn't mean we shouldn't be monitoring them," said Katy Howell, the managing director of Immediate Future.
However, European PRs were more inclined to pitch bloggers and over half said companies would benefit from setting up their own blogs.
Via The Guardian (Reg' req').