Public relations professionals in the United States and United Kingdom are in agreement about the growing importance of blogs, but comparatively few from each country participate in the blogosphere by writing, reading or even monitoring blogs, according to survey results released today by Peppercom Strategic Communications and Bulldog Reporter’s Daily Dog.

“Originally, the purpose of this survey was to compare and contrast blogging communication practices in the U.S. and the U.K. and identify best practices,” says Steve Cody, managing partner and co-founder of Peppercom. “Surprisingly, what was revealed was a level playing field across both countries where a select few are diving into social media, but most are hesitant to start the process.”

More than 85 percent of respondents believe blogs are an important digital communication, with the top two responses given being the ability to share information quickly and broadly (U.S.: 84 percent; U.K.: 74 percent), and the opportunity to influence public opinion and decision making (U.S.: 74 percent; U.K.: 65 percent).

Despite these opinions, most respondents admit that they—or their clients—do not have an official company blogging policy (U.S.: 87 percent, U.K.: 82 percent).  And although a majority of respondents felt blogs were important, only 37 percent in the United States and 36 percent in the United Kingdom are actually blogging on behalf of their company or client.

“The data suggest that the lack of blogging policies speaks to the fact that social media is not being taken seriously at a strategic level by corporate executives,” adds Cody.

“It continues to surprise me that many companies are reticent to participate in the blogosphere,” said Denise Stinardo, manager of new media for the Eastman Kodak Company. “Kodak’s corporate blog, A Thousand Words, has been an incredibly effective tool for connecting with consumers on a human level.  Companies must realize that discussions about their brands are taking place online with or without them, so it’s in their best interest to join the conversation.”

While most respondents (78 percent of U.S. and U.K.) believe the public relations department should handle fallout from bad news breaking in the blogosphere, 49 percent of respondents don’t even monitor blogs.  In fact, 63 percent have not adapted their communications strategy to include proactive outreach to blogs, message boards, and other forms of digital mediums.

One third of companies claiming to have a blog say that it is written by the company’s CEO, however 54 percent of respondents are not involved in the writing, creative or approval process for corporate or CEO blogs.

When asked about the next big development in new media beyond blogs, the top response was video podcasts (34 percent) with online communities such as MySpace running a close second (32 percent).

Commenting on what the blogosphere might look like in a year from now, Antony Mayfield, head of content and media at Spannerworks says: “I think a lot more people will understand blogging’s place in their corporate communications mix and they will have a clearer idea of what their job is in terms of due diligence, educating their organization and deciding whether or not it’s an appropriate medium for them.”

“Ultimately, what this survey revealed was a need for communication professionals in both countries to step up to the plate and start integrating blogging practices into their strategic approach,” said Jacki Vause, managing director of Peppercom’s London office.  “No one is denying the power of blogs. Now is the time to employ them or risk losing PR’s place at the table when it comes to these types of decisions.”