Monday, October 13, 2008

Ridiculously (Really) Simple Syndication

(Come on guys, let's keep things simple.)

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) allows users to generate a personalized homepage which will automatically receive updates and feedback from a list of subscribed websites. Put another way, RSS allows a one-stop locale for an individuals’ favorite sites and news. For example, let’s assume that Jack (a MOSTLY hypothetical individual) really likes grunge music- like, more than any of us or anyone else you can possibly imagine. Jack can then set up a ‘reader site’ at a location such as Google and subscribe to various websites who continuously discuss music or other band-related information. By doing so, Jack no longer has to visit 20 different sites every time he gets on the internet to find out if anyone has posted new information about his early 90’s musical taste. Instead, Jack merely logs into his RSS reader site and quickly scans through all the newest updates from his favorite websites. There it is: in one site. Simple. Really simple. And it also allows Jack to spend more time doing… whatever Jack does (visiting Seattle? I don’t know. Whatever.)

Enter Public Relations. Ah yes, the art of sending mass communications to targeted audiences. Now how does RSS play into this? Figured it out yet? It’s simple, really. Really simple.

From a business aspect, let’s assume you are the manager at a major state university bookstore. Furthermore, let’s assume you would like to stay on top of the latest technological breakthroughs from companies with whom you purchase products from. Okay, so, the obvious players in this category may include Adobe, Microsoft, and Apple. Perfect. Next, let’s assume you are trying to watch the horizon for what new products are coming out and how many to order for your store. A simple (really simple) way to accomplish this task would be to set up an RSS reader site which would automatically give you updates on the progress of specific products. Therefore, it’s possible spend less time watching the various news on these products, and more time doing whatever else you need to.

But let’s say that’s “too business” in nature. Okay, fine. Then let’s assume you work at local news-station and you would like to keep up to date on the latest deals and decisions from local businesses. Simple. Set up an RSS reader to watch all the latest RSS feeds from local businesses and the deals/decisions that they come to which may affect the community. Just like that, any news worth reporting will come to your RSS reader site, automatically.

As you can see, the world of RSS is not only simple (ridiculously so) but also incredible effective at reporting the latest news relevant to your audience. Even more so, the news you deliver only needs to be sent once as RSS will automatically send it out to all audiences who have identified with your organization. So there you go, a simple solution to otherwise, not-so-simple (in the past) problem.

(Let the feeding frenzy begin!)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Can I get a blog-blog! (Say what?!)

Blogging. You’ve heard the term. You maybe know a little bit about it. What’s the deal. And more importantly – how is this relevant to the realm of PR / Professional Business?

Blogging (short for web-logging) is the idea of posting stories, articles, or other news about a specific topic relating to an individual or organization. In other words – it’s the online version of a journal. People start blogs to write about random things varying from personal hobbies to their vacations to whatever-else-makes them tick. Blogging became popular in the late 90’s and has been adapted to a myriad of uses.

The professional side of blogging has appeared in many instances. Everything from news reporting to corporate news-letters has been available on blogs. However, sometimes other organizations adopt the format to convey a larger variety of messages and services. For example, Wired provides an entire section of their website dedicated to blogs (available at This allows them to reach a multitude of audiences and provide continuous updates and feedback of material.

Some other notable features of blogging include the use of comments and blog rolls. Comments allow readers to post feedback on the stories – which allows for continuous feedback for the author of the stories. Blog rolls allow the readers to see what other blog sites that the author pays attention to or considers. The idea of blog-rolling allows for a huge amount of networking to occur based on similar interests. Furthermore, blog rolling can potentially reduce the redundancy of information by eliminating replication of information. Previously, it may have been seen as productive to regurgitate or reword work on a new platform – but by simply providing the links to the masses – you can avoid replication and go straight to discussing new ideas.

Okay! So we got that covered. Now, how the heck is this relevant to the business world? Blogging is relevant because it allows a running index of updates and news to your audiences. By providing a single location for information, your audiences can track information that you publish. Say you’re Nickelodeon and you’re running a promotion involving a national tour. Next, let’s say you post continuous information and updates about the tour on your blog (including the use of pictures, video, and text). This allows your audiences to continuously monitor the progress of your promotion. Furthermore, it allows for the delivered message to come in a media-rich environment which may better communicate your goals (assuming you’re running a promotion).

Let’s take this same example and apply the other benefits to blogging. For example, let’s examine the use of comments. By allowing comments on your blog you (the author) can continuously monitor the perceptions of your promotion. Do people hate it? Do they love it? Do they even care? If so- why? By monitoring these perceptions, you can (nearly instantaneously) change the direction of the promotion to be more consistent with your audience (also the idea of symmetrical communications applies here). Even the lack of comments on a blog can communicate a huge amount of information: do they know, do they care, or are they just unmotivated?

Next, let’s examine the idea of a blog roll and the relevance to PR / pro business. Blog rolling can easily show your audiences the blogs that you’re interested in. This alone allows for your audience to build a strong perception of you. For example, let’s still assume your Nickelodeon; as Nickelodeon, it may be wise to blog other kid-friendly sources such as PBS or educational organizations. By doing this, you may further affirm your audiences’ perception of how genuine your organization is. Bottom line – nearly everything in and on your blog conveys a message about your organization. Huzzah!