RSS and PR

Dr. Georg Kolb, a VP at PR firm Text100 emailed me this evening regarding a post I published in October.

In a nutshell, I had criticized some of the advice George was quoted to have given about RSS communications in this  06 Oct PR Week article ('Technology: The future of news is (really) simple' - now behind a lame login <sigh>). Some of it didn't make sense to me and I said as much.

I asked Georg for permission to publish his email as it clarifies some of the points he was making in the original article (see below - I've also added links to referring info). The mail makes complete sense - looks like the journalist made a pig's ear of it.

(One thought on all this: in a pre-blog era this kind dispute, discovery and dialogue between Georg and I (as readers of a publication) would have been practically impossible.

Thanks for getting in touch Georg!



Sorry that I didn't discover your post on PR Week's RSS feature earlier.
Please check out my comment below. I have also put it on your blog, but thought I should send it via e-mail, too, since I'm so late with it.

I hope it makes more sense than the PR Week piece.


Georg Kolb
While I appreciate people who can get emotional about RSS (I'm one of them ;-)), I do have to clarify what I did say and what I did not say to the gentleman who wrote the RSS piece in PR Week. Unfortunately, this journalist was new to the topic and put my quotes into a misleading context.

He opened the interview by stating that some other agencies had explained RSS as simply another tool for distribution. I replied that you could of course look at RSS like this, but that you would then underestimate the real power of this tool. Distribution is a 'push' method, it pours information on targets whether they like it or not. RSS is a 'pull' tool, it empowers the reader to select.

Looking at RSS as just another 'push' tool is in my view indeed the wrong approach, but I did not suggest at all that companies shouldn't use RSS feeds on their websites. The opposite is true. Of course, they should!

However, RSS is in my view much more about the empowered reader than about the publisher. Of course, you can provide RSS feeds for anything you want and leave the decision to the reader on what to subscribe to. I would argue, though, that RSS is at its best where it provides readers with information that is far more specific to their interest than traditional push tools like press releases.

As you know, there is an economy emerging with a "long tail" (Chris Anderson) of highly fragmented audiences. Lead by their special interests people increasingly want to see more specific information than the usual corporate speak. They have enough of being flooded with information that is not really relevant to them. RSS is one of those new tools that is perfectly designed to improve that. A press release is made for a larger audience, it is developed to get as much "coverage" as possible, and it's done in a polished language. It has its purpose, no doubt, but it seems to me that people subscribing to an RSS feed are often looking for something different, in fact, I know that many of them are using RSS because they want to get beyond the information that's available in the usual corporate speak.

I think that's why James Governor who made the other comment on your post was annoyed that his searches at Technorati or other sites were clouded by press releases on RSS feeds. For similar reasons, I suggested that the ideal environment for RSS is direct engagement with the audience which is not "PR speak for 'research'" as you suggest, but having a dialogue with your audience e.g. using a blog rather than simply pushing information out. In online discussions people can express what they want and pull what they need, by searching for specific tags or subscribing to an RSS feed. Isn't that also one of the reasons why fellows like Robert Scoble or yourself do much more for the credibility of Microsoft than many corporate collaterals?  

Tags: rss Public Relations PR