Internetnews.com published a pretty sharp analysis on 13 August of the threat to traditional marketing and PR activity that business blogs present. What’s especially interesting about the article is its commentary on RSS, which gives clear advantages to marketing and PR departments in how they can change their communication models.
RSS (concise definition) is a means by which information on a website – which includes blogs – is made available (syndicated) in a format (XML) that a program or service known as an RSS reader can use. Every blog I’ve seen offers RSS syndication of its content, most tech-related websites do and increasingly mainstream media sites do as well.
What this means to me is that I no longer visit lots of websites and blogs just to see what’s going on. Instead, I subscribe to their RSS webfeeds (new word to pay attention to) which are all gathered – aggregated, in the current parlance – and presented to me via my RSS reader program. I can then see, in a single place, information on all the things that interest me, gathered from many different sources, and which is automatically updated to a schedule I set.
This makes my information-gathering use of time far more effective. Indeed, my browsing habits have changed radically in just the past 2 weeks because of RSS. After my browser, the second most important piece of software on my computer now is my RSS reader (which I fire up before Outlook).
Anyone involved in corporate communication, marketing and PR – whether in-house or working for an agency or consultancy – should be paying very close attention to RSS, as well as blogs, if they want to stay relevant in a business communication world that is evolving very quickly.
PR firms love to control the message, control who says the message, control who has access to the message, and the timing of the message, according to the Internetnews.com article.
It’s not just PR firms, though – it’s the broad area of organizational communication which includes everyone whose role is message control.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to stimulate a discussion about corporate blogging in the IABC member discussion forum (see call to action). It’s not developing as I expected, either in the quantity of discussion participants or in the depth and breadth of thought and opinion.
IABC is the professional body that represents over 13,000 business communicators in more than 60 countries worldwide. I’ve been an active member for 15 years. If there is a grouping of professional communicators who ought to be paying attention to this new participatory environment, and engaging in and taking a strong lead in any discussion, this is the group.
Perhaps this new environment really is seen by many as a threat. As a friend of mine in the US said in an email discussion we had recently about corporate blogs, “Since [blogs, wikis and RSS] are channels in which the audience controls the message, communicators are distinctly uncomfortable. As a profession, our job has been (in the minds of many) message control. Why engage in a channel where we lose that control? As I’ve been saying for years, ours is a profession that needs to learn to influence conversation in this new participatory environment.”
The new environment is directly relevant to a primary question Internetnews.com poses in their article: Do companies need a full-blown marketing or PR department when the employees themselves and the conversations they have on blogs are getting the corporate info out more effectively?
While the word ‘effectively’ is still debatable, my answer would be a hesitant and qualified yes – but only if the marketing or PR department can demonstrate its relevance and its ability to support the business needs of the organization in this new participatory environment.
The new reality is that blogs and RSS present a phenomenal opportunity to any organization to embrace these new communication channels and engage quickly, directly and effectively with customers, investors, partners and other audiences. If you can’t start a blog yet, the one thing you should do is RSS-enable the corporate PR and marketing information on your website – and get your press releases out via webfeeds as well as by traditional means. (I’ve yet to find any large company who offers open RSS webfeeds of their press releases from their websites.)
It’s a stark choice: Evolve or die.
See Internetnews.com article – Blogs: The Marketing Killer
For information on RSS readers, see the July review in PC World magazine. Also, you can check info about two readers I’ve been using:
– FeedDemon: free trial and then $30 if you want to keep it. I’ve just switched to this excellent program.
– SharpReader: free. Good basic functionality, the program I started with.