re: RSS – probably the worst advice I’ve heard so far

I'm sorry, but I'm going to have a good old rant here...

PR Week quotes Dr George Kolb, VP of PR agency Text 100 giving probably the worst 'professional' advice I've heard on the subject of RSS. It is verging on the astonishing.

"Agency Text 100 is developing its own response to the RSS phenomenon, although by taking a slightly different approach.

'You can put RSS news feeds on company or agency sites, but it's the wrong approach, because in doing so you're still trying to replicate the push of press releases, except you have a filter on the news you put out,' says Dr Georg Kolb, Text 100 executive vice-president (global consultancy and practices)."

a picture of someone looking astonished

I'm sorry, but did he just say don't add a RSS news feed to your company website?  Well, not quite, he said it was the 'wrong approach'. Why...?

'If you want to make a difference, the best thing is to try and engage directly with your audiences and understand what their experience is and then offer them RSS feeds that speak directly to this.' And Kolb is not talking about press releases."

'If you want to make a difference'...? He means a difference to the road known as common sense, surely?

With all due respect to Dr Kolb, he needs to understand this: if a company doesn't have an RSS feed on their company website, I can't subscribe to the RSS feed. It really is as simple as that.  To be fair, Dr Kolb isn't saying don't publish RSS on a company website, he's just advising the one should sophisticated about doing it. But I couldn't disagree more.

Start basic. Get your RSS feed out there. Provide your press releases in RSS, in fact provide whatever you publish today as RSS. Then, and only then, should you start trying to be clever and 'engage directly with your audiences' (pr-speak for 'research') and provide RSS feeds that take things to the next level. Why? Becasue you'll end up faffing around for ages trying to be clever, not get the basics done and not get a single RSS subscriber in the meantime.  In the 'pr' business this is sub-optimal.

So if you happen to have anything to do with running a company website (pr, marketing, IT, whatever) my advice to you is to do exactly the opposite of what Dr Kolb advises (in this case at least - Dr Kolb has provided more sensible thoughts relating to RSS previously).

Btw, to whoever runs Text 100's website: I dare you to add an RSS feed on your site (I've looked - no RSS feed to be found on a website run by so-called communication professionals, not a single RSS bean). Hey, once they do I might even subscribe (unlikely though).


Comments (5)
  1. actually alex i am not so sure i completely agree. press releases as RSS has just proved to be a major pain in many cases, because they get picked up by technorati and pubsub and so on. i mean if want to track blogs that talk to microsoft vista, say, the last thing i want to have is every press release in the world to read. if Dr Kolb means its means it better to actually blog, and build relationships with people, then i agree. now if there was a tag press release, so i could strip them out, then fine. but for now press releases as RSS is actually a bug bear of mine. i didnt expect that to be the case but it is.

  2. MSDNArchive says:

    thanks for the comments James –

    the ‘spammy’ side of press releases in rss is not somthing that occured to me. Agreed re: better to blog.

    Couple of questions: Do you actually experience this? Shouldn’t the likes of TN ad pubsub have filtering against these: blogs, websites, newssites, etc to avoid this?


  3. Georg Kolb says:


    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?

    Georg Kolb

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