RSS offers an easy, low-cost solution for channeling information flow

It’s a way to syndicate your updates and other content directly to your opt-in target audience.

It’s a way to syndicate your updates and other content directly to your opt-in target audience

Ever wonder about RSS? Little things like, what the heck is it, and, how does it work?

Maybe you also wonder whether you should add that icon, the little orange box with a tiny white circle and two stripes, to your company’s Web site or online newsroom. Well, yes, you probably should; here’s why.

Through RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”), you can send your company’s blog post or daily headlines directly to your audience’s e-mail or RSS Reader account.

Think of it this way: Just as Oprah Winfrey syndicates her eponymous television show, people and companies use RSS to syndicate their content on the Web. That’s how Pete Codella, CEO of Codella Marketing and NewsCactus, explains RSS to communicators.

“It’s a way to take information to share and broadcast to other people on the Web,” Codella says. Communicators, he says, should set up an RSS feed to share categories of information with their constituents—journalists, in particular.

Targeted content

Offering RSS feeds for your online newsroom helps journalists find the information about your company that they seek.

“Anytime a company writes a press release, it can be published through an RSS feed,” Codella says. “Large companies can break down press releases into different categories: earning releases, new products or industry trends.”

Codella touts Southwest Airlines, which uses RSS in dozens of ways. “They’ve broken it out by categories,” Codella says. “They’ve drilled down content—from ring tones to press conferences.”

Take a look at the category “Southwest Culture.” This is where you can get a feeling of what it’s like to work at the airlines. The feed celebrates employees doing random acts of kindness, pilots teaching school children about flying and fun employee videos.

Managing content is key

Pete Codella manages his 200 RSS feeds by using Google Reader to set up filters and label his messages.

For example, he segments information based on topics of interest to him: social media blogs, Google Analytics, family and friends, and his alma mater.

“I’m an organized person, so it’s like a filing cabinet,” says Codella. “Everything is labeled, tabbed and perfectly organized. Without RSS, it would feel like coming into my office every day and seeing my desk covered with papers.”

Establishing an RSS feed isn’t just for letting reporters know about your products or news events. It’s a way for you to connect with clients, competitors and key industry players.

“Before, you would push content out there and hope people would read it,” Codella says. “Now, you want people to pull content from you. You want people to opt-in.”

Inexpensive to set up

If you’ve already got a company blog, the RSS capabilities are most likely there, Codella says. If you have to set it up from scratch (such as adding an RSS feed to your newsroom), that can be done by your in-house IT staff, he says.

Despite the low cost, communicators still ought to be strategic about content dissemination. “Every key audience has access to the Web, so you need to plan your RSS feed appropriately,” Codella says. “You want to segment information to people, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Codella suggests that before your company starts using RSS, you should become acquainted with the technology as an outsider. “Subscribe to blogs of family and friends,” he says. “See how it all works. Take baby steps until you get use to it.”

Once you get started, check out Google FeedBurner. Codella says this is a helpful, free tool for communicators to use.

“It takes the feed that comes with your blog or site and puts it on steroids,” Codella says. “It allows for more portability. You can set up a vanity URL. It lets you e-mail content to people and shorten URL services.”

What about communicators who say they don’t need RSS because they read everything on Twitter? “You can’t get a lot of context with the Twitter platform,” Codella says. “With RSS, you have plenty of content—you can link to hundreds of other sites. You can include images, links and more multi-media.”

Why you need RSS

Pete Codella says some communicators are hesitant about using RSS feeds. “They say, ‘We’ve been communicating like we’ve been communicating for years, why do we need an RSS feed?’”

Here’s why, according to Codella:

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