Using RSS Feeds for Better PR
RSS feed readers have been around for a long time, but few people even know what they are or how to use them. I’m here to tell you that having a good RSS feed aggregator list is an extremely valuable tool to help you understand what the press is writing about and to get your business covered.
What is an RSS Feed Reader?
An RSS feed reader aggregates news articles into a single space. It’s kind of like Microsoft Outlook, except instead of emails, it pulls in news articles and blogs from the sources you tell it to. RSS feeds are a great way to spot media trends and peruse the most important stories of the day as they are published in an organized way.
How does an RSS reader benefit my PR efforts?
Public Relations is a bit like trying to predict the weather. PR professionals are constantly trying to gauge the whims of the press which can change on a dime based on an innumerable amount of variables. It can seem overwhelming, but the value it can generate for a business is substantial. Companies should strive to become recognized for their authority in their industry, but the reality is that the press doesn’t care about specific products, they care about compelling stories that capture the imagination, or at least get people thinking.
Lucky for you, PR isn’t all about getting people to write news stories about your products, because unless you’re a multi-million dollar tech company with the latest app that’s going to change everything, it’s unlikely the conditions will be just right for that. PR is about finding the intersection of your industry and the interesting compelling things people are talking about every day, and then injecting yourself and your company into the conversation.
While the press is out there trying to recognize trends in what their readers care about, PR managers are trying to figure out what the press cares about. The best way to do that is to start reading articles, lots of articles. Now you don’t have to read the entire thing, you can just scan it, or glance over the title and read a few paragraphs, but the point is that knowing which way the wind is blowing in PR is all about volume.
Your RSS feed will be your muse for generating relevant pitch ideas and compelling content. At a glance you can see what others in your industry are buzzing about, or what the latest news is and where those things overlap with your industry. Good PR and good press alike are both about getting the latest stories or scoops in a timely manner. Once a story breaks it’s only a matter of hours before the press stops writing about it.
Where can I find a good RSS reader?
First for a little history: In 2005 Google launched its RSS feed Reader – Google Reader which soon became the preferred RSS feed reader on the planet, but, Google was of the mind that RSS aggregators were a thing of the past, and it was a little over a year ago that Google shutdown the beloved google reader, much to my chagrin and that of a lot of other PR folks I’m sure. Luckily the internet has answered the call and numerous companies have stepped up to provide plenty of rss reader options similar to Google Reader. The two most popular are Feedly and INO reader.
How do you use one?
• It depends on which one you use but essentially it becomes very clear once you start. I have been using INO reader, but there are plenty of other good options out there.
• When you find a source that you find useful, look for a symbol that looks like this:
• That should bring you to a page that looks like a bunch of code.
• Just copy the URL of that page into the “add subscriptions” area of your RSS feed reader and voila! You should see a string of headlines pop up in your reader. If you can’t find an RSS graphic, sometimes it works just to take the URL from the main page or the sub-topic page of the website that you want to be your source and copy that into your feed reader. I would say 90% of the time, this works just as well.
• In many instances you can find sources for your feeder from the feeder itself. They usually display a large number of popular categories that you can browse, which will be helpful to get you started, but I tend to view those sources as low hanging fruit and try not to use them too much.
• Once you have the feeds, there tends to be a lot of ways to customize your view of the feed ,e.g., just the title, title and short description, pictures or no pictures etc…
• On the left pane is where you want to start organizing things into folders so you can easily navigate between the topics, writers, and publications that you care about. With a robust feed, articles will come up fast if you ‘view all’, and you will really get a feel for how fast things are published and covered. Selecting to view individual folders will slow down the feed to only view the sources inside. You can also select individual sources inside each folder.
Some tips on how to find great feeds:
• News sites: First off, you should always have your finger on the pulse of the biggest news stories of the day. USA Today, CNN or TIME would be some good examples of who to follow here.
• Industry publications and blogs: There are undoubtedly some magazines or publications that write about your industry or something closely related to it, add those feeds.
• Blogs of your competitors: I know it seems faux pa, but if you are trying to figure out what people in your industry care about, this is like a free peak! Remember you’re not looking at these things to copy off your competitors, but to try to get a better understanding of what people in your industry think is important that maybe you haven’t thought of.
• Press source blogs: after you’ve spent some time reading through your RSS feed, you’ll start to notice that press that covers your industry are all sourcing the same blog. You should definitely add that blog to your feed reader and check it every day.
• Specific journalists and journalists that have covered your company: If there are reporters that you have thought your company would be a good source of information for, add their feed to your feed reader. A lot of news sites will break out a page for a specific writer and you can just look for the RSS button or copy the URL of that page directly into your feed reader. If you’re familiar with an author’s work it, then it makes it a lot easier for you to introduce yourself to them later when you have something that you want to pitch to them.
• Politicians and government agencies: There is always some Congressman, Senator, Department or Agency that is dealing in either legislation or regulations that will have an effect on your industry. Every single one of them has a news section on their website. You should find those people and groups and add those page’s URLS to your feed reader and monitor them closely. When one of these folks makes or proposes a change that affects your industry in a way that only someone like you or others in your industry would understand – who better to pitch it to the press than you?
Once you have your RSS feeder all set up and you have gotten to know its features, you won’t believe how much easier it is to find relevant information on the things the press and people in your industry care about. Pitch ideas and content for blogs will pop into your brain at the speed of well, an RSS feed. Imagine trying to type in the URLS or doing a google search for the sites of each of the articles you can now see at just a glance. Even trying to utilize bookmarks or google alerts will seem quaint. The only tool that really compares is using twitter with lists, but that’s a blog for another day. Using the two in tandem is what I’m all about anyway.
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