The Evolution of Corporate Communications: Page 2

Posted January 9, 2006

Paul Chin

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RSS, the New E-mail?

Many news Web sites and bloggers are already using RSS feeds to "broadcast" their content. Even marketers and advertisers are realizing the advantages of RSS as a means to attract potential customers. It's an easy, unintrusive way to syndicate frequently changing Web content such as daily blog entries or news headlines.

Momentum is also growing in the corporate environment for RSS. Organizations are beginning to see that RSS can be used to pick up where e-mail left off (or, some would say, failed) as an internal corporate communicator. One of the problems with corporate-wide e-mail announcements is that they can't be categorized. An important announcement concerning network downtime will end up in users' inbox, sandwiched between joke mail and spam. There's no context to e-mail messages short of the subject header, which is not always easily noticeable.

RSS, however, offers more communication control on the part of both the sender and the receiver. Senders can create topical RSS feeds based on different types of corporate communications, and receivers have the choice of which feeds they subscribe to. This ensures that employees only receive content that's relevant to them.

It's up to organizations to decide how to best categorize its RSS feeds, but some examples might include:

  • Important announcements: Crucial, time-sensitive information requiring immediate attention such as scheduled downtimes for IT and facility infrastructures

  • Executive communications: Messages from management.

  • Corporate events listings: Details of special events such as company sponsored fundraisers, family days, and holiday parties.

  • Intranet changes and upgrades: Announcements of new features and changes to the corporate intranet.

  • Corporate policy changes: Updates to internal corporate policies such as flex hours, Internet usage and etiquette, and employee benefits.

  • Personnel changes: Announcements of promotions, departmental transfers, and retirements.

Migrating to RSS is also a relatively simple proposition when compared to other types of IT implementations. It's not necessary to install standalone RSS readers (known as aggregators) throughout the company. RSS readers are becoming standard features in many e-mail clients and Web browsers, or they can be installed as plug-ins to existing applications that don't already have them. This allows employees to get the benefits of RSS without having to learn a whole new interface.

Advantages of RSS Over E-mail for Corporate Communication
  • RSS separates important internal communications from all the "chatter" that can pollute e-mail: spam, jokes from friends, and newsletter subscriptions.

  • RSS doesn't overwhelm users. RSS presents users with a headline and a short synopsis so they can decide if it's worth following the link to the full message stored on the corporate intranet. Many RSS readers will also give users the option of viewing only this summary information or the entire document.

  • Unlike corporate-wide e-mail, RSS is completely opt-in. If you're not interested in hearing about the company's special events, you simply don't subscribe to that feed.

  • RSS feeds won't be blocked by any filters so the message is sure to get through.

  • RSS feeds don't compete with hundreds of e-mail messages for the users' attention. RSS has a singular focus so important announcements will stand out more clearly than an e-mail that's buried in a list of other messages.

  • RSS standardizes the formating and display of the internal communications since it's stored on the intranet (Some users don't like to receive HTML-based e-mail so organizations had to develop both a formatted message and a text-only message to cover all its employees).
  • Shout Out! Podcasting and Vodcasting

    Podcasting (audio) and vodcasting (video) are other methods that can be used for corporate communications, although they haven't been widely adopted yet. Contrary to popular misconception, podcasting and vodcasting are not simply multimedia files stored on a server for users to download. Like RSS, they're based on a subscription model. Users subscribe to podcast and vodcast feeds through similar aggregator software that can be set-up to automatically download new content when it's available. But instead of reading the message, they listen to it or watch it.

    Podcasting and vodcasting are ideal ways to get messages — especially lengthy messages — across to large corporate audiences since it presents them with a much more convenient (and some would say, more natural) form of communication. It's far more convenient to listen to an audio podcast of a CEO's quarterly results presentation on a portable media player while going to work than it is to sit at a desk reading through the twenty page equivalent.

    But there might be an annoyance factor when it comes to using a multimedia approach to corporate communications. Users who decide to listen to podcasts or watch vodcasts at their desks without the use of headphones might irritate their neighbors. What's worse is if several people were to access a podcast or vodcast at the same time, raising the noise pollution and tempers of the office.

    Closing Thoughts

    There's no perfect solution when it comes to corporate communications. You'll never be able to reach every employee all the time because even if the solution is rock solid, there will always be someone who just doesn't bother — regardless of the medium used.

    It's the responsibility of the organization to inform its employees, and to provide the means by which it gets its communications across easily and efficiently. But as the sender, organizations can only do so much. They can only make sure that it's not the message and the medium that fails the user community. The receiver of the communication also has a part to play.

    Each individual employee must be receptive to the message when it arrives. This is their responsibility. If they continually disregard corporate communications and claim, "But nobody told me," perhaps the response to that should be, "Why didn't you listen?"

    Paul Chin is an IT consultant and a freelance writer. Previously, Paul worked as an intranet and content management specialist in the aerospace and competitive intelligence industries.

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