Why is it that people stubbornly refuse to adopt new technologies even when they’re tailor-made for the work they do? I’m talking RSS and Google Reader here.
I have, in my mind’s eye, a sketch, and it goes a bit like this:
PR: “I’d like you to develop some software for me please.”
Tech: “Sure, what do you want it to do?”
PR: “I want it to tell me when there’s news for a specific topic.”
Tech: “OK. Anything else?”
PR: “I want it not only to look at news, but blogs. There’s a lot of blogs out there and I want it to cover them.”
Tech (scratches chin): “OK. Anything else?”
PR: “I want it to be accessible from anywhere in the world.”
“And I want it to be free.”
PR: “Yes, please. Free. I don’t want to pay for it.”
Tech: “I take it you want it to be easy to use as well.”
PR: “Naturally. I work in PR.”
Tech: “I see your point. So, to recap, you want something that grabs news for you, including blog conversations, that is freely accessible, and easy to use. Have you ever considered Google Reader?”
And so the conversation goes. This is fine in theory but the end of the sketch would be something like:
[several days later]
Tech: “So, how are you getting along with that software that is tailor-made for your requirements, is free, and is easy to use?”
PR: “I don’t use it.”
This is something I go through often. Around Christmas time last year I made a list of things to find out about, and Google Reader and RSS was one of them. Within minutes I was up and running and within an hour it had transformed a large part of what I do at work and at home. To me, it seemed very easy and intuitive and obviously useful.
But the people I work with just don’t get it. Despite blogging specifically and social media generally being one of the most important developments in PR in recent years, I still have directors who say “Oh, I don’t read blogs” or “What’s Google Reader?” So I explain to the first that of course you don’t read blogs by visiting them every day, you use RSS and a reader (for ‘reader’ I may interchange Google Reader simply because that’s the one I use); and to the second, I explain how to set it up and what RSS is all about. On the outside I’m very helpful and approachable, but on the inside I’m usually pretty angry that I have to be telling people this stuff.
It’s the same with clients. I’ve been to clients to present this to them, and I use Google Reader to provide them with a page of the very latest online news for them to use. But they don’t.
I’ve even taken groups of people through it. I actually show them how to access the reader, how to subscribe, how to use nifty techniques such as subscribing to Google News and Yahoo News, or using Google Blog Search, or WordPress tag searches. I explain how tags work and how you can have feeds from them so you can set up a complete news syndication network delivering news direct to clients. But a week or so later, they’ve all stopped using it.
Other people look mystified. They ask how I know this stuff. I just tell them I spent an hour learning about it. And when I had learned about it, despite having only worked in PR for a very short time, I could see straight away how important it was for PR. Not because it’s tech, but because it’s PR.
I’d be interested to know if other people have the same issues. I don’t class myself as particularly forward-looking or visionary, but by the same token I hate having to class a large proportion of my contemporaries as blinkered.
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