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Tech terms every media relations professional should know

Can I use my RSS reader to keep an eye on The Long Tail of social media? And what is open source, anyway?

Technology is changing so rapidly these days that it’s hard to keep up with all of the new terms and concepts. Below I’ve compiled a few common tech terms that impact public relations and media research in a significant way, along with a brief definition for reference. Do you have any other terms that confuse you? Any definitions you’d like to share?

RSS (Really Simple Syndication): An XML-based system that allows users to aggregate content into a reader (kind of like an inbox). Put simply, if you have an RSS Reader (you can just Google ‘RSS Reader’ and download one or use Google Reader from your Gmail account) you can subscribe to your favorite blogs and other news sites and receive notification every time something is updated or newly posted to each site. I also find my RSS reader helpful for Twitter Search – I am notified every time someone mentions a search term that I entered. RSS readers can help PR pros monitor the dozens (or hundreds) of sites they work with regularly without visiting each site individually on a regular basis.

The Long Tail: Originally coined by Chris Anderson in WIRED in October 2004, The Long Tail is a phrase that is tossed around often, but I am frequently surprised at how few people truly know what it means. Traditionally, mass market products that quickly sell in large quantities in stores have dominated the marketplace. However, with the growth of the Internet, Anderson argues that we are moving to a more niche marketplace model where less-popular products can be sold in smaller quantities, just with a larger number of products – and still turn the same (if not greater) profit that the mass market model turned. In a nutshell, as Seth Godin says in the title of his latest book, “Small is the new big.” Media relations people should remember these concepts with specific PR campaigns and not ignore the little guys.

Analog vs. Digital Television: The transition is next month! (BREAKING NEWS: Unless the Obama administration has something to say about it!) Do you know the difference? Analog signals are the original standard for transmitting television, take up a lot of room within their assigned channels and are subject to interference, decreasing audio and picture quality. Digital transmits by computer code, which uses less bandwidth space and allows for higher-quality picture and audio. For more info, check out my blog post ‘What does the Digital TV Transition mean for media relations professionals?’

Social Media: A term that refers to sites where users are generating content and sharing information. Includes social networking sites, bookmarking sites, podcasts, blogs, microblogging sites, forums and more. (Unlike most bloggers, I don’t actually think this term is a misnomer. Look up what the word ‘media’ means, people. ) Social media is more direct-to-consumer than most PR pros have experienced before and the rules of engagement are changing for media relations.

Open Source: In a basic sense, Open Source refers to computer applications that make their source code available, allowing programmers to freely modify, redistribute or alter the original program. In a much broader way, OS is a collaboration methodology that allows the everyman to access and benefit from a product’s cumulative goods and knowledge. (Thanks to @LisaH for her help with this definition!)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO refers to the techniques you use to make your website appear higher in a list of search engine results. It’s important for public relations professionals to know the keywords that people are using to search for their company, product or service and utilize those terms in press releases and other materials as much as possible (while still keeping the language natural and material readable).

About Heidi Sullivan

One of PRWeek’s 40 under 40 in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She leads the company’s digital and broadcast content teams, the global research team for Cision’s media database, Cision’s social media community team and the company’s content marketing strategy. You can find her on Twitter @hksully.

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