XML does sound scary (we are PR people, after all). So we need to discuss basic concepts, and take it from there.
Consider XML as a new web standard that builds intelligence into the system, enabling one website to understand another, and to perform automatic operations. This is the starting point for XPRL, the XML language for public relations transactions (eg news releases).
If this is still too conceptual (it took me a long while to come round to this argument), then let’s step back in the alphabet. RSS, often called Really Simple Syndication, is an XML application with immediate use for public relations practice. Journalists love it, so smart PRs better start using it. Rather than trawling the web for updated news, or hunting through an overloaded inbox hunting for an elusive email, RSS automates this process.
It tells you when there’s new news, and lets you see a summary of the story. If this is how the newsgatherers are working, then it makes sense for the news distributors to play the game. Tom Murphy provides an introduction to RSS for PR, along with links to some news feeds (such as the one from this site) and to other early adopters of RSS. His ‘how to’ guide is here.