Building a Better Online Newsroom

As a public relations professional, do you dream of having a place where journalists will gather and listen to your latest pitch with rapt attention? You can have something close to that situation by establishing an online newsroom. In fact, it’s estimated that more than half of all journalists visit online newsroom sections of an organization’s website on a frequent basis IF the newsroom is kept current and it contains valuable content.

So, if you don’t have an online newsroom yet, or just want to improve the one you have, how do you develop a space where journalists will flock? First, understand that journalists go to newsrooms to both look for specific content and to hunt for story ideas. With this in mind, you want to include as much information as possible. You’ll want to include content such as news releases, photos, audio and video files and other assets journalists typically use. However, don’t just heap it in one mass. Handle each content type in a way that makes them easy to access.

Press releases– Post release in reverse chronological order, with titles and release dates clearly visible. You can automate this process. It’s good to post releases quickly after they go out, and before they are mass circulated. Have a variety of formats available –both text and PDF. Also, categorize releases by year and by specific product or another relevant topic. Additionally, you may consider links to news stories generated from your releases.

News summary – Many organizations publish a weekly round-up of company news and announcements for journalists. This makes a nice feature for your newsroom as well.

Photos – Always post your photos along with a suggested caption or captions which includes  company representatives and dates. Allow for journalists to download in various resolutions and include a thumbnail for them to see before going through the task of downloading.

Audio and video – Of course you’ll want to post executive speeches, but also consider posting recordings of presentations by subject matter experts. Or, offer up podcasts and mini-lecture videos dealing with topical subjects. Again, provide a variety of format types and post the file size and date recorded next to your links.

Executive bios and fact sheets – Post headshots of your company leaders and short bios. You might also want to link to their LinkedIn pages and provide copies of recent presentations. Also, have an updated fact sheet on the organization, including key information, essential figures and a brief description of what your company does.

Annual reports, et. al. – Include digital copies of relevant documents such as annual reports and financial statements. You may also consider capabilities pieces for big projects or key products or services. The key here is to keep the materials updated.

Events calendar – Give journalists a sense of what is ahead in the next months, especially events that they may be interested in covering. If you can, provide a short “promo” video for upcoming conferences and product releases. List events that your company may not be sponsoring, but will feature your product or your executives. All of it may be of interest to the reporter.

Contact information – Even if you have a content-rich newsroom, don’t  ignore the fact that journalists want to know how to reach their contacts from the press department. Always include key contacts prominently in your online press room. Be very specific that these people are there to answer questions from the media to avoid having their phone numbers become the catch-all for customer inquiries.

Let’s look at how to keep the site functional without having it overwhelm your staff.

First, monitor site use –  Look for trends on the content that is being downloaded most frequently. Also ask journalists what they find most useful and what they would like you to add. Another quick measure is if you’re still getting calls and requests from journalists for more background material –a sure sign they’re not finding it on your site.

Time media postings – Schedule automatic postings of releases when the news becomes public.

Make a media request form – Include an easily completed form for journalists to use when they want to secure an interview. If you ask enough appropriate information upfront, it will eliminate hours of back-and-forth with reporters for your team. You may get some resistance by requiring the form, so it’s essential to answer the request as quickly as possible, even if you have to assign someone to do this on a weekend. Being johny-on-the-spot will build trust with reporters and they won’t mind completing the form in the future if they know you’re attentive to their needs. And use the form to also capture the journalist’s information so that you can be pro-active in sending information that may be relevant for future stories.

Make the site super accessible – An online newsroom needs to have content readily available. That doesn’t mean dumping old news releases and asking journalists to fend for themselves. Set up an appropriate search function that includes filters for topics, date issued, product/service referenced and other relevant details.

There’s no doubt that your online newsroom will take some effort, but if it’s of value to journalists, there are definite advantages for your public relations efforts.