Best Practices for Creating a Robust Online Newsroom

Spokesperson at Mic_LargeThe evolution of the internet and the ability for anyone to create and share content at a moment’s notice is exciting, and maybe a bit terrifying at the same time. Technological advances continue to saturate the storytelling ecosystem at an astonishing rate. This is great for the content creator, but can also feel like an insurmountable obstacle for media outlets and journalists. The mission of finding a unique and timely story has become even more challenging as the competitive landscape of a reporter continues to explode.

Great organizations, and specifically their PR teams, should look for opportunities to simplify the process and build strong and enduring relationships with the media. One of the best things an organization can do is to develop a robust, easy-to-use, online newsroom. If reporters are consistently racing to find a unique story angle, a fresh point of view, as well as a strong subject matter expert (SME), why not provide them what they need quickly and easily so they get their story, and you can share your organization’s thought leadership?

The first thing to consider for your online newsroom is the setup and placement of the site. It must be quickly found from your home page and easy to navigate. Below are a few important elements to remember when developing your newsroom.

  • Make it Visible
    Ensure the newsroom is quickly accessible and easily found from the company website home page. It should have a place of prominence with one-click access at the top of the page, not buried a few clicks down or linked from a tiny string of text in the footer.
  • Simplify the URL
    Work with your web team to ensure you can leverage something as clean and simple as http://www.companyname.com/newsroom, or ask for a marketing URL if the simplified version cannot be achieved.
  • Ensure it’s Mobile Friendly
    You hear it all the time, but your newsroom must be mobile friendly. If the rest of the website hasn’t been optimized for mobile yet, this might be the burning platform needed to get it done. Their is date out there everyone confirming this fact – the percentage of people who leverage their smartphones or other mobile devices as their primary access point for information is significantly increasing.
  • Simplify the Navigation
    Building easy segments and categories for quick and logical navigation goes a long way. Don’t make it harder for a journalist to get what they need. Make it unbelievably easy, provide everything they would require, and make sure it’s up to date.
  • Don’t Forget the SEO
    Your organization probably already has an SEO strategy in place — leverage it. If a journalist doesn’t know about you, they may perform a search to find the experts. Your priority topics should pop to the top of a search, and your newsroom content should be right there with it.

Content is King (or Queen)

It’s obviously not enough to build a great looking newsroom, now you have to fill it with the best content or the media won’t bother. Much of what’s necessary is probably already in existence somewhere on your website — the newsroom should be a single point-of-entry into every piece of information a reporter would use.  Below are essential content assets required in building a robust online newsroom.

  • Media Contacts
    Make it top of page so people know whom the media contact(s) are. If it’s a generic information email address, many may not bother. Keep in mind reporters have short windows to fill a deadline – providing a name and direct number to a live person is usually your best bet.
  • Company Background
    If your company isn’t well known or has a complicated organization structure, provide the necessary backdrop and make it very clear so misrepresentation in a story doesn’t occur. I worked for one region of a large global company and it was complicated to explain how we fit with the other regions and parent organization. Reporters who were not familiar with us would get confused when some of our experts tried to explain. Provide simple descriptions up front, give product or service information where necessary, fact sheets, and historical timelines, maybe even packaged as simple infographic. Use common sense; don’t make them struggle to figure out how to represent your business. If a reporter doesn’t know, imagine how your clients feel.
  • Bios and Headshots
    Promote who your key executive and subject matter experts are that a reporter can speak with by providing up-to-date bios and head shots. Be sure to make images easily downloadable and provide both hi-res and low-res versions for print or web.
  • Give Story Ideas
    Sometimes organizations have a harder time with this one, but it is critical for the PR team to provide up-to-date story ideas based on their services and experts. There should be some location in the newsroom where official company points-of-view on trending or evolving topics can be found. If there is disruptive change in your industry or with your clients, it can be powerful to post rapid response content and SME suggestions that journalists can quickly leverage. Stay on top of what key reporters write about, watch for breaking news, and work closely with your experts so they can publish a thoughtful viewpoint at point-of-need serving up valuable insight into a hot issue.
  • Paid, Earned, Owned Media
    List headlined and hyperlinked recent and archived media. First include any press releases so reporters have a quick view into what the company is doing. Also provide links to other media such as bylined articles, interviews, company blogs, white papers, podcasts, webinars, research reports, etc. Try to logically categorize items by content type, but also consider cross-linking by subject so a reporter can view all assets related to one topic.
  • Social Media
    Provide all of the organization’s social media handles to follow with cleanly designed buttons, and also build in share widgets so content can be easily promoted. Consider leveraging categorized RSS feeds or email updates so media can subscribe and stay up to date on what you have to offer.
  • Get Visual
    Reporters love content that includes visuals just as much as your clients and employees do. Secure assets such as quality photos, videos, infographics, graphs, and more, and incorporate them into your newsroom where they can drive interest.
  • Events and Speaking Engagements
    Industry reporters are always attending the same events and conferences your experts do. Provide an updated listing of events and speaking engagements where you have a presence, be clear about who’s attending and what their involvement will be, hyperlink to the related sites, show how to register, participate, or contact the expert. Give them a reason in advance to connect with your resource on the ground.
  • Measure It
    PR, marketing, and sales teams are always running campaigns and outreach to build brand awareness and increase sales. Leverage a metrics tool such as Google Analytics to measure traffic from your tactics. These are also great tools to learn what works well and what doesn’t, and can show where your target audience spends most of their time.

There are many additional tips and resources out there as you consider what to do when building out a robust newsroom. Do your homework and see what your competitors or others in your industry segment are doing. Just be sure you make both your PR team and the journalist’s process as easy as possible—it should be a partnership. The rewards are well worth the effort.

What are some great examples of online newsrooms you’ve seen? Does your organization need help developing a newsroom? Feel free to contact me for a consultation.

©iStock.com/moshimochi

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