Technology changes quickly, as does how we use it. Even online newsrooms are now managed more effectively and efficiently by both corporate communicator and journalist.
Because of the continuing maturation of online newsrooms, we felt it was time to update the original "Tips For An Effective Online Newsroom" article that was first published in the May 2003 issue of Tactics. Today’s tips encompass essential content, functionality, setup, design, reporting, integration components and journalists' tools that should be present in most company online newsrooms.
- Post a reverse chronological listing of company releases.
- Post release dates next to the release title. This creates a timeline, showing growth and milestones.
- Feature prominent releases with layout structure, despite published date. This directs the journalist to view this as an important message.
- Automatically and simultaneously post releases in a specific section and on the home page of the online newsroom. This streamlines workflow and eliminates redundant posting time and effort.
- Categorize releases by year.
- Categorize releases by section or specific product (example: Financial, Investor Relations, Legal, Product, Environmental, Automotive). This enables journalists to quickly and easily find desired news by type.
- Post releases immediately, and prior to distribution of e-mail alerts.
- Schedule automatic timing of releases for effectiveness and convenience.
- Provide subscription access to newly posted releases via Really Simple Syndication (RSS). This provides another more immediate method, in which the journalist can receive company news.
- Post releases in real-time text format and PDF format for download. This provides both accessibility and convenience for journalists.
- Provide printable versions of releases that automatically combine content, contact information and logo upon printing.
- Post links to related articles on each release automatically. This expands the research matter for the journalist.
- Provide access to releases in foreign languages with the posting and storage of translated articles.
- Provide a keyword search module in all releases. According to journalists, the search module is one of the most important features of an online newsroom.
- Offer exclusive information. Create a password-protected area that contains news accessible only to registered journalists.
- Consider the creation of a section known as a blog, not necessarily to deliver news releases to journalists, but to provide industry insight by expert employees, monitor opinions and address rumors that relate to your company and its products.
- Distribute e-mail alerts for scheduled releases and breaking news. E-mail alerts should contain only a small company logo, title, abstract and link that directs to the full release in the online newsroom.
- Provide personalized delivery of news releases. Allow journalists to request specific types of news they want to receive from you. This not only reduces the clutter in their in-boxes, but allows your e-mail alert to be recognized as news of interest to them and their beats.
- Post thumbnails, low-resolution and high-resolution photographs, logos and graphics for download. Accessibility ease increases the chance of press coverage.
- Consider password protection for high-resolution graphics. If a journalist is accessing high-resolution graphics, a company mention is most likely going to show up in a publication.
- Post suggested captions.
- Provide a keyword search module of all photographs.
- Post professional headshots of company principals.
- Post career summaries and highlights.
- Consider password protection for executive biographies section.
- Post audio press releases for emphasis.
- Post executive speeches/addresses.
- Post interviews.
- Provide both audio and video on demand.
- Post audio and video format types (example: .mpeg, .wmv, real player) most used by your newsroom visitors, and for best quality.
- Post file size and download times next to audio/video title/link.
- Provide subscription access to audio/video via Really Simple Syndication (RSS/podcasting)
- Post executive appearances.
- Post press conferences.
- Post trade shows.
- Post product releases.
- Post company events.
- Post community events.
- E-mail event invitations that provide for easy e-mail RSVP.
- Provide a search module of events by geographic region, type of event and event date.
- Provide press kits for download.
- Section press kits by product.
- Provide a Search module of press kits.
- Prepare a hidden content section, or dark site, that deals with any and all crisis possibilities relative to your company or industry.
- Automatically and quickly activate the dark site when necessary – either as an additional section, or as a complete replacement for your current online newsroom.
Media request form
- Post a media request form. Once submitted, the request should be automatically e-mailed to the appropriate PR contact.
- Electronically organize media requests into “Pending,” “Approved” or “Denied” categories once reviewed and completed.
- View individual media requests in each registered journalist’s profile.
- Post the office phone number, cell phone number and e-mail address of individual PR contacts. According to journalists, access to PR contacts is the single most important feature of an online newsroom.
- Post individual PR contact title and area of responsibility.
- Consider password protection for PR contacts section.
- Provide a search of PR contacts by area of responsibility or geographic region.
- Automatically add the journalist to the contacts database upon registration to online newsroom.
- Categorize media contact distribution lists into subcategories (example: business editors, lifestyle editors, sports editors).
- Track e-mail alerts sent, recording how many were read.
- Identify journalists who accessed the online newsroom via the e-mail alert link.
- Track individual releases and graphics that are viewed the most.
- Identify the journalists who accessed the individual releases and graphics.
- Track press kit downloads.
- Identify visitation trends with site statistics.
- Provide a newsroom that is accessible 24 hours a day from any location.
- Utilize accepted newsroom URL structure (example: media.yourcompanyname.com).
- Maintain corporate branding with a similar look and feel of the corporate site. This assures journalists that they are in the official company online newsroom.
- Maintain a clear, uncluttered layout with intuitive navigation and reduced scrolling.
- Utilize a content management system (CMS) that enables the PR department to make timely changes easily to the newsroom. This eliminates or reduces reliance on the IT department, providing you with control to post news and graphics at will.
- Edit and design articles with familiar word processing formatting found in a CMS (example: bold, underline, italicize, insert picture, insert hyperlink). Do not spend time coding with an HTML structure.
- Create a standardized workflow process with authorization rights per individual administrator. Utilize a built-in approval process so that administrators can interact with the system from any location.
- Post a Help/FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section.
- Close or open sections by choice with automatic password protection.
- Integrate the online newsroom with third-party media-monitoring suppliers. This enables you to distribute news, identify journalists interested in your company, and then monitor the publications associated with those journalists – all from one console.
- Extend newsroom functionality with customization capabilities.
- Provide a registration/profile login for journalists.
- Place search module on each page of the online newsroom.
- Provide a link to and from the online newsroom to the corporate Web site.
- Provide a virtual personal folder or briefcase for article and photograph storage.
- Confirm security and reliability by hosting the newsroom on a Tier 1 backbone.
Return on investment
- To justify an online newsroom budget, calculate the cost and time you spend providing basic information that can be easily accessed via an online newsroom.
- Calculate the cost and time you spend sending out press releases via a third-party vendor.
- Calculate the shipping cost and time you spend preparing and sending photographs/slides.
- Calculate the cost and time of an IT department (salaries/benefits, hardware, software) required to create and maintain an online newsroom.
- Calculate the cost and time to learn how to code HTML.