How to Build the Ultimate Online Newsroom

June 8, 2011

by TomPick and guest blogger Maria Verven

Almost every PR pro over a certain age remembers press kits–actual physical folders stuffed with a company’s recent press releases, management bios,  a corporate fact sheet, a few case studies, and maybe an article reprint or two.

They were expensive to print and ship and awkward to lug around—for both PR people who produced them and the journalists who ended up with them. They were bulky, killed lots of trees, and of course weren’t searchable.

Online newsrooms sure beat press kitsAnd there was the constant balancing act: include too much information, and nothing will get read (it will seem overwhelming). Too little , and the writer won’t understand how cool and unique your company really is. Yeah, no one today mourns the press kit, but they were the best technology available at the time.

As the web took off and corporate sites proliferated,press kits (or at least elements of them) were moved online. Searchability improved, trees were saved and shipping costs plummeted. Online newsrooms are a dramatic improvement, but even today many are sub-optimized; it’s not at all uncommon to see websites where the “news room” or “media page” is little more than a list of press release links, with perhaps a PDF of some media coverage and some sketchy management bios.

The best online newsrooms go well beyond that and really take advantage of the web medium. Combining rich content with careful organization and search capabilities,  they enable PR pros to provide the media, analysts and bloggers with a vast amount of information without seeming overwhelming.

The ultimate online newsroom should house everything media are looking for in one convenient, easy to navigate spot. It ideally should include:

  • • The primary media contact’s name and contact information (including social network profile links). This is preferably one single individual, but can be multiple names (e.g. based on division, product line, purpose etc.) if absolutely necessary.
  • • Links to news releases (current year and archive of past years). If your company produces a lot of news releases, also provide the ability to view by topic (e.g. product line, financial releases, personnel announcements, etc.).
  • • Links to media coverage and bylined articles.
  • • A company backgrounder or fact sheet (see below for detail).
  • • FAQs (real ones, that real media people would care about).
  • • Management team bios and photos (downloadable JPGs in high-res and low-res versions for print and web). Bios should specify each executive’s area of expertise and best topics for quotes or interviews.
  • • Story ideas (again, thoughtful ones).
  • • Upcoming events / sponsorships / speaking engagements (with speaker bios included).
  • • Links to white papers, PowerPoints, videos, ebooks, infographics, and other company-generated content and thought-leadership assets.
  • • Links to analyst (industry and/or financial) research and coverage.
  • • A link to the company blog(s).
  • • RSS feeds for press releases and blog posts.
  • • Downloadable JPG images in hi-res and low-res formats. These include the company logo and other important images such as the company headquarters building, product photos, software screenshots, photos of executives at industry events, etc.
  • • Links to all of the company’s social media profiles (LinkedIn company page, Facebook, YouTube channel, Twitter etc.).
  • • A search-friendly URL structure with “news” included, e.g. news.company.com/section/pagename or company.com/news/section/pagename (where “section” is the content type: news releases, bios, images etc.). See the 2011 Online Newsroom Survey (PDF) from TekGroup for more guidance here.

News releases should always be in HTML format for searchability. If PDF or printer-friendly versions are offered, these should be stored in a separate subdirectory that is excluded from search in order to avoid duplicate content issues. Releases should be presented in reverse date order and links should include the headline, date and one-line summary (preferably Twitter-friendly 115 characters or less). Again, current releases should be displayed on the newsroom main page with a link to archives, and the media contact name should be easy to find on every release. Also consider creating social media releases (which can include videos, images, links and other items) using a tool like PitchEngine.

One thing that’s often overlooked: updating the media contact name on older releases if that name changes. You don’t want to direct media to contact former employees or your old PR firm (!).

The media coverage page should highlight the two-three most recent articles, with an archive section for the rest (assuming the company gets that much coverage).

The company backgrounder needs to be factual, objective (non salesy) and written in the third person. It’s best to provide both a short version (often just the news release boilerplate) and a longer version that includes more company history, competitive differentiation, and how the company’s products and/or services help customers solve problems (backed up with facts).

Management bios should include information on how long that person has been with the company, key responsibilities, any outside leadership roles held, and social media profile links.

To develop story ideas, start by looking at looking at editorial calendars from “A tier” publications in the industry and look for recurring themes. Make it clear which executives are the best sources for each topic.

Upcoming events and speaking engagements should include the date, name of the conference or event, a description of the company’s participation in the event, and links to the conference website and the speaker’s bio (if applicable).

All content should (of course) be search optimized, with the ability to limit the search to just information within the newsroom section of the site.

It almost goes without saying, but important news should be shared via the company’s Twitter feed, Facebook page and other important social media outlets. All newsroom content should be easily sharable using social media buttons for the most popular sites and networks (tools like AddThis, ShareThis and Meebo make it easy to add these buttons to any site or page). Use and link to social content sharing sites for your media assets as well, including YouTube and Vimeo for company videos, SlideShare for presentations, Podcast Alley and iTunes for audio, Flickr for photos, plus Scribd and Docstoc for PDF files.

The days of the press kit are far behind us, and there’s no need to simply replicate that old format online. The ultimate online newsroom can simultaneously provide far more information and yet give each reporter exactly what he or she is looking for.Maria Verven

Maria Verven is a PR and content marketing executive with KC Associates, a Minneapolis-based b2b technology PR and marketing agency. She’s well-versed in the “new rules” of doing PR, with expertise in social media, SEO (search engine optimization), content marketing, social media and blogging.

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11 Responses

  1. This is a great topic indeed. You made it clear and direct to the point which is the best way to discuss important matter about online newsroom and the benefits of social marketing on it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great stuff. Did you forget to talk design though? It’s really important especially in as post ‘Panda’ (Google algorithm update) world.

    A really really interesting emerging trend this week was credibility in online journalism and reporting. Google announced a Rel=”author” tag for links to author pages; this authenticates [with search engines] a page with Google search engine.

    @matdwright

  3. Hello Tom and Maria –

    Enjoyed the post. Your readers might also like to know that a ‘Subject Matters Experts’ section (internal and external) is very much in demand as well. It can stand as a main navigation or as a subsection of ‘Executive Biographies.’

    Journalists and communicators always tell us that there is a need for “quotes from experts.” The key is to make sure that the communicator is the main contact so they can facilitate the conversation between the journalists and the chosen expert.

    Below are a couple of examples:
    http://unum.newshq.businesswire.com/subject_matter_experts
    http://press.ihs.com/experts

    I hope that helps provide some useful information.

    Full disclosure: I was the creator of the original TEKGROUP Online Newsroom Survey, and now run the online newsroom product for Business Wire.

    Ibrey Woodall
    Ibrey.Woodall@BusinessWire.com
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/ibreywoodall


  4. Tom 

    Great points. Design is indeed important (though I’m more of a content guy than a design expert, so best to look for those tips elsewhere). I saw the news about rel=”author” but this post was actually written before that news came out. Thanks for the updates!


  5. Tom 

    Ibrey -

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Excellent point about the subject matter experts section; my thought was that was covered in the executive bios, but I like the idea of making it a separate section so journalists don’t have to hunt for that.

    The TEKGROUP survey report was an outstanding resource, and Maria and I feel honored that you stopped by. Hope all is going well for you at Business Wire!

  6. Thanks for the great post, and mention of the TEKGROUP Online Newsroom Survey!

    One of the most interesting things that keeps coming back time and time again from this survey is that journalists are really not using the wire services any longer. Less than 5% of the journalists that we surveyed say they use the wire to get news. Most prefer to receive an email alert or visit an online newsroom to get their information. One journalist even commented that he didn’t even realize the wires were still in existence! They may not be for too much longer.

    More and more companies are dropping the wire and just using their online newsroom as the central location for corporate news and information. Much less expensive and you are able to drive traffic to your own site with your own branding, instead of to an unrecognizable URL that helps promote the wire itself.

    Thanks again for the post.


  7. Tom 

    Steve – no worries, the TEKGROUP report was outstanding. And no question, the practice of PR has changed considerably in just the past few years. Blogs have become a significant source of coverage, yet I’ve never met a blogger who uses the wire services to get news. So-called “traditional” news outlets continue to evolve into entities that are more of a social/community of interest/news hybrid sites.

    The wire services have a chance to survive but will need to change their business models and value propositions to do so, much like niche industry trade publications have had to adapt to the “everyone is a publisher” world.

    Thank you for the insightful comment, glad you enjoyed the post!

  8. I’m a big fan of http://www.pitchengine.com Start there, it helps you wrap your head around social PR. First however, your mindset needs to change. You need to treat your organization as if it was a source of news, not a source of marketing collateral. Don’t be afraid to talk about issues, decision processes, and taking a position on something. http://bit.ly/newsroompr


  9. Tom 

    Thanks Albert, completely agree. I’m definitely a fan of PitchEngine.


  10. Tigre 

    Thanks useful information, right now I am using different PR websites to promote information around Internet, but techdir PR is one of the free one used.

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