Does Your Online Newsroom Deliver the News?

by coach

The NORAD of ABC in Austin

ABC newsroom, Austin by Trey Ratcliff

Online newsrooms are an essential part of any organization’s media relations and communications strategy. With the right newsroom features, you can meet the needs of the media as well as other important stakeholders. But does your newsroom really deliver what the media actually need?

A 2010 Middleberg Communications/SNCR study said 70% of journalists use social networks to assist in reporting, compared to 41% in the previous year.

Social media are important tools for journalists according the survey:

  • 66% read blogs
  • 48% view online videos
  • 25% listen to podcasts
  • 47% use Twitter and other microblogging services.

As Sally Falkow notes “Nine out of ten reporters use the Internet to search for information when they write a story.  And they say they find the information they need less than 75 percent of the time.”

Importantly, 91% of journalists surveyed agree that new media and communications tools and technologies are enhancing journalism to some extent. It’s no wonder the online newsroom is becoming critical for media and investor relations.

In reality, the media expect you to have an online newsroom. And, it had better meet their needs if you want coverage!

Here’s a look at current online newsroom best practices and essential features followed by a content checklist to help your newsroom deliver the news effectively.

Essential Online Newsroom Features

So what are the best practices and must-have features in a great online newsroom?

  • Real news. Does your newsroom contain real “news?” Remember, it shouldn’t be a sales page filled with hyperbole. Don’t confuse sales and marketing with news.
  • Key contacts. Do you have PR contacts with phone, email and, preferably, after hours contact info? Make sure it’s easy to find this information and that spokespeople are available, knowledgeable and able to speak for your organization.
  • Valuable information. Only include practical material media can really use. If it’s not useful, informative and objective, move it over to the marketing pages of your website.
  • Media-friendly. Is your newsroom media-friendly? It must have all the important content [see checklist below] reporters expect. Information must be easily found in usable, easily-downloable documents including MSWord, PDF and the most common audio and video formats.
  • Usability. Is content easily-found, searchable, printable and easily-downloaded?
  • Tracking. Your newsroom should have easy-to-subscribe forms, feeds and tracking for onsite measurement and to determine return on investment.
  • Credibility. Ensure media and visitors know they are on the “official” company site.
  • Monitor for results. Actively monitor your site, news coverage and social media for pick up and usage of material.
  • Engagement. Ask newsroom visitors and users for feedback, suggestions for improvement and other features that would be useful.

If you can offer these features and follow best practices, you’re well on the road to newsroom success.

Online Newsroom: Content Checklist

This checklist will help you decide what content to include in your ideal online newsroom:

  • Key contact info including phone, email, after hours and instant access or help line
  • Easy media, blogger, analyst, and investor registration for automated email, blog, news, financials, updates
  • News releases, archived by most recent date
  • Fact sheets in easy to use bullet format
  • Executive bios, profiles, photos, organization chart
  • Investor Information: Financials, annual and quarterly reports, analyst reports, share info, etc
  • Background material including speeches, keynotes, Op-Eds, presentations, etc
  • Links to company social media channels including company blog, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc
  • Visuals: logos, maps, schematics, product or operations photos with low and high resolution options
  • Audio clips: recent investor calls, speeches, etc
  • Video clips: well-produced news clips, annual meeting footage
  • Product/service info, specifications, etc
  • Sales and marketing material for reference or link to marketing website
  • Industry links and helpful external resources.

It’s a big, time-intensive and potentially expensive job to build all these features at once. Do the important first things first. Do them well. Ask for feedback from all your stakeholders. And keep building until you’re done.

Best Examples of Online Newsrooms

Where can you get inspiration? When it comes to excellent online newsrooms, Jeremy Porter suggests these companies have it right in his in-depth analysis of each:

Have a look at these sites and see how they measure up for you as a journalist or visitor.

IR Web Report’s Dominic Jones notes 41% of heavily traded US-listed international firms shun PR wires. It’s an important trend because there are new, better alternatives, increasingly supported by online newsrooms

David Henderson cites Imperial Sugar’s ISC Newsroom, a client site and a great example of function, features and, most importantly built on a solid foundation of “real news.” It’s well worth a look!

With the need for speed, 24 x 7 deadlines and global competition, the media need it now and they need it right! Your newsroom can help by delivering the news. So what are you waiting for?

Got a great online newsroom you’d like to share? Just shout out in our comments below.

We’ve got lots of useful online newsroom suggestions, practical news release tips and media training resources in The PR Coach Library. Browse the site to find help from more than 6,000 links, PR tips and tools.

Useful Online Newsroom Articles

The following videos and articles have terrific tips and resources to guide you in producing and managing a superb online newsroom:

Eight tips for a better online newsroom (Mark Ragan with Charles Pizzo) [Video 4:14]
First Person: Ibrey Woodall – How to Perfect Your Online Newsroom
[Video 4:16]
From old media to social media: Survey reveals the essential elements for today’s online newsroom
[Ibrey Woodall, added per Ibrey’s comment below]
How to Build a Better Online Newsroom
[Jeremy Porter]
How to Build a Better Online Newsroom: Part II
[Jeremy Porter]

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