How To Transform Your Online Newsroom Into a Media Magnet
When your brand is mapping its media outreach strategy, it’s easy to get hung up on the usual suspects: public relations, paid advertising, social media and content marketing. But there’s an often overlooked and underutilized secret weapon that can pull your marketing efforts together into a single, shareable portal: your brand’s online newsroom.Yes, online newsrooms are not new — in fact one of the first to launch after the commercialization of the Internet in 1995 (for the Acoustical Society of America) still exists today — but a robust online newsroom has actually become more important than it was a decade ago.
According to statistics from the American Society of News Editors, print news staffing fell by 65 percent from 2005-2015. As print and broadcast newsrooms shrink, a company’s ability to have its media-worthy content at the fingertips of inquiring journalists has never been so vital.
It’s not surprising that a 2016 survey of print, television and digital journalists by TEKgroup found that 80 percent of the reporters said it was “very important” or “important” for a company to have an online newsroom and 92 percent of journalists said they’d find an online newsroom useful. A similar survey by TheNewsMarket found that 66 percent of journalists visit online newsrooms every week, while one third visit them daily.
The good news is that a facelift for your company’s online newsroom doesn’t necessarily carry a hefty price tag; but making it a journalist-friendly, content-rich hub does require careful planning.
Do’s and Don’ts of a Successful Online Newsroom
Do: Make Your Newsroom Easy to Find
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, you’ve got 59 seconds to capture a website visitor’s attention. So why would you bury the link to one of your most valuable company resources, its newsroom — especially for such an important audience as journalists who cover your company?
Make sure your online newsroom is clearly identified (e.g. “News,” “Press,” or “Media” for example) in the navigation bar, linked directly from the homepage and not hidden within another section of the site. Many consumers are conditioned to search for company-related information in the footer of your homepage, so that’s a logical place to house your newsroom link. Exhibit A: Starbucks.
- Tip: Give your newsroom a custom URL address. Not only will that newsroom URL give you a direct link to share with journalists, it will also aid in optimizing your newsroom for search. Exhibit B: Also Starbucks.
Don’t: Make it Siloed
Chances are you’re already executing a robust content marketing strategy (if not, let’s talk), so why is your brand’s newsroom populated only with press releases? Minnesota-based Be the Match, the largest bone marrow registry in the world, does a great job highlighting the latest company news in its “News Stream,” but its original content, including patient stories and fact sheets, lives elsewhere on its website.
If you’re already creating content for the masses — whether an infographic, video, case study, blog post, white paper or e-book — view the newsroom as an aggregator. That doesn’t mean all the content has to “live” in your newsroom; a link to its location is all that’s necessary. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company (full disclosure: a former client of mine) has mastered this approach using widgets to pull updates from its brands, corporate blog and social media channels onto the Newsroom homepage. Not only does this keep Lilly’s content fresh, it shows a journalist the diversity and depth of your business.
Which leads us to why it’s important to…
Do: Show Journalists Your Goods
The newsroom is like your blind date with a journalist. Unlike a first date, however, it is better to put it all out there. In the TEKgroup survey, there were two themes among journalists for “must have” newsroom resources: downloadable content and experts/media contacts.
The gold standard for capitalizing on business resources is Minnesota’s own Mayo Clinic. Given its worldwide reputation for medical research and education, responding to each reporters’ requests would be overwhelming. To help, Mayo created its own news network with all the tools and resources a journalist needs to file a story without personally interviewing a Mayo expert.
This content and media strategy has paid off in spades for Mayo. One example is series of blog posts and videos with infectious diseases specialist Dr. Pritish Tosh discussing the Zika virus, a mosquito-transmitted infection. Mayo’s media friendly resources resulted in mentions in USA Today, The New York Times and dozens of print and broadcast outlets in between. And, while we can’t blame the Mayo Clinic for not listing media contacts by name in the newsroom, it offers a contact phone number instead of a general email or contact form — increasing confidence that an on-deadline reporter will get a real person on the line.
Another great example of pre-packaged media content is Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its “Media Tools” section offers digital press kits, images, story ideas and even matte releases (aka already written media-friendly feature stories that editors can use “as-is”). With topics ranging from flu shots and the dangers of raw milk to vision screenings and falls prevention, reporters from publications both big and small can access fact-based content with one click.
- Tip: Any company with industry-specific expertise can capitalize on trends and breaking news. Place profiles of your company’s subject matter experts in your newsroom — with brief bios, images, video clips and thought leadership in the form of blogs, recent presentations or previous media interviews. This content-rich newsroom will build the bona fides of your experts and give you a single, robust page to share with reporters when pitching a story. Adobe (pictured below) has a great template.
Don’t: Make Your Newsroom an Information Graveyard
Your newsroom should fulfill journalist needs first, so media contact information, high quality video and images and, of course, press releases are must haves. The remaining content is up to you, but don’t let your newsroom become your company’s content catch-all.
Assign a “content curator” to regularly assess the relevance of the information housed in your newsroom to keep it fresh. A white paper from three years ago may not reflect your current business strategies as well as a more recent infographic about your corporate responsibility efforts. Remember: It’s okay to remove materials from a newsroom. After all, the newsroom is about sharing content to start a conversation, not stroke an ego.
- Tip: Study the analytics of your newsroom as closely as other pages of your website. Monitor and assess how journalists are using it, and how it can be improved. If certain information, say a link to archived news releases, is taking up prime real estate and not generating a lot of clicks, move it to a less visited part of the page.
- Bonus tip: Enabling reporters to search by “type of content” is one way to organize information overload and make your newsroom easier for journalists to navigate. For inspiration, check out Coca-Cola’s press center.
Want some additional inspiration to make your online newsroom shine? These articles from The News Market and Inc. Magazine offer some practical tips:
- Want To Make The Most Of Your Online Newsroom?
- 8 Essential Elements of the Modern-Day Online Newsroom
Image Source: All President's Men
Andy Pollen is a former Maccabeast.