By Ken Payne

It’s down to the final four in the NFL with the conference championships set. In the NFC it’s a grudge match – obviously the 49ers and the Seahawks are not hanging out together in a local pub after the game. In the AFC it’s “deja vu all over again” with Denver vs New England, Manning vs Brady - a classic Miller Light vs Bud Light thing.

The long NFL season was a grind, a war of attrition. The teams with the best preparation, most passion, and a little luck came out on top. But a trip to the final game of the NFL season is not the only coveted prize these sport franchises seek. Millions of dollars are at stake as the top NFL brands square off in the retail marketplace – ticket sales, jersey sales, and don’t forget your bobble-head! They compete in the TV ratings marketplace – the teams with the largest viewership garner the best time slots in next season’s lineup. They also compete in the marketplace of ideas, vying for valuable media space in today’s fractured and seemingly unending news cycle.

These marketplaces require timely outreach, instant access, and transparent information transactions between the team and its various audiences. The information game is today played mostly online on the team’s branded website. And a big part of the media game plan for the branded website is the team’s online newsroom.

So how do they stack up? TEKGROUP decided to take a deeper look at one contender from each championship tilt – the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers. Using the TEKGROUP Online Newsroom Analysis Rubric we’ve selected four criteria by which to analyze the teams’ online communication efforts – content, tools, distribution and social media integration.

Let the game begin!

Content: Here we’re looking for the basics – press releases, photos, logos, video, audio, media guides, event calendars, news coverage, executive bios, player bios, speeches, backgrounders, story ideas, and team research. We’ll have to give a nod to both the Broncos and 49ers for use of a dedicated media site to facilitate working journalist on deadline. The Broncos do an especially good job in their main navigation with links to press releases, quotes, rosters, depth charts, media guides, press clippings, and the team’s media guide. Go Broncos!

Tools: For this section we’re looking to see how well the media relations team facilitates the working journalist – keyword search, translations, user registration, credential requests, interview requests, and a robust help section with FAQ’s. For the 49ers and Broncos, links to credential and interview requests make their media sites easy to navigate and very usable. We especially like the 49ers links to interview transcripts – a must-have for journalists who missed the post-game press conference. Go 49ers!

Distribution: This is the blocking and tackling of media relations – getting the word out. Here we’re looking for e-mail alert registration, media advisories, mobile apps, PR contact lists, corporate contact lists, and relevant links to other online properties and pages of interest. Maybe it’s the “pull” information culture of sport media – but this category seemed challenging for both divisional challengers. The Broncos had clear navigation on their media site for mobile alerts, but neither team featured an e-mail alert sign-up function on their online newsroom homepage. With journalists citing e-mail notification as their most preferred method of contact in a recent TEKGROUP survey (a full 98%!), both teams may want to call an audible and initiate a “push” information option to their media relations playbook. Third and long – time for a big play!

Social Media Integration: The rookie in the locker room, social media has taken the sports and entertainment industry by storm. Here we’re looking for updated blogs, RSS feeds, sharing and bookmarking functions, recommend and like opportunities, a comments section, and the typical Facebook, Twitter, Google +, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and all other links to social media content and networking properties. Social is as social does - and NFL teams are taking notice. Timely blog posts, multiple social media outreach channels, integrated social tools for journalists and consumers, and lively Twitter feeds abound on the teams’ branded web sites. No real advantage here – they both do a great job!

So, what’s the final score? Based on our online newsroom analysis we pick the Denver Broncos in the AFC, and the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC to make the trip to New York. And, they’ll be ready for the media onslaught with a full-featured and well-maintained online newsroom.

Good luck to both teams!


Steve Momorella

Online Public Relations
Phone: 734-945-7790

Ken Payne is an associate professor of public relations at Western Kentucky University’s School of Journalism & Broadcasting, and TEKGROUP consultant who lives at the intersection of technology and tradition. Ken is PRSA accredited, an active member of AEJMC, and would someday like to work as a ski patrol volunteer (free season pass!).

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