10 October 2005

As printed in Media Relations Insider, a supplement to the Bulldog Reporter newsletter. October 2005

The survey, conducted by PR-focused Internet software and services company TEKgroup International (www.tekgroup.com), sought the opinions of nearly 5,000 journalists worldwide about their reliance on the PR sections of company websites. In fact, these online pressrooms are morphing into information warehouses for journalists – and having a functional yet facile newsroom on your website is now a key component in every company’s media relations toolbox.

 

Here are some tips for making your (or your client’s) newsroom optimally useful:

 

1. Build on existing material. An effective online newsroom is far more than a glorified “About us” section on your site. “An online media room is a ‘mini-site’ or section that resides at a separate secure domain, but with seamless access to and from a company’s main site,” explains Rachel Meranus, public relations director at PR Newswire. “Get started on building or improving your online media room by first considering the assets you already have – corporate boilerplates, fact sheets and past press releases are ideal for a media room. In addition, management bios and photos will go a long way toward painting a picture of your organization.”

 

2. Make company PR contacts easily accessible. “Put immediate contact info first – and keep your cell phone on and ready to go at all times,” advises PR consultant Suzanne Falter-Barns. “For example, I was recently quoted in a story for First for Women magazine through my own media room – and they found me at a yoga retreat,” she offers.

 

3. Organize all resource documents. “For example, don’t combine press releases and articles – separate them into two sections” advises Elena Kochergina, account executive and marketing specialist with SHIFT Communications. “Also, create a ‘Resource’ link for case studies and white papers,” she adds.

 

4. Don’t waste reporters’ time with unnecessary bells and whistles. “Do not overload your press room with Flash animation or other graphics. Most reporters are looking for quick and easy-to-access content,” offers Kerri Shepherd, PR manager for Thomson Financial. In addition, “Don’t password-protect your site. You don’t want to exclude anyone from spreading the word about your company,” she says.

 

5. Always have story suggestions at the ready. “Post a story page loaded with good story angles as well as additional peer contacts and resources to assist with the process,” adds Falter-Barns. “Make it really easy for journalists” to access – and use – your ideas.

 

6. Use key words to boost search engine pickup. “State just what sort of expert you are, and how you serve your category,” suggests Falter-Barns. “For example, one of my clients got a four-page feature in Time magazine when [a staffer] found her via targeted search engine entries.”

 

7. Highlight third-party opinions. “Include any positive quotes from press and analysts on a ‘What they’re saying about us’ page – not necessarily in the newsroom, but somewhere that prospective customers might also see it,” adds Kochergina.

 

8. Don’t be overwhelmed by the technology. “The most time consuming aspect of creating an online media room is the technology involved,” says Meranus. There are several services available to help alleviate this burden. Each one offers something different, so be sure to shop around before you make a final decision. At the very least, the one you choose should give you total control over your media room pages, as well as enable you to update, edit and publish content immediately and in the same look and feel as your organization’s Web site. Additionally, it should come with pre-set pages that offer suggestions on what to include. Last but not least, you should be able to automatically post any of your news releases in a ‘News Release’ section of your media room.”

 

Some online newsroom development services to check out:

 

In addition, some press release services like EWORLDWIDE (www.eworldwide.com) offer online newsroom development as a free supplemental service for members.

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WHAT MAKES A GREAT ONLINE NEWSROOM?

 

Here are some key findings of TEKgroup’s survey:

 

  • 75% of respondents said it’s important for companies to have online newsrooms

  • 90% believe it’s important to be able to obtain information on brands via online newsrooms

  • 69% said they often visit companies’ online newsrooms

  • 93% said online newsroom info (via links or emails) is their preferred method for receiving information

  • 73% said it’s very important to access product information via online newsrooms

  • 60% said it’s very important to be able to access executive biographies via online newsrooms

 

As these findings suggest, journalists crave convenient, convergent and compelling information online. PR Newswire’s Rachel Meranus provides the following comprehensive list of features you need to accomplish this in your online newsroom:

 

ü       One-click access from the home page

ü       Up-to-date, current information, with breaking news posted immediately

ü       News release archive

ü       “In the News” section

ü       Links to industry articles and other information

ü       Case studies and testimonials

ü       Opt-in email for journalists to request interviews and additional information

ü       Print-quality image gallery

ü       Lists of awards and honors

ü       Financial and investor relations information for public companies

ü       Search functionality

ü       Appointment booking capabilities

ü       Survey and polling capabilities

ü       Dark pages that can be pre-populated and immediately activated in a crisis


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TOOLS & TECHNOLOGY

How to Turn Online Press Kits Into Media “Hits”

 

Liz Philpott of North Carolina-based Wasabi Publicity offers a wealth of first-hand tips for building online press kits. “We exclusively use online press kits for all our clients, she says. “We spent a couple of years looking for a perfect technology for uploading, storing and displaying these press kits. Eventually, Wasabi and its subsidiary Blue Kangaroo created PressKit24/7 (www.presskit247.com) to develop one of us.” Her tips:

 

1. Use technology that is designed specifically for use as an online press kit. “Website services and web designers specialize in creating websites – not virtual press rooms,” explains Philpott. “This doesn’t mean that they can’t provide a secure media library to store documents It mostly means that if you need an online press kit but use a website service, you’ll be dealing with  - and paying for – a lot of extras you won’t need,” she warns.


“When we designed Press Kit 24/7, we identified the most important features of an online press it – simplicity of use, dependability of the technology and unlimited file size. Other services, such as Bacon’s, cost far more and include features most people will never use.”

 

2. Bypass emailed attachments by generating Web links. “One of the most beneficial features of an online press kit is the ability to reach out to the media with links to documents, as opposed to sending attached documents by email,” she says. “Most businesses – including media outlets – use anti-virus/spam security that toss out emails from unrecognized senders, especially when they have attachments.”

 

3. Go beyond Web page links – offer downloadable documents. “Some online press kits are merely websites that offer press releases and other word processing documents as additional HTML pages within the site. This can make printing these documents very difficult for the user,” she says. “The benefit of offering press materials online is that the media can access them instantly and easily. If you make it complicated by providing only HTML copies of documents, reporters could just move on to the next resource.”

 

4. Keep it simple. “Don’t confuse the media with a lot of fluff. Offer your press releases, images and other files in a clear and simple format, she advises. “When a reporter actually visits your client’s online press kit he or she doesn’t want to spend 15 minutes trying to figure out what is what. Make your press release titles clear and date them. Describe your images in the title including file size. If you include media placments in your client’s online press kits, display them in a separate area, away from the general press kit.


— Richard Carufel

This information originally appeared in “Media Relations Insider,” a supplement to the Bulldog Reporter newsletter. For a no-obligation trial subscription to Bulldog Reporter, please call 1-800-959-1059 or visit www.bulldogreporter.com.

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