As printed in PRSA Public Relations Tactics, May 2005
By Steve Momorella and Ibrey Woodall
So, what’s in a Fortune 500 online newsroom?
This is what we set out to find last year, when we conducted a survey of journalists to determine what was expected in a corporate newsroom. Despite the results that showed 75 percent of journalists surveyed believed that a dedicated URL was essential and easier to use than a 72-character URL, only 10 percent of the top 50 companies on the Fortune list carry a direct universal resource locator (URL) to their online newsroom (example: media.companyname.com). However, 90 percent of the top 50 do believe in prominent placement of the newsroom link, and locate it above the fold, requiring no scrolling. Also, 64 percent of the top 50 have one-click access to the newsroom from the main corporate site, while all of them require no more than two clicks to access the newsroom.
While some members of the industry are confused on the proper designation for corporate communications centers, 68 percent of the Fortune companies that we surveyed agree that “newsroom” is the correct nomenclature to refer to the news arena. The term “press room” is far behind with only 25 percent, while “media room” lags at 13 percent.
Of the common content modules found within an online newsroom, all of the Fortune 50 newsrooms contain news listings with 40 percent featuring specific news articles. Recognizing the need people have to reach another person and not a voice-automoated system, 72 percent of the Fortune newsrooms publish PR contacts, including names, numbers and e-mail addresses. More than 87 percent of journalists surveyed considered the ability to access those contacts essential.
Again aware of the needs of journalists, more than 75 percent of the Fortune newsrooms we examined provide a search of news archives. Journalists ranked this ability very high with 89 percent confirming its importance. Sections comprised of executive biographies, photographs, audio and video are also popular destinations. Of the top 50, 56 percent provide access to leadership content, and 52 percent provide downloads of graphics.
Even though 98 percent of journalists surveyed prefer to be contacted through e-mail with a link to the newsroom, only half of the Fortune companies send out e-mail alerts. Most information is already available within the newsroom, but 26 percent of the top 50 still provide a media request form online. Product/press kits posted for download are provided by 34 percent of them, and at least the same percentage publish an events calendar containing information such as executive speech schedules and press days.
As with the decision whether to password protect the newsroom or not, it all boils down to which features work best for a particular company and its communications department. By the way, only 10 percent of the list have partial password protection on their online newsroom. Yet, without registration and password protection, tracking and reporting results are limited.
Without access to the secure, administrative tools of each newsroom, it isn’t possible to record whether or not each of the newsrooms has the capability to integrate Web logs and RSS feeds. This functionality, along with the display of a foreign language pages, the addition of broadcast video, enhanced reporting and tracking modules, and the integration of clipsheets and media contact databases, are the new breed of online newsroom features.
In summary, corporate communicators of the top 50 companies listed in the Fortune 500 seem to understand the importance of an online newsroom, but aren’t yet fully utilizing the benefits available in having asuch an outlet. As previously mentioned, there are evolving advances in functionality, including Web logs and RSS feeds. Today’s newsrooms, however, should contain the standards: press releases, press kits, PR contacts, lists of events, photographs, audio, video, executive biographies, registration, search, a media request form, e-mail alerts and a crisis communication center.
Steve Momorella and Ibrey Woodall are members of TEKgroup International, Inc. They can be reached at 954.351.5554 or www.tekgroup.com.