12 July 2006

Meaningful trends revealed in 2006 survey

As published in Public Relations Society of America Public Relations Tactics, July 2006

While the corporate communicator sets up and maintains a company's online newsroom, ultimately, the end user is the journalist. As an initial point of interaction, the online newsroom should contain all elements desired by journalists. Commonly researched information such as photographs and executive biographies, if easily accessed, may spur increased coverage or requests for in-depth interviews.

An annual survey first conducted in 2004 by TEKgroup International, Inc., developers of online newsroom software, provides insight into what journalists expect from an online newsroom. A comparison between the 2006 and the 2005 Online Newsroom Surveys indicates that the online newsroom is of great value to both communicator and journalist. Almost 99 percent of journalists now believe a company should have an online newsroom,  a 20 percent increase. Journalists (95 percent) also assume that most companies will possess online newsrooms in the future.

A total of 33 questions were distributed via e-mail to more than 5000 journalists, garnering approximately a 2 percent response rate. Results were tabulated to ascertain which features and elements in an online newsroom are most important to journalists. Most answers were selected from among the following choices: “very important," “important,” “somewhat important,” and "not important."

The top-five most “important” to “very important” include press releases (92 percent), a search module (85 percent), PR contacts (84 percent), Photographs (81 percent) and Product Information (76 percent).

Comments submitted to the survey refer to PR contacts repeatedly. Amont the comments:

- "Don't forget to put in the phone number. It's amazing how many companies forget.

- "It is absolutely essential that a name and direct phone number be listed for PR contacts. No press release should be on the site without this info as well."

- Provide "phone numbers for contacts, rather than just e-mail addresses."

An increase in each principle element over last year's survey results proves continued growth in the use of online newsrooms: press releases (up 11 percent), a search module (up 5 percent) and Product Information (up 4 percent). Previously determined as crucial to the newsroom, PR contacts held steady, increasing less than 1 percent. The only anomaly was photographs (down 5 percent). Despite dropping slightly in the 2006 survey results, both high-resolution and low-resolution photographs should be standard elements available to journalists. According to the survey, 83 percent of journalists will register to obtain elements even if password protected.

The 24-hour convenience of the online newsroom allows journalists to work on their own timelines, eliminating request-and-wait delays. Submitted comments consist of "Always have a contact name, e-mail and phone readily accessible, as well as several high-res photos I can get myself.” "I thought I [would] take the time to emphasize the importance of having access to high-resolution images online. Speedy access to them is vital as well."

Other elements requested within the newsroom include breaking news (80 percent), a frequently-asked-questions section (61 percent), executive biographies (54 percent), event schedules (49 percent) and financials (47 percent). This year, however, presents a 2 percent decrease in audio (14 percent) and a 5 percent decrease in video (10 percent).

The 2006 survey shows a 6 percent decrease in journalists visiting blogs for research (18 percent) -- another reason to re-evaluate the use of dedicated resources and set goals for a blog.

Primary features desired by journalists (85 percent) include the ability to request that only news related to their particular beat be delivered. The preferred method is via e-mail with a link back to the online newsroom (99 percent). The same method is preferred for pitched stories (97 percent). One journalist states, "Targeted weekly e-mail newsletters are always the best way to catch my attention." Other means of notification include wireless devices (13 percent) Really Simple Syndication, or RSS (18 percent).

Reporting of online newsroom statistics such as how many e-mail alerts were sent, how many were read, and by whom, is a feature available to the corporate communicator. It provides the communicator with intelligence to monitor certain publications and contact specific journalists. Whereas 51 percent of journalists are still uncomfortable with being contacted after visiting a company's online newsroom, almost half (49 percent) are "somewhat comfortable" to "very comfortable" with the corporate communicator connecting with them.

Survey replies came from journalists that cover a variety of industries. Mor than 70 percent of them visit online newsrooms "often" to "very often". More than 70 percent also think it is “somewhat important” to “very important” that the online newsroom possesses a similar look and feel as the corporate site, and an easy-to-remember URL such as media.companyname.com (82 percent). This enables the journalist to get to the site quickly and identify it as the official newsroom.

The complete survey can be found at www.tekgroup.com.


Ibrey Woodall is the director of marketing for TEKgroup International, Inc. She can be reached at 954-351-5554 x105, or www.tekgroup.com.

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