23 June 2009

The following article appears in the June issue of PR Tactics.

Traditionally, the term “media” referred to mainstream print publications and broadcast stations. However, the rise of social media has shifted perceptions and some now consider traditional media as “old” media.

Whatever your perspective, if you want to be an effective PR professional, then you need to cater to reporters who want access to your organization’s information.

The main tool — or the starting point — is the online newsroom. Used as a central headquarters to harbor everything that is produced to market your news, the online newsroom should encompass all of your audiences, traditional and new alike.

In April, TEKgroup released the results of our 2009 Online Newsroom Survey.  We’ve conducted this survey since 2004 to help organizations determine the value of their online newsrooms.  Although staples such as news releases, PR contacts and searchable archives remain the most important elements,  journalists’ desire to access blogs and video files has increased, the survey found.

Here are other highlights from the 2009 survey:

• Searchable archives
The ability for reporters to search for content is the top feature of online newsrooms. Ninety-eight percent of journalists want to explore your archives, but want more than a keyword search function. According to the survey, they need more targeted parameters such as date range, topic and language.

• PR contacts
One note from this year’s survey: More journalists are requesting cell phone numbers for PR contacts.

• News releases
According to more than 94 percent of journalists surveyed, news releases should be organized by type of news. Graphics, links, share icons and individual keyword URLs should be included for search engine optimization.

• Background information
Reporters need the facts about your organization, including company history and a timeline. Don’t forget incidentals such as the company address.

• Product information/press kits
The press kit is the perfect conduit for packaging and presenting initiatives. Ninety-two percent of journalists believe that press kits should be a major component of the navigation structure.

• Photographs
High-resolution photographs are commonly requested by reporters (91 percent, according to the survey). Remember to provide logos among your downloadable images.

• Help/ FAQ
Even though you are familiar with your online newsroom, newcomers are not.  As the survey shows, 91 percent of reporters want to see a list of frequently asked questions about your organization.

• Crisis communications
According to the survey, 90 percent of the journalists will visit an online newsroom for breaking news and company statements during a crisis. This response underscores the need for a dark site — an inactive Web page or set of pages that can be quickly customized and activated when there is a crisis.

• Events calendar
Almost 90 percent of journalists want details about your organization’s events. E-mail invitations that are sent via the online newsroom will increase attendance to these events. Link news releases concerning the event to the actual event listing.

• Executive biographies
Nearly 90 percent of journalists surveyed said that executive biographies are important. To assist reporters looking for sources, include a group of subject-matter experts in your newsrooms.

• Financial information
Even if another department handles investor relations, link to that area from your online newsroom. If investor relations is part of your job description, set up a section for financial documents, a stock ticker, SEC filings and proxy materials.

• News coverage
Eighty-four percent of journalists requested the ability to access your organization’s past editorial coverage.  Viewing material from an “In the News” section gives reporters ideas and allows them to see how their peers covered the subject.

• Video
As expected, the desire for video increased in the 2009 survey as compared to last year — more than 80 percent of journalists now want to see video files. Video is both functional and entertaining, and meets today’s social media needs.

• Audio
Sixty-two percent of journalists expressed an interest in having audio available to them online via podcasts.

• Social media page
At least 72 percent of journalists requested a dedicated page or links to your social media endeavors. For instance, provide the links to videos that you may have on YouTube.

• RSS feeds
More than 60 percent of journalists want to subscribe to company information in online newsrooms via RSS feeds. Just as you would classify news releases, also categorize RSS feeds.

• Blog
According to the survey, 43 percent of reporters visit company blogs for research — an increase over 2008.  A company blog found via the online newsroom enables reporters to review interaction between company and consumer.

• Twitter feed
The survey found that Twitter shows potential as a way to deliver company news to reporters.  Thirty-eight percent of reporters are open to receiving company news via Twitter.  The combination of e-mail alerts, RSS feeds and tweets for distribution gives options to reporters.

The 2009 TEKgroup Online Newsroom Survey shows the need to integrate social media and online newsrooms. Next year’s survey will continue to study the evolution. If you are a PR professional with a question for journalists concerning online newsrooms, then please e-mail me with “Online Newsroom Survey Question” in the subject. If the question fits, then it may be added to next year’s survey.

Ibrey Woodall is the director of marketing communications for TEKgroup International, Inc., providers of online newsroom software. She actively writes and speaks about online public relations. She can be reached at Ibrey@tekgroup.com, or via Twitter: @IbreyWoodall.

The best in online newsrooms

Examples of companies that have strong features in their online newsrooms include:

Background information: Pitney Bowes prominently places addresses on the company’s Fast Facts sheet.

Product information/ Press kits: CIGNA provides multiple press kits.

Photographs: The Walgreens Press Room provides logos along with downloadable images.

Video: Two companies that expertly use online newsroom video are the Disneyland Resort Online Newsroom and the Scripps Networks Media Center.

Audio: Ford Motor Company lists sound bites regarding earnings and also from auto shows.

RSS feeds: The AAA Chicago Newsroom breaks down RSS feeds by section (Safety, for example) and subsection (Child passenger safety, Teen driving, etc.).

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