In a 2009 survey of thousands of journalists by TEKgroup International, 43% said it was difficult to find a company’s newsroom, and more than half said it was hard to find the name of the company’s media contact and how to reach him or her. That’s a dismal level of meeting the needs of those who are in a position to give your organization invaluable exposure and credibility.
To avoid frustrating media people who come to your site thinking they might want to highlight your company in a story, follow these eight best practices.
1. Navigation. Use obvious signage in the structure of your web site for the location of your online newsroom. By far, the best option is a major navigation link called simply “News,” “Press” or “Media.” Second best is offering the information the media need in the “About the Company” section of the site.
2. Press releases. Provide a searchable gallery of the organization’s releases, with the most recent ones first. Never provide this material as PDFs – only as regular HTML pages. Since one cannot cut and paste names and quotes from PDFs, media people regard companies providing publicity material in that form as horribly clueless.
3. Media contacts. Journalists are on deadline and will not submit a web form to reach someone who may or may not get back to them promptly. They want the name, email address and telephone number of the person who’s in a position to help them right away. If there are different media contacts for different divisions of the organization, list those and their areas of responsibility in your online newsroom.
4. News clips. Media people like to scan through previous coverage of your company. Always clearly signal the difference between your releases and third-party coverage.
5. Executive bios and company history. Make these factual, readable and engaging in style. Do not fill them with “marketing speak.”
6. Photographs. Recognize that print publications need high-resolution photos (300 DPI), while online media require low-resolution photos (72 DPI). Provide both kinds of photos for instant download.
7. Video and audio. Reporters like the way these round out the portrait of your organization. Shorter works better than longer here. If you have videos or audios lasting longer than 10 minutes, provide a transcript as well as the clips.
8. Social media. Indicate how reporters can sign up for your Twitter feed, visit your Facebook page, read your blog and so on.
How can you be sure your online newsroom meets the needs of media people? Corral a few of them who have never visited your web site and sit them down in front of a computer. Give them several journalist-related tasks to perform without any hints from you, such as finding the media contact’s name and phone number, information about your social responsibility activities and the correct spelling of the name of the senior vice-president for South American operations.
If users can perform those tasks with at least 90% success, great. If not, revise your site to be more media-friendly and retest it. Having an effective online newsroom costs little, and its payoff – a higher public profile – can be quite huge!