Online Newsrooms: Transforming Social Media

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It is important for businesses large and small to create and maintain successful online newsrooms in order to stay competitive in not only their own fields, but also in the ever-changing world of multimedia corporate communications. However, it can be intimidating for small businesses to take the plunge into the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon, in fear that they will get eaten alive by the big sharks; the large corporations. Fortunately, there are programs out there that are designed specifically to help these smaller companies stand on their own two feet and create successful and effective online newsrooms.

In James Martin’s article, “Small Business SEO: 10 Ways to Optimize an Online Newsroom,” he explains the specific ways that a small business can use a valuable media tool to take their company to the next level. In one of his first tips, he explains that a company needs to make its online newsroom a “portal” for its industry. This means that instead of producing a boring newsroom full of archives, create an engaging, interactive site that explores all aspects of the industry your company is in. He uses an example of Imperial Sugar Company’s newsroom, which includes not only news about the company, but also updates about what is going on in the sugar industry, interesting photos, customer stories, etc.

Another simple suggestion Martin proposes to small companies looking to stay current and competitive via their online newsroom is to add descriptions to every image that is posted on the site. He makes a note that a company shouldn’t add just any description, but one full of important keywords concerning the product and industry at hand because search engines take into account the images’ alt text and we have already discussed the importance of search engine optimization.

Jeremy Porter provides some specific examples of some smaller companies with highly successful online newsrooms in his post, “How to Build a Better Online Newsroom: Part II.” I already discussed Porter’s evaluation of Facebook’s online press room in my previous post, but in part II he discusses the pros and cons of online newsrooms of companies like HubSpot, MailChimp, and 37Signals. These three companies exemplify the fact that it does not matter how large your corporation is, an online newsroom is possible, and a highly valuable tool in regards to the expansion and growth of a company. Porter explains how an online newsroom is a perfect way for a small company to attract attention, especially from the press, which can help put them on the map.

Small businesses may know the key guidelines to an effective newsroom and the reasons why they should create one, but they still need the proper outlet to actually get their online newsroom up and running. That’s where MediaRoom comes in. MediaRoom provides a painless way for small companies to manage their online newsroom without costly software or the help of an IT person.

PR Newswire created MediaRoom for smaller companies to create a site that has all the key components of any large corporation’s online newsroom. PR Newswire covers all the bases, giving a company five different kinds of online newsrooms to choose from, depending on that company’s particular industry. They also provide specific examples of companies that have used MediaRoom and have seen positive results; a frequently asked questions page; and the opportunity to request a MediaRoom demo.

MediaRoom is a valid starting point for any small business with limited resources to propel itself into the multimedia world of Web 2.0 where online newsrooms are essential.

When we think about online newsrooms, we think about companies such as Ford, Toyota, Apple, Dell, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other companies out there that have successfully mastered the art that is an effective online newsroom.

Facebook is one of those companies. Friend requests, groups, tagged photos, personal profiles; are all concepts that are very familiar to the 200 million plus current users of the most popular social network that is Facebook.  It is in the forefront of new social media and has changed the way people interact online forever, so, it is only natural that Facebook has an easy to use, yet very informative press room that follows many of the guidelines we have already discussed in previous posts. Here we will analyze Facebook’s press room, pointing out the positives and negatives.

We will begin with the positives:

Password Protect?

In creating the best newsroom possible – part 1, I talk about how Toyota found it helpful to not password protect any part of their online newsroom because they wanted everyone to have equal access to all their information. Facebook’s press room is also completely open for anyone visiting their site, going along with the fact that online newsrooms are meant to provide the public with information.

Readability

In creating the best newsroom possible – part 2, I talk about how essential the overall look of your online newsroom’s site is to people visiting and looking for information. Facebook’s press room’s home page utilizes white space effectively, drawing your attention to the important information on the page. It also has easy to read sections that are introduced with bold headlines and followed by links to the various categories. Jeremy Porter also agrees with the overall appearance of the press room in his article, “How to Build a Better Online Newsroom.” Porter analyzes four online newsrooms; Facebook being the second on the list. He comments on how Facebook’s press room looks like it is a part of Facebook, replicating the same structure, colors, font, as every other Facebook page. This repetition appeals to the target audience, since there’s a very large chance that the people viewing the press room have their own Facebook page as well and are comfortable with the set up.

Keywords

Facebook has always been smart when it comes to using keywords to promote their site and its features. For example, if you do a Google search for “Facebook statistics,” Facebook’s press room will be the first result, bringing you right to that area of their press room site.

Content

I was personally very impressed with the amount and variety of information available on Facebook’s press room site. They offer fact sheets regarding every aspect of the company; they have bios of both the current executives and the founders; they even have b-roll videos that further discuss certain topics. Porter talks about how impressed he is with the sections that give the opportunity for a viewer to request a speaker or an interview. Facebook also positively adds to its content by placing a boilerplate at the top of the main page of the press room site. It explains what Facebook actually is, and what they are hoping to accomplish with their site.

Consumer Contribution

Social media is all about getting the consumer involved, and since online newsrooms are a huge part of social media, it is important that companies give the consumer the opportunity to provide feedback and get engaged on the newsroom site. Facebook does this effectively by providing the opportunity for users to share and read unique stories about using Facebook in a Facebook Stories section. This makes Facebook’s users feel like they are involved, and gives them the sense that their thoughts and feelings really are important to Facebook.

Creating a flawless online newsroom is nearly impossible and more often than not, many companies have to work to keep up with the changing online environment and continuously add improvements to remain current. So, it is only natural that Facebook’s online press room also has some negative aspects, which are equally important to discuss.

Media Contacts

In part 1, I talk about the importance of providing media contacts in a prominent, easy to find location. Marcia Yudkin wrote in her article, “Media Friendly Online Newsrooms – Components and Best Practices“, that journalists are usually working on deadlines which means that they need accurate information quickly, and don’t want to waste time searching for the correct person(s) to contact.  Facebook’s press room does have an entire section labeled “Contacts,” so you might be wondering why I’m including this is the negatives section. The answer to that has to do with the unfortunate fact that there is not a single name, phone number, e-mail, etc., present at all in this section. The truth is I couldn’t find a single means of contacting anyone via Facebook’s online press room, which I would definitely consider a negative.

Navigation

Navigation is tricky component to master when it comes to online newsrooms. There are a few aspects that need to be considered. The first would involve the process of actually navigating people to your company’s press room. Rachel Foster wrote in her article, “Boost Your Business with an Online Newsroom- Even if You Don’t Have Any ‘Real’ News,” that either your company’s home page or primary navigation menu should have a link to their online newsroom. Facebook falls a bit short when it comes to this; there is no link to the press room on Facebook’s home page, www.facebook.com. Instead, I had to perform a Google search, in which Facebook’s press room did pop up first, but still would be more effective if was linked on their home page. The second aspect to navigation involves a search bar on the actual press room site. This helps the viewer search archives on the site, allowing them to find what they are looking for quickly and efficiently; this function is particularly important for journalists on a deadline. Unfortunately, Facebook’s press room does not have a search bar. While these are both significant issues, Facebook hasn’t completely failed when it comes to its’ press room’s navigation. They do a good job presenting links to the different pages of the press room in an easy to locate, straightforward style.

The process of analyzing and critiquing an online newsroom could inevitably go on forever. There are so many different components and guidelines that are ever-changing, that it makes it difficult to keep up with the “correct” way to manage your online newsroom. The best thing a company can do is conduct the proper research, keep up with the latest trends, and learn from their mistakes. Facebook’s press room is a prime example of a company that is doing just that.

As previously stated in part 1, there are so many things to keep in mind when creating the most effective online newsroom possible, that it can be a bit overwhelming. Hopefully these posts will help you narrow down the abundance of information on the subject and offer some helpful resources.

One of the main purposes of an online newsroom is to maintain up-to-the-minute information for anyone viewing your site, whether it is reporters, experts, researchers, bloggers, etc., and the key thing to keep in mind is that you want your online newsroom to be user-friendly to all these constituent groups.

This NCI report from Resource Media highlights a few key points that will ensure that your online newsroom will be a top contender when it comes to ease of usability.

Readability

Resource Media suggests that the text on your pages in your online newsroom be surrounded by white space so that it is easier to read, and does not give off a cluttered, text heavy vibe. They also suggest using bold when highlighting key points, especially when using bulleted lists. Ragan CEO, Mark Ragan, agrees in the video below, “8 Tips for a Better Online Newsroom,” that online newsrooms should include easy to read, bulleted fact sheets that include short, explanatory sentences. He believes that a bulleted list is the perfect tool for a journalist on a deadlines.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Eight Tips for a Better Online Newsroom, posted with vodpod

 

Navigation 

It is essential that users should be able to find a link to your online newsroom in a place that is easily visible, even to a newcomer on your site. Resource Media suggests putting a link on your homepage and at the footer of your site so that your online newsroom will show up more frequently in search engines. When it comes to actually navigating around the online newsroom, Ragan explains in tip #4 that you should include a search function, so whoever is visiting your site can easily find specific press releases, archives, etc. Lee Odden gives some advice on how to organize your company’s press releases in his article, “Pull PR and Newsroom Optimization Tactics.” He suggests archiving press releases by categories, chronologically, and with a keyword tag so that viewers can easily navigate to the one(s) they want.

Printer Friendly

You need to understand that bloggers, reporters, consumers are all visiting your site because they need to consume information, and sometimes that means they have to print something out a page in your online newsroom. Ragan explains in tip #7 that it is important to make your site printer friendly so your visitors don’t have to print out extra pages and waste their time and ink.

After you’ve established your user-friendly online newsroom, you need to be able to actually attract users! There are a number of steps to be taken when thinking about the best way to get as many people to use your site as possible.

Use Keywords

Resource Media suggests placing important keywords in specific places like headlines, titles, and introductory paragraphs because search engines prioritize searches based on these keywords and you want your online newsroom to appear high on search engines.

Links

You want to drive as much traffic as you possibly can to your newsroom, so why not add links to it anywhere you can? Both Ragan and Resource Media suggest placing links in all emails with people you are communicating with. There could be a chance that the information they are looking for will be easily accessible in your online newsroom, and they might continue to use it as a resource on a regular basis.

Online newsrooms are essential in the social media world; if you keep it current and accurate and follow these steps, then you should be just fine.

Crisis’s happen. They happen in everyday life to everyday people. We take them in stride, solve the problem at hand, and get on with our lives. However, this is not alway the case when you’re a large corporation. When a crisis does occur in a company, the PR team is faced with the difficult job of fixing the problem while maintaining a positive image in the public eye. Online newsrooms are the tool that these PR teams use when accomplishing that task. They allow the company to manage and control the message that is being sent.

Large companies are finding out first hand the importance of an online newsroom in the midst of a crisis. James Madden posted on iPressroom’s blog about some specific companies that have experienced this. He mentions how Toyota’s online newsroom helped them through a recent recall. The newsroom allowed Toyota to provide the information they wanted out there, to employees, consumers, and the media in a timely fashion. They were able to answer questions and maintain their image in a positive light throughout the situation.

Another company that used their online newsroom to manage a crisis was BP. They kept the public and the media informed on important information throughout the entire oil spill debacle. Their online newsroom really made it seem like they were proactively taking on the problem and doing absolutely everything in their power to right the situation and restore their image.

In Zachary Fenell’s article, “Internet Use in Corporate Crisis Management & Communication,” he explains why companies such as these were so successful in using their online newsroom when trouble came knocking. They give the company the opportunity to explain what happened or what is going on from their own perspective. It is almost like they are their own press.  Online newsrooms also allow the information the company wants the public to see, be easily accessible. People will know exactly where to go when they want more information.

It’s no secret that the press loves a good scandal, so why not give them a reliable, informative place to find information that is in your favor?

Transparency, credibility, and openness; three things that companies these days are striving to achieve in order to continue to be competitive in their field, according to author and award-winning journalist, David Henderson. Henderson explains that they best way a company can achieve these three characteristics is to create and maintain a successful online newsroom. When you a company accomplishes this task, they are providing their audience with the best place to locate accurate and meaningful information about themselves and their industry. Sound like a lot of pressure? Don’t panic, just read on.

With all the positive aspects online newsrooms bring to the table, there are also important components that are necessary, and guidelines that need to be followed in order for it to actually be effective.

There are hundreds of tips and steps that are involved when creating an online newsroom and it is important to research and consider as many as you can so that you can get the most out of your time and money. It seems that the golden rule to managing a successful online newsroom is to keep it simple and easy for your customers to view. PR Newswire suggests that a company should make sure the information in their online newsroom is easy to find and easy to share.

PR Newswire also emphasizes the importance of determining who the target audience is going to be. Neglecting to complete this particular step would be like jumping into the deep end when you don’t know how to swim. You need to consider who will be looking at certain sections of your online newsroom. Will it be customers, the media, business partners, employees…or all of the above? Figuring out the answer to this question will get you on your way to creating an effective newsroom.

Scott Deyager, the social media supervisor at Toyota, explains how one of the best things they did was to take a risk and chose not to use password protection for Toyota’s online newsroom. Deyager explains that as a change in social media takes place, more and more people are sharing their opinions and they are all influential to a company, so everyone should be allowed to view one of the best places they can do that, which, of course, is an online newsroom.

Mary Fletcher Jones of Fletcher Prince agrees that an online newsroom is an essential component to a company’s website. Jones believes that the most important thing you must do first for your newsroom is list your media contacts so that anyone viewing can ask questions and contribute their own thoughts, which is a major part of an online newsroom. Here she describes what she believes are the best practices to a successful online newsroom.

Figuring out the best practices for your online newsroom can be an overwhelming task. Fortunately, there are endless amounts of resources that can help you create a successful online newsroom for your company. Hopefully this has helped condense some of the information; stay tuned for some more helpful hints in part 2!