Spring is here, and that means it’s time to do a major housecleaning.
Same goes for your digital newsroom. If you’ve been cramming everything into your pressroom, as though it’s a back bedroom closet, it’s time to dust off what’s useful and purge what you’ll never need again.
“Your newsroom shouldn’t look like the abandoned amusement park of the internet,” says John Capo, who teaches public relations and mass communications at Fashion Institute of Technology and CUNY’s Borough of Manhattan Community College.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Rewrite your boilerplate.
Editors often impress upon reporters that companies’ website descriptions are unreliable and shouldn’t be quoted without double-checking. Common sense says this shouldn’t be necessary. Yet it’s true.
I have learned the hard way not to cite, say, Acme Rocket-Powered Roller Skates’ internet information about its number of employees, regional offices or other information supposedly there for reporters’ use. If I do, a PR person invariably will email the next morning to correct the information obtained from the organization’s own newsroom or website.
Weed out dated information. Hunt down boilerplate that lives in remote fiefdoms of your organization or that you’re copying and pasting into press releases.
2. Jettison what you’re not maintaining.
As important as spiffing things up is removing the things you’re no longer doing, says Capo.
“Still linking to that Pinterest page that hasn’t been updated in four months? Goodbye,” he says. “Remember those clever tutorials that linked your brand to fidget spinners, homemade slime and dabbing? Bury them. Prominently featuring your YouTube channel, but your last video is your holiday card? Time to let it go. Or better yet, ask yourself why you’re not taking advantage of video.”
3. Present current digital assets up front.
Have your most up-to-date digital assets ready to go, and make sure they’re the first thing a journalist sees, says Jason Myers, senior executive at The Content Factory.
If you’ve changed personnel in your leadership department, delete the folks who no longer represent your organization, he says. Highlight those who are available for quotes and interviews, along with a scannable list of the news topics on which they can offer expertise.
4. Out with the old, in with the new.
When cleaning out your outdated content and assets, add something new and different that reflects how the news business has changed since your last update, Myers says.
Provide b-roll as a royalty-free download for journalists looking to pad their broadcasts. Or, he says, “Maybe one or more of your social media channels is blowing up and you want to offer the press a chance to follow conversations around a branded hashtag on Twitter or Instagram.”
5. Spotlight earned media.
Use your spring cleaning to make the newsroom the source for real news about your company, from real journalists, says Maria Gonzalez of Gonzberg Agency.
“Take out anything fluffy—social media, blog entries, non-company centric ‘news items’ and the like—and clearly segregate press releases, as well as other owned media, from real news,” Gonzalez says.
You’ll leave the impression of desperation or amateurishness if you mix these disparate items together, or if you offer no real coverage from objective, third-party media outlets, she adds.
Feature only a few of the largest press placements, adds Myers. Either delete the early, smaller mentions or relegate them to a “complete list” folder for those who prefer a deep dive.
6. Spike old press releases.
Delete all press releases older than two years, Myers suggests.
7. Boost your search engine optimization.
If you haven’t yet optimized your newsroom for SEO, now is the time, suggests Clair Jones, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Witty Kitty.
News outlets aim for keyword targets that they know are important to their audience. If you show that you can provide quotes and resources that help them do this, they’ll favor you.
“If your newsroom is SEO-optimized, you have a much better chance of getting the PR you need to build your brand,” Jones says.
8. Clean out the old headshots.
Sure, your chief executive looked a tad more youthful with a full head of hair, before the comb-over and the extra 40 pounds. Still, maybe it’s time to hold your leader’s hand, offer a box of tissues and let the boss know it’s time to post a mugshot that the press might actually publish.
Jennifer Hawkins, CEO and founder of Hawkins International Public Relations, says her firm just had a spring cleaning of old photos.
“We needed to clear out the cluttered, nearly unrecognizable headshots off our server,” she says. “It’s important to keep our photos current. Nobody wants to deal with a catfish publicist.”
9. Add video profiles.
Instead of stale headshots, include profile videos of your most popular public figures, suggests Jones.
It’s more important than ever to enrich your newsroom and press kit with fresh video, Jones says. Consumers engage more with video than with any other type of content, yet many businesses still haven’t integrated this important component into their PR.
10. Review everything with an eye to your target audiences.
What matters is who accesses the newsroom, Gonzalez says. The newsroom must be based on what the target audiences want—that is, journalists, and perhaps others gathering information, she says.
Make sure your newsroom has the following:
- A backgrounder
- Fact sheet
- Bios of key personnel
- A listing of news mentions
- A separate listing for press releases
- Downloadable, high-res logos and other brand-related graphics and pictures
- At least two means of contact for the media point person
11. Revise your reporter lists.
Update your lists of journalist contacts, says Diana Bardusk, vice president of GCI Health. Reporters change jobs regularly, and many take on new beats. Also, dive into individual media organizations and explore what they’re up to. Media outlets are always coming up with new ideas: columns, newsletters, sponsored content and more.
“Go down a rabbit hole on the internet, and educate yourself on outlets you’re not so familiar with to expand your library of knowledge in the media space,” Bardusk says. “This can bring fresh new ideas to your conversations, brainstorms, pitches and lists.”
Likewise, spring cleaning is a good time to reach out to individual journalists, suggests Paul O’Rourke, vice president of marketing at Pittsburgh International Airport.
“Touch base at least once with all important—and they’re all important—journalists covering your beat before summer vacations start and the newsroom’s even more scant,” O’Rourke says.
Speaking of which…
12. Pencil in the bigwigs’ summer travel plans.
David Martin, co-founder of Heed PR, encourages pros to catalog summer travel plans for their management and leadership teams.
“On the chance that there are inbound requests for comments during the months when most folks are out of office, it’s helpful to know who is available and when,” Martin says. “That way, you won’t be thrown into scramble mode when you need to connect a member of the media to a particular company voice.”
13. Test every link.
“One of the most important things you do during your newsroom cleanup could be one of the simplest to accomplish,” Myers says. “Go through every existing page and test each link to be sure they’re all live and pointing in the right direction.”
Your newsroom should connect your brand to members of the news media as seamlessly as possible, he adds. Don’t blow potential coverage because you sent a reporter to a dead link. Go ahead, task an intern or new employee, affording them a chance to learn about your company’s newsworthiness and history.
14. Open up the toolkit. Or don’t.
Make sure that this toolkit is easy to access, Gonzalez says. That means no logins, nor requirements that a reporter ask you for the kit. It should be easily navigable. Don’t forget to include an obvious link to it on your site.
On the other hand, if you do require a login to protect exclusive content such as embargoed stories, verify who has login access, Myers says.
“Just as you should occasionally check which apps have access to your social media accounts, ensure that any journalists that have the keys to your secret kingdom are still writing for the outlets they were when you granted access,” Myers says.
“It will make that access more special to those who have earned it and prevent your top-level news from getting leaked ahead of schedule to the media or, worse, to a competitor.”
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