A 15-point checklist for creating the ultimate online newsroom

Everything your company’s online newsroom needs. Plus, how to display the information without overwhelming reporters and how to share it with the world.

Almost every PR pro (and reporter) over a certain age remembers press kits: actual physical folders stuffed with a company’s recent press releases, management bios, a corporate fact sheet, a few case studies, and maybe an article reprint or two.

They were expensive to print and ship, and awkward to lug around—for both PR people who produced them and the journalists who ended up with them. They were bulky, killed lots of trees, and, of course, weren’t searchable.

No one today mourns the press kit, but they were the best technology available at the time.

As corporate websites proliferated, press kits (or at least elements of them) were moved online. Searchability improved, trees were saved, and shipping costs plummeted. Online newsrooms are a dramatic improvement, but even today many are poorly optimized; it’s not uncommon to see websites where the newsroom or media page is little more than a list of press release links, with perhaps a PDF of some media coverage and a few sketchy management bios.

The best online newsrooms combine rich content with careful organization and search capabilities; they enable PR pros to provide reporters, analysts, and bloggers with a vast amount of information without overwhelming them.

The ultimate online newsroom should house everything that members of the media are looking for in one convenient, navigable spot. It ideally should include:

  • The primary media contact’s name and contact information. This is preferably one individual, but it can include multiple names (based on division, product line, purpose, etc.) if absolutely necessary. It should include links to the person’s social media profile. One thing that’s often overlooked: updating the media contact name on older releases if that name changes. You don’t want to direct media to contact former employees or your old PR firm.
  • Links to news releases (current year and archive of past years). If your company produces a lot of news releases, also provide the ability to view by topic, such as product line, financial releases, personnel announcements, etc. News releases should always be in HTML format for searchability. If PDF or printer-friendly versions are offered, these should be stored in a separate subdirectory that is excluded from search to avoid duplicate content issues. Releases should be presented in reverse date order, and links should include the headline, date, and one-line summary that’s preferably Twitter-friendly. Consider creating social media releases—which can include videos, images, links, and other items—using a tool like PitchEngine.
  • Links to media coverage and bylined articles. The media coverage page should highlight the two or three most recent articles, with an archive section for the rest, assuming the company gets that much coverage.
  • A company backgrounder or fact sheet. The company backgrounder needs to be factual, objective—that is, not a sales pitch—and written in the third person. It’s best to provide both a short version (often just the news release boilerplate) and a longer version that includes more company history, competitive differentiation, and how the company’s products and/or services help customers solve problems (backed up with facts).
  • FAQs. Make sure they’re questions that real media people would care about.
  • Management team bios and photos (downloadable JPGs in high-res and low-res versions for print and Web). Bios should specify each executive’s area of expertise and best topics for quotes or interviews. They should also include information on how long that person has been with the company, key responsibilities, any outside leadership roles held, and links to social media profile links.
  • Story ideas—thoughtful ones. To develop story ideas, start by looking at editorial calendars from top-tier publications in the industry and then looking for recurring themes. Make it clear which executives are the best sources for each topic.
  • Upcoming events, sponsorships, and speaking engagements. The upcoming events and speaking engagements should include the date, name of the conference or event, a description of the company’s participation in the event, and links to the conference website and the speaker’s bio (if applicable).
  • Links to company-generated content. This should include white papers, PowerPoint presentations, videos, e-books, infographics, and other assets to promote thought leadership. • Links to analysts’—industry and/or financial—research and coverage. • A link to the company blog or blogs.
  • RSS feeds for press releases and blog posts.
  • Downloadable JPG images in hi-res and low-res formats. These include the company logo and other important images such as the company headquarters building, product photos, software screenshots, photos of executives at industry events, etc.
  • Links to all of the company’s social media profiles. This may include the LinkedIn company page, Facebook page, YouTube channel, Twitter feed, and Flickr profile.
  • A search-friendly URL structure with ‘news’ included. Here are two examples: news.company.com/section/pagename or company.com/news/section/pagename. In the latter case, “section” is the content type, that is, news releases, bios, images etc. See the 2011 Online Newsroom Survey from TekGroup for more guidance.

All of the content should be search optimized, with the ability to limit the search to just information within the newsroom section of the site.

It almost goes without saying, but important news should be shared via the company’s Twitter feed, Facebook page, and other important social media outlets.

All newsroom content should be easily sharable using social media buttons for the most popular sites and networks. Tools like AddThis, ShareThis and Meebo make it easy to add these buttons to any site or page. Use and link to content-sharing sites for your media assets as well, including YouTube and Vimeo for company videos, SlideShare for presentations, Podcast Alley and iTunes for audio, Flickr for photos, plus Scribd and Docstoc for PDF files.

The days of the press kit are far behind us, and there’s no need to simply replicate that old format online. The ultimate online newsroom can simultaneously provide far more information and give each reporter exactly what he or she needs.

Maria Verven is a PR and content marketing executive with KC Associates, a Minneapolis-based b2b technology PR and marketing agency. She is well versed in the “new rules” of PR, with expertise in social media, SEO (search engine optimization), content marketing, social media, and blogging.A version of this story originally appeared on the blog


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