Why the brand newsroom will change PR for good

Speed and mobility are transforming the industry landscape. Here’s how, along with guidelines for keeping pace.

We’ve come a long way since the days of Ivy Lee, the “father of PR” and the writer of the first ever press release in 1906, which The New York Times printed without changing a word.

Fast-forward 100 years—to 2006—and a famous blog post from Tom Foremski commanded, “Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!” He wrote:

“Press releases are nearly useless. They typically start with a tremendous amount of top-spin, they contain pat-on-the-back phrases and meaningless quotes.… This madness has to end. It is wasted time and effort by hundreds of thousands of professionals.”

Instead, Foremski proposed that companies “deconstruct the press release” into factual, valuable parts—with plenty of links, quotes, and visual content that journalists and bloggers can assemble into stories that their readers will actually want to read.

Enter the online newsroom

Online newsrooms—or “social media newsrooms” as some have called them—help to address the criticisms raised by Foremski.

By bringing together all of an organization’s news, content, social channels, and multimedia assets in one space—with everything tagged, related, and optimized for search engines—the newsroom can be the hub of an organization’s communications strategy.

It enables journalists, bloggers, and other stakeholders to get everything they need to tell their own stories from the raw materials the brand provides.

The brand newsroom approach

Today the buzz in PR and marketing circles is about the “brand newsroom approach”—in which content is king and every organization can benefit from thinking and acting more like a media company.

The smart folks at Edelman Digital have called it “brand storytelling at the speed of social.” They describe how “brands are racing to create timely, visual content that matches their audience’s interests with breaking news and conversation trends, at the peak of the discussion.”

Right now we’re seeing five big shifts in how successful brands are communicating:

1. Brands are becoming publishers

This has been happening for some time, but it’s now impossible to ignore.

There are plenty of big consumer brand examples (Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Money Supermarket, and O2, to name a few), but also smaller brands, B2B companies, nonprofits, and public sector organizations are aligning their marketing and communications plans around content creation and social media.

2. The “real time” imperative

In these times of media saturation and information overload, brands must be ready to react in minutes or seconds, not hours or days.

Recent examples include Paddy Power’s response to Alex Ferguson’s retirement, or an even swifter reaction from Golden Wonder, and, of course, the textbook example of Oreo’s “Dunk in the dark” Super Bowl tweet.

Brands need to monitor breaking news and the social Web, and they need to be equipped to publish, distribute, and promote new content—instantly.

RELATED: Hear powerful case studies from Coca-Cola, Walmart, and Whole Foods Market in October at Microsoft’s HQ.

3. Multimedia rules

Audiences are hungry for content in all its forms. We read it, hear it, watch it, interact with it, comment on it, and share it. We participate in the stories we discover online, and then we retell them. Multimedia content is often more powerful and effective than words alone.

If you look at the recent launch of BT Sport, The Daily Mail‘s online coverage contains 13 images, a video, an infographic, two financial graphs, and numerous quotes. Today it’s vital for brands to provide all of these components to the journalist or blogger if they want their story to have impact.

Using multimedia isn’t only essential when responding to a breaking news event or when pitching your story to journalists, it’s also a highly effective way to gain exposure on social media. For many brands, a true viral video hit is the marketing holy grail. One particularly well-executed example was Bodyform’s must-watch response to a post on its Facebook wall, which has been viewed nearly 4 million times, gave the brand a warm personality, and breathed new life into an old ad campaign.

4. Managing multiple channels

One of the biggest challenges for communicators is keeping on top of what’s hot and what’s not in digital channels. Is it time to focus on Pinterest? Or is Instagram where the reach and engagement are? What’s the potential of Vine? Is it time to take the plunge with Google+?

This is where having the right publishing platform can make a huge difference. If you can publish and distribute to multiple channels—from email, to your website, to social channels, without having to open multiple applications—you will be able to serve the widest possible audience in the most efficient way.

5. Mobile first

With mobile Internet use expected to soon surpass “fixed” Internet use, the phone or tablet is now often your first point of contact with your audiences.

Being able to deliver your content in a “responsive” Web format—i.e., so it adapts to look good (and work well) on every device—is now crucial to the success of every online campaign.

Adam Cranfield is the CMO of digital PR firm Mynewsdesk. A version of this story first appeared on the company’s blog.

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