Online newsrooms offer more than just news

•November 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“Media relations” means exactly what it says: a relationship with the media. Media relations professionals are trained to build relationships in order to have better coverage in the press and have a gatekeeper available to send messages to the public.

Peter Granat offers tips on improving media relations. He says that one of the key ways to build a relationship with the media is to cater to reporters’ needs. This essentially means reaching them in the easiest and timeliest manner as to not cause them to miss deadline or lack information.

Online newsrooms can be one of the best tools for a company to improve media relations. According to “Manage Media Relations Using an Online Newsroom,” this type of central hub of press information distributes valuable resources that can increase coverage and give out story pitches.

EncoderPR stresses the importance of functionality online newsrooms. It is recommended to make all information available by linking, embedding and allowing for RSS feeds. It is also made clear that the best way to reach a reporter is to use his or her preferred method of communication. This is where social media newsrooms come in to play, by allowing journalists to reach a company through many different mediums of online communication.

It is easy to see how helpful online newsrooms are for journalists. The information is quick and easy, which reduces time consuming conversations back and forth between companies and journalists. PR and media relations professionals are learning to cater to the needs of journalists. All in all, the development of online and social media newsrooms continues to be an effective practice in improving relationships between companies and the media.

SMNRs, the latest craze

•November 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Standard online newsrooms include basic information, contacts, images and news stories. Most newsrooms have now been upgraded to a social media newsroom — a step above the basics.

The main difference of an SMNR, according to “Do You Need a Social Media Newsroom?” is that a SMNR includes outlets for communication, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg and many others. It also allows for comments to keep the communication two-way and active.

SMNRs can be built similarly to a blog, says Shannon Paul, and Todd Defren of SHIFT Communications was the first to build a template for them. On her blog, Paul offers a list of the best things to include on SMNRs. These tips include: a calendar of events, the ability to comment on all attributes of the site, multimedia and images. Paul also notes that all elements of the SMNR should be embedded and shareable.

Sally Falkow notes that journalists are almost always expected to provide multimedia to a story, so if SMNRs are constructed in such a way that a reporter can in a sense take the multimedia with them, the company is likely to receive more coverage. Falkow also says that nine out of 10 reporters use the Internet to find resource material for a story. SMNRs are more likely to be used to find information because they include so much of it and in so many facets.

For journalists, this transition to social media newsrooms means a more active venue of communicating. Instead of only having press releases and basic company information, reporters now have a way to interact and share the information. Companies are also offering journalists a way to connect to them in other outlets, by linking to social networking sites. SMNRs have become a necessity for journalists needing lots of information at once, and for companies looking to gain coverage and improve media relations.

Apple isn’t so sweet

•November 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In my opinion (and the opinion of quite a few others), Apple always seems to hit the mark in customer service and product ratings. But what do they have to offer journalists in need of information?

The home page for Apple’s online newsroom has the same look and feel as it’s corporate website. According to “Benefits of an online newsroom” from the company NewsCactus (which provides software for creating online newsrooms), sites that match existing websites look professional and consistent. This makes navigating the site easy, especially if you’re previously familiar with Apple’s website. The Press Info page includes a large contact number for Apple Media Helpline, which is a great tool for a reporter in need of getting an answer that may not be available on the page. The page also offers a list of latest press releases with an available RSS feed, as well as a search tool. There is also a Media Resources menu, with links to the following pages:

PRODUCT INFO

This page provides links to specific product information for each of Apple’s products, including both hardware and software. Because each item is linked separately, a journalist wouldn’t have to read through any other bits of information before getting to what he or she needs. This page is highly useable, making it valuable when working on a deadline.

IMAGES FOR MEDIA

The link for this page actually refers back to the product info page, and the images are found once you click on the individual product link. Each product has multiple images, available in multiple formats. It is very surprising to see that no other multimedia options are available, especially since Apple is known for its interesting commercials. TheBuzzBin suggests adding customers’ video testimonials to online newsrooms. This seems like it would be an excellent way for Apple to incorporate multimedia, since customers who own Apple products give them rave reviews.

IPOD+ITUNES TIMELINE

This page gives a chronology of the iPod and iTunes, and the relationship between the two products. This would be useful for a reporter looking for information on either product during a specific time period, but the information could just as easily be found in a press release search.

INVESTOR INFORMATION

This page gives stock information and yearly fiscal reviews. This makes Apple’s site far more credible and transparent than others, because they allow these sorts of statistics to be so readily available. This information would be useful to a reporter with any sort of financial beat.

PRESS RELEASE LIBRARY

This page gives links to press releases from 2004-present, divided by month. PRCoach says that online newsrooms should make sure real news is distinct from sales or marketing news, and that only valuable material should be presented. Here, Apple seems to not make a clear distinction, as some of the press releases are geared more toward sales and marketing. This may be a tactic Apple does purposefully, however, some reporters may not want to weed through the fluff.

EXECUTIVE PROFILES

This page is perhaps one of the most unique of Apple’s online newsroom. This page gives a list of of the company’s executives, each with their own link to biographical information and photos. Not only is this page visually friendly and easy to use, it is a great tool for a reporter looking for specifics on the key players of the company. The downside to the page is that the contact information for the executives is not listed.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

This page gives links to members of the board of directors’ biographical information, whether on the Apple site or the member’s personal site. This page does not have available images, but gives the personal information needed for each member.

Apple has some hits and some misses. The site is easy to navigate and provides excellent information, however, it is missing important contact information and more multimedia. The most disappointing aspect of the newsroom is that there are no social media links. While Apple is still new to social media, they should offer journalists a way to find them on other networks.

Dell: online newsroom hell?

•October 10, 2010 • 4 Comments

After learning about Dell’s 2005 customer service nightmare, which included Jeff Jarvis blogging about “Dell Hell,” I decided to check out the company’s online newsroom to see if it learned its lesson about online media.

Dell’s press room is included on a company site including all general information called About Dell. Though initially it was confusing to find the newsroom on this site full of subsections and links, once you do find it, the material is informative and easy to find. The newsroom is divided into three subsections: Events & Webcasts, Multimedia Center and Press Releases.

EVENTS & WEBCASTS

This section gives lists and descriptions of ongoing events Dell is participating in. There is also a list of upcoming events by date. This is helpful to give journalists perpective on what the company is up to and can provide story ideas. There is also a link that allows people to register for the events if they also want to attend.

MULTIMEDIA CENTER

This section provides images and videos, similar to what is provided on The Weather Channel’s newsroom. A multitude of images of products are available, but unlike other newsrooms, the images are not given in multiple formats. This means that people who want to use the images will have to alter the format to their needs after downloading. A plus, though, is that Dell links to its Flikr account, which has even more images for use. Dell also provides guidelines to make sure no copyright laws are violated.

PRESS RELEASES

This section is useful in that it has both a search option and a drop-down menu with the options to sort releases by the latest or most viewed. This makes finding the release you need very easy, especially since Dell does not organize the releases by date.

Dell seems to have learned from the “Dell Hell” incident and stepped up its use of online media. While it is usually preferred that online newsrooms are given their own website and the information is easier to locate when listed by date, this site does have its positives. The newsroom also gives the option to subscribe to the RSS feed, and links to all its social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter, Flikr, YouTube and Linkedin. This gives the opportunity for journalists to locate as much information as possible. While Dell certainly has redeemed itself, one must still wonder if the company’s customer service its at its best. Only one contact number and address is listed, and it’s certainly best to give multiple numbers directly to individuals or departments. PR Communications offers tips in “Online Newsroom Best Practices,” that suggest it is best to include contact information on each page of the site. This tip could help Dell better reach it’s constituents.

The Weather Channel: eliminating journalists’ frustrations

•October 8, 2010 • 4 Comments

Christine Kent’s article, “Online press rooms frustrate journalists,” notes some frustrations of journalists when searching for information on company websites, as noted in a 2009 study by the Nielson Norman Group. The study studied 40 journalists’ Web usage and how it affects their press coverage. One complaint was that online newsrooms make finding information tough by masking it in jargon only applicable to the corporation, and placing the information in large chunks of body text. One goal of online newsrooms is to provide quick and easy information to journalists, so it’s easy to see how sites with too much text or multimedia that overshadows the material would frustrate journalists on a deadline.

Don’t worry if you’re a journalist — not every online newsroom is a trap. The Weather Channel has a well-organized press room that won’t let you down. The press room is divided into six sections: company info, press releases, in the news, image gallery,  video/shows and contacts. Each section is distinguished with its own tab, making it easy to locate the specific information you’re looking for.

COMPANY INFO

This tab gives background information on the Weather Channel itself, as well as information on their networks and website. Though this page is the heaviest in body text, a separate section at the top provides links for easy-to-read fact sheets and a timeline of Weather Channel milestones. All of these pages have a “print this” option, making it even more accessible offline.

PRESS RELEASES

This tab gives a list of press releases by date, with the newest information first. Each release is linked, so it’s possible to read the entire message. There is also a link to the press release archive, which organizes the releases by year, dating back to 2004.

IN THE NEWS

This tab links and posts full news stories that include information about The Weather Channel. The articles are also listed in order by date. These can provide journalists story ideas, or help to locate sources when researching for their own article. Dee Rambeau’s article Making Your Online Newsroom More Customer and Consumer-Friendly states that companies should always post news. Rambeau says it is important to be a useful resource to viewers. The Weather Channel certainly provides relevant, accessible news information for anyone to find.

IMAGE GALLERY

This is perhaps the best feature of The Weather Channel’s newsroom. This gallery provides images of logos, head shots of meteorologists and screenshots of weather videos. The best part? The logos and images are downloadable in multiple formats. This is incredibly useful to journalists who need to find art for stories. While it’s always an option to have your art department create a graphic, most of the time it’s best to have the actual thing. The section also has pdfs of The Weather Channel’s guidelines, so journalists know exactly what’s available and how to credit properly to avoid copyright issues.

VIDEO/SHOWS

This tab includes links to promos, clips and summaries from some of the series and programs The Weather Channel offers. This allows journalists to get a sample of what programs offer, and can help when needing a quick bit of the background material. This section is also important in Rambeau’s opinion, as companies should give more multimedia than images and logos.

CONTACTS

This tab provides contacts for journalists needing to get in touch with advertising, PR and network directors. There are also e-mail addresses listed for those who need to inquire about weather photos, videos or general information.

Overall, The Weather Channel’s online newsroom gives ample information that’s not hidden by text or overshadowed by distracting multimedia. The links are organized and accessible, a plus when working on a deadline.

What is an online newsroom?

•October 3, 2010 • 9 Comments

Online newsrooms are usually a section of a company’s website that allows the company to directly reach journalists. It is basically a press kit including promotional materials posted online. Online newsrooms typically include press releases, corporate information and any artwork or available logos. In Creating Your Online News Room Bill Stoller provides tips on effective newsrooms. He notes that some company’s choose to have the material available on their websites, while others build entirely new sites to post the information. Stoller mentions that it is best to not require registration to view the press material and provide links to a place non-journalists can find information. Stoller also believes companies should include contact information, photos, awards, speeches, press conferences, etc. to give journalists all available information.In “Online newsrooms should go social” Sally Falkow mentions the benefits of making online newsrooms easy to find and share. Falkow believes that providing links and syndicating content in RSS feeds will give journalists the lump of information they need in an easy-to-access format. Falkow also makes sure to not that the media landscape is constantly changing, and companies must provide ways for their information to be utilized.

So what does this mean to journalists? According to Online Newsrooms, online newsrooms are a source of background information, sources and ideas for reporters who need the information quickly. Having the information available online keeps journalists from having to make phone calls or trips to offices. By allowing reporters access to this information, companies maintain a level of transparency that helps build relationships with the media. Not only will companies be mentioned in the press, but journalists will appreciate getting all of the required information for a story.