When it Comes to Online Newsrooms, Give the Media What They Want

By Sarah Drake Boerkircher, Assistant Director, News & Communications, Wake Forest Universitysdboerkircher

At the PRSA 2014 International Conference in Washington, D.C., I participated in the public relations professional development workshop “Content, Social Strategies and Online Newsrooms: Managing Communications in Higher Education.” As a PR professional for a university’s news and communication team, I was eager to hear how journalists were interacting with online newsrooms. These are the takeaways that I found to be most helpful:

So… what do media really want in a newsroom?

  • First and foremost, an online newsroom must be mobile-friendly. If a newsroom isn’t responsive, this will only cause annoyance, causing the reporter to leave your site as soon as possible.
  • Press releases, which are categorized and easy to search.
    • Experts with biographies and up-to-date information.
    • Media contacts that include email addresses, phone numbers, mobile numbers and Twitter handles.
    • Fact sheet(s). Note: a fact sheet is not the university’s history.
    • Images, photo galleries, infographics and videos.
    • In the News” section, which includes the most current university coverage.
    • An archive. Up to five years of information can be included, but must be easy to search. Major university milestones that fall outside of the five-year window can also be included.
  • Finding an answer should be easy. When media visits a university homepage, more than 80 percent are looking for the newsroom. Reporters do not want to spend hours (let alone minutes) searching a university site for an answer, so make the newsroom reporter-friendly by easing the search features and incorporating the content outlined above.
  • Content needs to be searchable. Often public relations professionals use corporate / university speak that is not easily searchable, which prevents a press release or story from gaining traction. Use language that people will most likely use when they conduct a search. This is as simple as calling a spade a spade.
  • Use a story in multiple ways, so impact can be measured. Storytelling is key in public relations, so being able to measure the impact of a story is important. Repurposing content through a blog post, tweet, video, infographic, photo or Instagram post, increases the chances of a story to be shared. Once content is shared, which is often easiest to do so across social media, a story’s reach and spread become measurable.
  • There is always room for improvement. After major or minor changes to a newsroom, do not be afraid to ask media to take a look at your site. Feedback can help to make the newsroom that much more efficient and only help get media the content that they want when they need it.

One Response to When it Comes to Online Newsrooms, Give the Media What They Want

  1. PodcastSteve says:

    Having had the experience recently after rejoining the journalism side of the world, may I emphasize the need for high-resolution JPEG photos of any organizational leaders who are quoted in your press releases? Media folks often need a headshot to go with the story, but are stymied by websites where the only photos are 120×120 pixel thumbnail images that look great on the corporate site, but can’t be enlarged for use on media sites.

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