Online Newsroom Best Practices

The results of the previous two PRWeek/PR Newswire media surveys have shown that reporters continue to take on more work with fewer resources. A simple thing that communications professionals can do to make their job easier is to create an online news room that allows them to quickly and efficiently find the information that they need on your website. 

The basis of any media room is simple.  Make your content accessible, easy to share and easy to view.  Ensure that the page can be found directly from major search engines and that the link is featured prominently on your web site’s main home page.  Enable media to subscribe to categorized RSS feeds and/or email updates so that they can receive new content as it becomes available.  Make content easy to share and bookmark—give each page should a unique URL for easy linking, and add social media tags to take advantage of having your audience spread your content for you.  Embed video and photos that supplement your content to make your sight more compelling.

Begin with a detailed needs analysis of your target audience.  All of the flashy graphics, logos and web 2.0 tools aren’t worth anything if a journalist can’t find the information that he/she needs to complete a story.  Consider who may be looking at the news section of your website - exclusively media, or will consumers, investors and/or business partners also be checking it out?  Think about the time of information requests that you typically receive from reporters and ensure that all of that information is readily available. When creating your press release archive, think about how far back your audience may be looking, and determine how many categories make the most sense for your news.  Also, is your entire audience English speaking or do you need multiple language sites?

Some useful items to add to an online news room include:

  • High resolution photos
  • Executive Bios
  • RSS feeds
  • Opt-in email
  • Corporate backgrounders

After determining which content to include, format the online news room in a manner that enables media to get information quickly and easily.  As many journalists first start out at major search engines, develop and deploy content with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind.  Make sure that the content is rich in the keywords that the media are using to reach your information.  Tools such as Google Trends, Bing’s Xrank and Trellian’s can help you determine which keywords to use.  Closely monitor your analytics to see which pages are receive the most page views and which keywords are leading visitors to your site so that you can update the content accordingly.  Avoid overusing keywords, as they may be marked as SPAM by the search engine--the suggestion is that a keyword should represent no more than 1.5-3.0% of your content. 

When creating content with SEO in mind, use title tags rich in keywords, as title tags are important in search engine algorithms. Also, use HTML meta data, such as the headline, description and keyword tags, and automatically populate the title tag with headlines of news. Rather than use a default URL such as, create URLs containing keywords and/or title of the content, i.e. . Inbound links from authoritative sites will also improve SEO, so try to get as many of these as possible. One way to accomplish this is to send out press releases through a commercial wire service such as PR Newswire. To continue to reap the benefits of SEO, be sure update your content frequently. Not sure how to create tags or meta data? Content management systems such as PR Newswire’s MediaRoom can take care of the coding and SEO automatically.

A frequent complaint of journalists is that they cannot quickly and easy find the public relations contacts on a media website.  In fact, on many sites it takes a minimum of five clicks to get to the public relations contact page.  Too often these sites are designed for people “coming in the front door” of the web site’s main page, but more and more often users are coming in to a specific page through a search engine – making it difficult for them to get to the media contacts. To make it easier for journalists to contact your company, include the key contacts on each page of your media site.

Consider creating a search function in your media room that searches only the media section of your site to make sure that the journalist is getting the information that they are looking for, particularly if you have a website that contains a large amount of information.  Take for example a large computer manufacturer’s media site--a search for a product name could provide back links to hundreds of bug reports, discussion forums, technical specifications and other material that would cause the journalist to veer away from their main objective.

As a public relations professional, you need to be prepared for the worst.  You never know when a crisis might pop up, or where you will be when it happens.  For that reason, you must have a system that will allow you update your online news room from any place in the world with an Internet connection.  Create a dark page that can be easily updated and activated in an instant if a crisis occurs.  Even though you may not be able to fill in every detail beforehand, you will have a running start should you ever need to use it.  Consider adding: a toll free number for updates, backgrounders for media, media contact information, prepared statements, etc.  Another key point that is often overlooked - make sure that your site infrastructure will be able to handle the increased load on your servers from the spike in traffic. Address these issues before the crisis, not during the emergency when the pressure is on.

A platform such as PR Newswire’s MediaRoom, the leader in the online news room solutions, will help you incorporate all of these best practices in a single platform with ease.  Remember that the first experience that a journalist has with your company may be through your media room, so be sure to make a good first impression.

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