11 Tips for an Effective Online Press Room
By Sherri Middleton, Managing Editor
Is your online media room as effective as it could be?
You might be surprised at how few online press/media rooms actually deliver the information journalists need to cover an organization.
Why does it matter? I’m often finalizing an article in the evening, on a weekend or while traveling and I’m missing one piece of information or an image that will complete the package. The same for the articles I assign to freelance writers who are working on strict deadlines and often after regular business hours to complete the job. When we’re writing an article late at night or need the correct title of certain executives within an organization at the last minute, we hope to find that information on your website.
Many times, we’ve already called and left voicemail or we’ve emailed and waited days for a response. Oftentimes, our messages are never returned. Maybe you were on vacation or at a conference. Maybe the workload was overwhelming and was not a high priority at the moment. I understand. It’s that way for us, too.
In those times, a fully-functioning online media or press room fulfills all the needs of a writers’ request for basic information. Of course, the major information will come from further conversations, research and fact-checking. But we’re talking about basic information: images, personnel phone and email addresses, mailing addresses, logos, and mission statements. I
often wonder why I need a key to the castle to download a high-resolution image of a skyline in your destination. Why don’t you want me to know who to contact if I have a question about upcoming events, population estimates, or other information about what makes your destination, event, organization so special?
We realize information should be attributed and photographers deserve credit for their work. Imbed that information in the image and provide generic quotes to the most frequently asked questions, and half the work is done.
Online sites for organizations, rights holders and corporations is designed to provide information to people who are interested in learning more. Make it easy for people to find that information.
Tips to make the online media/press room more effective:
1. Make sure the media/press room is easy to find. When opening a homepage, label the media/press page prominently. Don’t place this information under the about us or contact us label or link. Journalists know to look in these areas because the information is often buried under obscure headings, but wouldn’t it be easier to have an individual link to a page where all media/press information is located? This page should also be easily searchable and logical for SEO results.
2. PR contact info should be one of the first things we’ll find. An active link to an email address along with a phone number is ideal. If a writer needs information, they’re going to pick up the phone or send a quick email in hopes of reaching a person who can help.
3. No automatic digital email boxes or media inquiry email addresses. It’s so frustrating to send a question into the ether and wonder who, if anyone, will ever reply. More likely than not, no one replies.
4. Photos and video. Why would you make us fill out a form and request to download images and then wait 48 to 72 hours to be approved or denied if we don’t already have a password? The website should have quick and easily accessible information that can be downloaded immediately. So … 72 hours is not immediate. Instead of writing about your organization, I’m probably going to move on to the thousands of other entities available who make my job easier.
5. Photos 2.0 – I generally need photos in two or three ways. I always need high-resolution (300 dpi or larger) for print, but I’d also like to find the same image in a low-res version for social media posts. It’s also helpful if we have options of horizontal and vertical images. Bonus: Great vertical images often become magazine spreads, or sometimes, a cover! Thumbnails of the images in various sizes and angles are appreciated. If copyright is a concern, embed the photo with a logo.
6. Photos should also be labeled with something more than numbers in a file. Names of people, places and things are how we’ll provide information to readers/viewers. If we don’t know because you didn’t tell us, the photo becomes a generic item along with a blurb. Embed photo labels with photo credit information, as well.
7. Video is awesome if you have it. We use photos in print, but the option of video is great when the digital version becomes available. Video is also a great tool for online posts to generate more clicks and drive an audience back to online sites.
8. Press releases are appreciated, but only if the press release has a date at the top along with further contact information and mention of available photography or video. If a press release doesn’t include contact information or links to images to use, it’s basically a waste of time. A press release arrives in my in-box or a find one under the organizations online news page. Without contact information I’m starting back at square one wondering how to call to gather additional information.
9. News. Companies love to toot their own horns when featured by the media. News items from other media companies might be interesting, but not valuable to me when covering an event or organization.
10. Reviews: I like to read reviews, but they shouldn’t dominate the media/press site. Reviews tell a bigger story about an organization and if the reviewer is with a prominent organization themselves, that becomes a different rabbit hole to follow. Appreciated, but not the most important thing when I’m on deadline.
11. Know your identity. Branding is key today and it has always been. It’s confusing to people searching for information if the name of your organization is one thing and the URL is completely different. Label, brand and identify to ensure that anyone can find you.
When it comes to writing articles on deadline, covering an event or researching information for a much larger project, a media room that answers all the questions in an easy-to-use format is one way to keep the positive news coming.