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What Journalists Want to See on Your Website

By Greenfield Belser, a Finn Partners Company
July 1, 2006
What Journalists Want to See on Your Website

What you will learn:

  • How the Internet has forever changed the role of public relations
  • What reporters want to find on your website
  • How to become a better online media resource
  • How to establish and run an online newsroom on your website

Defining the Gap

There exists a huge disparity between what reporters think is valuable online, and what the PR community thinks is important.

It’s important to consider how well your website “newsstand” represents your firm or company and, particularly, how well your key messages and language come across on your website.

Journalists’ needs haven’t changed since the first Vocus survey. The difference now is that journalists expect to find much more information on your website than in the past, and they find it useful when provided.

The most recent survey results make clear that PR and marketing people still don’t understand what should be on their Web sites. And if they do understand, they often believe providing the right information is too hard to manage.

That’s disheartening, because much of the information reporters need for their stories is readily available in the company’s files in other forms. Providing it online should be simple.

This article highlights both what should be online and how you can manage the job of posting that information on your website.

Recognizing the Power of the Internet

PR professionals dream of making an impact with news and information about their clients. The Internet gives you that power. But just posting a list of your press releases is not enough.

That’s why we begin with a checklist of information reporters expect to find in online media centers—information that is probably also valuable to your employees, clients and others who visit your website.

Make It Easy to Make News

The best way to ensure that you deliver the right message to journalists and the public is to create a special “online newsroom” that can be accessed directly from the main page of your Web site. An online newsroom provides visitors with a clearinghouse of news-oriented information and helps you focus your PR efforts in one distinct area on your website.

“A dedicated PR site with downloadable information is better than a general [web]site,” commented one reporter in the most recent survey.

You can instill reader confidence in your site by keeping your newsroom current. Nothing turns readers off faster than a site that contains only stale information.

Commit to a plan for updating, changing and adjusting the content in your newsroom at a moment’s notice. Each time you issue a press release, simultaneously post it to your online newsroom. Journalists, clients, prospects and employees will come to your site first for breaking news. Don’t let them leave empty-handed!

Becoming a Better Media Resource

Posting your press releases online is a good first step. But journalists want more. A site with only press releases does not satisfy the needs of reporters and should not be considered an online newsroom.

Journalists find most online media centers difficult to access and inadequate. They expect to find more on your website than most PR and marketing professionals are providing. And it’s never too late to make a valuable contribution and lasting impression with the press.

The Key Elements of Your Online Newsroom

Let’s start with the “must-haves” in an online newsroom.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Eighty-seven percent of reporters deem contact information a “must-have.”

That means the names of real people and their specific job titles, with direct-dial phone numbers and email addresses listed. Offering only a generic email address like pr@mycompany.com is ineffective, since it gives the reporter no idea when they will get a response or with whom they should follow-up.

RESEARCH/STUDY DATA

Journalists want data they can verify. Their editors demand validation. Confirmation of information becomes more important as scandals on false and unsubstantiated reporting continue to make the news. 

Make it easy to verify the information in your releases, by providing additional details and access to research reports whenever you can. Ninety-nine percent of the reporters say they need information they can verify.

CORPORATE BACKGROUND
Corporate information was the third most popular item desired on websites. Journalists are looking for vital statistics: number of employees, year founded, annual sales, revenues and operations, as well as a listing of clients and subsidiaries.

PRESS RELEASES (SEARCHABLE, PLEASE)
Considered a key ingredient for an online newsroom by 98 percent of reporters, news releases are an important element.

Many journalists will go to your website as their starting point when conducting research for a story. If you’ve sent them a press release but don’t have it posted on your site, you instantly lose credibility. And, press releases should be searchable. With 39 percent of journalists seeing press releases as a “must-have,” and the other 59 percent finding them useful, just listing them in chronological order isn’t enough. Provide a way for them to search your press releases. Help reporters seeking to broaden a story angle by keeping an orderly archive of all past news releases, searchable by headline, text, type, date and year to allow for a targeted search for background news and additional history.

MEDIA KITS AND ANNUAL REPORTS TO SUPPORT NEWS 
Including every detail in a press release isn’t practical. Create a place for reporters to get the other essential information they need to write a complete story. For example, a media kit or annual report is a great way to enhance a press release. Photographs, diagrams, illustrations, related releases, audio or video demonstrations and technical specifications—any additional details the media may call for—should be available online for easy download. With the emergence of 24/7 coverage online by all media outlets, journalists are working around the clock, and so should your online newsroom.

EXECUTIVE TEAM INFORMATION
More than 91 percent of reporters said that biographical details about your executive team are helpful. 

Reporters will search your website for basic “who’s who” information that can lay the groundwork for their stories. Include photographs and key dates about your key executives. And give reporters more options by including photos and stories previously written about members of your team. 

PHOTOGRAPHS
Fifty-nine percent of PR professionals felt photos were important on a media site, but 89 percent of reporters said that they would use them if offered. 

Consider including downloadable logos, attorney photos, video demonstrations, annual reports and other information that is helpful to reporters on a tight deadline.

LINKS AND RELATED SOURCES
Are you providing content that reporters can use to their advantage? Find unique ways to support the needs of the media as they research your company and your industry. Be creative by including unconventional items not usually found on firm websites. Offering an expert or spokesperson resource is another great way to make your Web site a valuable resource to the media.

Northern Arizona University (www.nau.edu) provides an experts database in its online newsroom. The NAU site allows journalists to search a list of professors and educators who are “experts” on specific topics. On any one of hundreds of topics, journalists receive a list of matches with background information on the expert, including phone and email contact information. 

PAST COVERAGE
Eighty-seven percent of journalists find old stories and press releases to be helpful in writing a news story. But only 26 percent of PR professionals believe reporters want to find old coverage online. 

A journalist working on a breaking story or an exclusive will appreciate knowing if a particular topic has already been covered by someone else. Posting recent coverage also gives journalists ideas for expanding the angle of a story. Providing recent coverage and up-to-date information shows journalists that your organization is committed to providing a level playing field. It also means journalists won’t have to look elsewhere to find this information.

Other areas of importance to journalists included:

  • Upcoming Events
  • White papers
  • Awards and recognition, and;
  • Speeches.

Better Access to Information Means Better Exposure

Properly crafted, your online newsroom will prove to be a vital tool for journalists and help ensure your PR goals are met.

But an online newsroom is only valuable if your organization is truly committed to it. Keeping your site accurate and up-to-date is critical. Doing that takes considerable time, planning and resources. But, in the end, your efforts will translate into good news for your image and reputation among journalists, employees, business targets and other key audiences. 

Thanks to Vocus for graciously allowing us to provide this edited version of their white paper “What Journalist Want to See on Your Web Site.” To access the complete white paper, please click here.