Why You Need an Online Newsroom

Photo courtesy of  Jürg Vollmer , via Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Jürg Vollmer, via Flickr.

As communications professionals, we spend a lot of time pitching stories and developing relationships with reporters.

But, sometimes, the news finds you.

Sometimes, a reporter you’ve never met who is working on a story you didn’t pitch will type a query into Google and land on your website.

Facing a tight deadline and needing a source, the reporter will need to find the information she needs — and fast.

Will your website — and your communications team — be ready to help?

For a surprising number of businesses and nonprofits, the answer to this question is, unfortunately, no.

Many organizations do not have a working, up-to-date online newsroom on their websites. Instead, they make it incredibly difficult for reporters to find key information and a live contact who can help them on deadline.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take a ton of effort to capture the attention of reporters on deadline.

By adding these five elements to your website, you’ll put your organization at the front of the line when reporters are searching for information—and greatly increase your chance of being a go-to source in the future:

1. An Easy-to-Find News Page

When reporters come to your site looking for information about an organization or a business, the first thing they typically look for is your “Newsroom” or “News” page.

This page should be easy to find — either through a direct link on your home page or, at the very least, through the “About Us” section.

If you don’t have a news page — or if she can’t find it — chances are she’s going to leave your site and go looking for an organization that does.

2. Contact information

Having a news page is a great start, but that page needs to be more than just a placeholder.

If you’re really serious about having her reach out with an inquiry, you should make it as easy as possible for her to do so by providing the name, e-mail address, and phone number of your media contact prominently on that page.

If you have a single spokesperson or point of contact, that should be easy to do.

If you are a larger organization with multiple spokespeople, provide a prominent link to another page that lists them and their contact information.

I suggest providing a way to reach an actual person — not a generic “contact” address that goes into a shared account that isn’t monitored regularly.

Reporters on deadline are looking to connect with someone quickly and they are more likely to reach out to a real person than to send a query into the ether.

You’d be surprised how many organizations — even very large ones — don’t make this easy for reporters.

If your organization provides it, you have an instant leg up on other groups that either overlook this step or choose to make it difficult for reporters to connect with them.

3. A News Feed

Let’s say the reporter wants to know a bit more about you before she picks up the phone or sends you an email.

You can help her by providing a feed of recent news releases and/or announcements.

This will help her get to know a bit more about who you are and what you do — and it might even provide her with some information about your organization that will make it into her reporting.

She might even luck out and find the information she needs in one of your existing news releases.

If she’s really squeezed for time, she might be able to use information directly from your release.

4. A Photo Gallery

Some savvy groups do more than provide contact information and a news feed on their websites.

They also include a photo library (or a link to a Flickr page) and make the images in that library available to media organizations.

They also provide instructions on how to credit and use these images.

While this isn’t practical for all organizations, it gives you yet another advantage when you’re vying for the attention of time- and resource-stretched reporters.

If our reporter knows that she can get a high-quality photo to accompany her story, you’ve found yet another way to provide useful information. What’s more, it might help you get a photo of your organization to go along with a mention or quote in the story — an incredibly valuable placement that will draw additional attention.

5. Your Numbers

Finally, if you’re looking to prove your credibility and show that your organization is transparent, it’s helpful to provide financial information on your site.

A growing number of nonprofits are including links to their recent Form 990s and audited financial reports on their sites — a move that shows donors, funders, and the media that you have nothing to hide and that your operations are above board.

Publicly traded companies can provide SEC filings or shareholder reports.

For our reporter who is deciding who to include in her story, having these numbers on your site sends a strong message that you’re legit — and it can also provide her with information that could help her verify information for her story.

Busy reporters on deadline are looking for the path of least resistance. If the news does end up finding you, make sure you’re ready.