January 13, 2009

Hi Everyone! I took SMAD 341, Web Communication at James Madison University Spring semester 2009 and we chose topics to discuss in our professional blogs. Here, I have examined  online newsrooms. I look at what a corporation’s newsroom should consist of, why interactivity in the newsroom is key and who uses the newsroom for information. Enjoy!



No one should fret when they hear the words “online newsroom” because it really is not a scary concept. In fact, they are an innovative and creative way of presenting information to those who are interested. An online newsroom is a place where relationships begin and grow into symbiotic relationships.

Through my research, I have gained a love for online newsrooms and truly believe they are one of the most important tools a company can have in their toolbox. These newsrooms provide such a huge opportunity for a company. To summarize the importance of online newsrooms, I would like to share my take away message, which is three-fold.

First, online newsrooms provide 24/7 news that is updated in real-time. This means that the second something is published in the company newsroom, anyone on the web can access it. Individuals no longer have to wait until the next day or several days later to hear about news within a company. If a crisis emerges, the 24/7 capability makes online newsrooms the perfect way for a company to keep its employees, consumers and the media informed of the most current developments.

Second, there are a number of elements in the ideal online newsroom that make it so news worthy. These include: searchable press releases, photos or other images, executive bios, audio (ex: speeches, podcasts, presentations), videos, an events calendar and PR contacts. Each of these helps journalist do his or her job AND makes sure the company voice is heard. Without these elements, journalists could get frustrated with trying to find information and the media coverage a company gets may not be accurate or all that positive.

Thirdly, there are a number of publics (journalists, employees and consumers) that use a company’s online newsroom for information; therefore, it is wise to make sure they have a great first impression. An easy way to assure an online newsroom makes that first impression memorable is through Web 2.0 technologies and social media tools that engage or bring interactivity to the site. The use of links, forums, video, audio, RSS, blogs, podcasts, social networking options and other multimedia greatly enhances a company’s online newsroom and engages the viewer.

Online newsrooms form relationships with stakeholders, and each element that a company includes in their newsroom only makes the relationship that much stronger. Companies should not be afraid of online newsrooms; they should embrace them with open arms and see all the positive results!

We must say goodbye to the traditional press release that we have all been used to and embrace the new way of presenting information! The Social Media News Release, or SMNR as it is commonly referred to, is an interactive way to provide company news to target audiences.

In my previous post I mentioned SHIFT Communications and their Social Media Newsroom template. Todd Defren, PR Squared blogger and SHIFT Communications’ employee is the man behind the newsroom template and he also created a template for the new Social Media News Release. As with social media newsrooms, some companies are afraid of moving to the SMNR format. PR 2.0 author Dierdre Breakenridge gives a number of reasons why we should move to the new social media format. Although all are quite true, I particularly agree with reason #2. In a SMNR a company can pull viewers to exactly what they want them to see. The company’s voice is very present in the SMNR and this ensures accuracy in journalists’ stories. Below is the updated version of Defren’s Social Media News Release.

Updated SMNRAs you can see, this new press release still contains the traditional information such as PR contacts, headline, basic news facts and quotes. Then the SMNR offers a wealth of multimedia items that relate to the topic of the release. We see photos, MP3 and or podcast files, visual charts and images and video. At the bottom of the template, we have social networking options such as RSS, Technorati tags and “share this”. Facebook and Twitter can also be included here. There is also a section for Trackbacks to other blogs. All of these multimedia features bring interactivity to the news release. According to WebitPR, multimedia content increases the enthusiasm of a company’s news.

So let us welcome this new way of providing information to constituent groups.

Interactivity: degree to which media functions such as forums, RSS, links and video are used for dialog purposes (functional interactivity); media and messages are used together to allow sender and receiver to reverse roles (contingency interactivity)

Multimedia: combination of text, photos, video and audio to create editorial content

(above definitions derived from the Oxford English Dictionary, Public Relations Online and The Process of Adopting Multimedia and Interactivity in Three Online Newsrooms)

Both interactivity and multimedia functions of Web 2.0 technology have become key in a corporation’s ability to communicate a message to their audiences. This is especially true in the case of online newsrooms. Here an organization has a chance to shine with their use of multimedia and interactive options.

SHIFT Communications saw the importance of switching from the traditional One-To-Many model to the new concept of One-Of-Many. In their Social Media Newsroom Presentation, SHIFT explains that although it will take a while to fully implement this new way of communication, it is key that companies directly engage with their constituent groups. SHIFT Communications designed a “Social Media Newsroom” template that offers the interactivity and multimedia that the One-Of-Many communication model supports. Please take a look at the Social Media Newsroom Presentation to understand SHIFT Communications thoughts behind creating this template.

Social Media Newsroom template

As you can see in the image above, this Social Media Newsroom template still offers the traditional newsroom characteristics such as PR contacts, event schedule, and press releases. However, SHIFT has made this a multimedia newsroom by adding many social media applications to the page.

New social media tools support both the goal of multimedia and interactivity in a corporation’s online newsroom. These tools range from blogs and podcasts to RSS feed and wikis. Blogs and podcasts are used to get company messages across and establish a relationship with their stakeholders. Viewers can comment on the company blog, posing questions, ideas or personal stories. RSS feeds allow stakeholders to select the information they want to receive and then be notified as soon as new information is published on the web. Both of these allow the company and audience to engage in communication and share information.

Another big tool is the social media news release that provides viewers with both interactivity and multimedia. I will be going into more detail on this new press release in my next post.

In conclusion, it is apparent that SHIFT Communications understands the benefit of multimedia and interactive functions in an organization’s newsroom. Therefore, this template is a wonderful starting point for any company looking to enhance their newsroom and enter the social media realm.

PR Communications blogger and author John Cass explains the importance of SEO (search engine optimization) in his book Strategies for Tools and Corporate Blogging. Basically, SEO is a way of organizing web content so certain sites rise in ranking when a particular keyword is searched for in search engines like Google or Yahoo! The sites with the highest rankings will appear on the first page of an individual’s search results. Most of the time, individuals do not go past the first page of results, so SEO is very important for an organization.

SEO and online newsrooms actually work hand in hand. If a blogger, journalist or every-day consumer wants information on an organization or industry, the first thing they are going to do is search for news pertaining to your company or industry. They may put in certain keywords or they may search for the name of a company. Any organization is going to want their main sites (including their online newsroom) to show up first.

PRWeb, the leading online newswire in press release distribution, claims that using their online newsroom product will increase an organization’s SEO. John Mulligan interviews Jiyan Wei Brand Manager of PRWeb talks about the benefits of the newsroom product at the NewsRoom Launch. He found that customers who used PRWeb to distribute their press releases, wanted a newsroom function that could bring them more media attention. So PRWeb designed a product that organizations could use to “brand a newsroom”. Customers can choose how they want to display information in their newsroom. Social bookmarking and multimedia are also parts of PRWeb’s newsroom product. Wei says that the advantage to their customers is that the newsroom is hosted on PRWeb’s domain, which helps A LOT with SEO of an organization. PRWeb will make sure that their customer’s brands pop up near the top of any queried search. Below is the video of Jiyan Wei at the NewsRoom Launch along with a video from CommonCraft that explains what PRWeb is. Pay attention to how PRWeb works and SEO will make much more sense.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “PRWeb NewsRoom Launch Preview “, posted with vodpod

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “PRWeb in Plain English”, posted with vodpod

In my previous post I examined TEKgroup International’s online newsroom software. Here, I will look at Vocus Public Relations’ on-demand software. According to their website, Vocus software primarily is for public relations and government relations. Vocus provides a web-based software that increases the effectiveness of communications in the media world. They also allow organizations the choice of seven different language packages. Below is an image from their website that sums up what Vocus has to offer.

Vocus Products and Services

Vocus Products and Services

The Vocus Online Newsroom elements are similar to that of TEKgroup’s. Vocus understands that journalists want the most up-to-date information and therefore provide 24/7 access to all organization news through automated alerts. Take a look at Vocus’ key features on the link provided above.

Many companies’ contact Vocus in order to better manage their public relations efforts. Northern Arizona University wanted a better online presence in the eyes of the media. They needed a better way to distribute information to multiple audiences. Also NAU wanted to review news clips about them in a manageable way. Vocus accepted the challenge and gave NAU a brand new media newsroom perfect for their audiences needs.

Journalists received immediate alerts when NAU news on a subject of their interest was released. One benefit of the Vocus Online Newsroom was the time that was saved by not having to answer to media requests. Now, journalists were provided with a self-service. Another benefit was the news clipping management system that Vocus implemented. NAU staff members no longer had to keep track of the news clippings on their own.

Another thing that Vocus offers its clients is their Media Outlets and Media Contacts databases. As a small business customer of Vocus, Christopher Cudworth explains that these databases are an extremely powerful part of the software package. Using this database, a company can determine what media cover their industry and send content to those specific journalists. Being able to target the right people (those interested in your products or services) is key to building a good relationship. Vocus Public Relations software will help any company large or small reach their target audience.

I have mentioned TEKgroup International Inc. in a number of my posts so far. In case you still don’t know who they are or what they do, TEKgroup International is the top producer of online newsroom software. For the past ten years, TEKgroup has worked with many worldwide companies to create effective online newsrooms for the companies’ target audience. Some of their clients include: Delta Air Lines Inc., Ford Motor Company, Prudential Financial, and Starbucks. Please look at TEKgroup’s Product page and take notice of all the services TEKgroup offers its clients. Also on this page, click on the “Benefits” on the right hand side to see what the benefits of a TEKgroup online newsroom are. Finally, take a look at the promise TEKgroup makes to its clients.

Companies may seek out professional help when they are not sure how best to organize their online newsroom. One such company is Carlson Hotels Worldwide. In her book PR 2.0: New Media, New Tools, New Audiences, author Dierdre Breakenridge interviews TEKgroup Director of Marketing, Ibrey Woodall about online newsrooms. Carlson Hotels was having a public relations problem within the company. According to Woodall, Carlson Hotels had too few communicators to manage too many entities (their hotels). TEKgroup’s newsroom software was just the solution for this problem. TEKgroup allowed Carlson Hotels to manage the parent company site, as well as the many branches (Regent Hotels & Resorts, Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Park Plaza Hotel & Suites, Country Inns & Suites and Park Inn) all from a single tool. As Woodall notes, if each property had tried to do its own, the same consistent message would most likely not have been voiced. Here is a screen shot of the Carlson Hotels Worldwide online newsroom.

Carlson Hotels Worldwide online newsroom

Carlson Hotels Worldwide online newsroom

TEKgroup has helped many companies solve similar problems. Their software provides an easy and convenient way to do public relations and organize necessary material. As I mentioned in my post “Making online newsrooms work to your advantage”, there are a number of key parts to an online newsroom that journalists expect to see. These tips come from a TEKgroup survey on journalists and their expectations. We can assume that any company that uses TEKgroup’s software will have a stellar online newsroom that journalists will flock to.

apple-logo1When you hear the word “apple”, what comes to mind? A juicy and delicious fruit or the multi-billion dollar electronic and software corporation? Most of us would probably think of the latter.

Apple has quickly become a household name in recent years. Companies have Mac computers in their offices as well as provide employees with their own personal MacBooks. Commuters and students listen to their iPods on the way to work or school. Millions of people talk and access the internet on their iPhones every day. Throughout the day people all across the nation access iTunes and download new songs for their entertainment. It seems Apple products have become a national phenomenon!

Apple’s online newsroom is a promotion and information center at its best. Due to the nation-wide interest in Apple products, the company must provide its stakeholders with the latest information. Apple’s press releases provide details on the newest or upcoming models of their products such as the iPhone 3G (the newest version of the phone). If John Doe needs a new wireless router and his friend suggests the Airport Express, Mr. Doe can quickly access all available product information on Apple’s newsroom. Here Mr. Doe will see recent press releases on the Aiport Express as well as the actual website for the product. Mr. Doe will also be provided with the name and phone number of the person to contact for more information on the Aiport Express. On Apple’s newsroom, any media analyst or reporter can find the pr contacts for every department within Apple. Instead of having just one pr contact, Apple provides many. If a reporter has a very specific question, they can contact exactly the person they need. Investors also are given the gateway to all financial information on Apple such as stock info, earnings releases, and a financial history. Media parties can also find numerous photos of Apple products to accompany their stories.

If we analyze Apple’s online newsroom, they have all the basics covered in online newsrooms according to a book called PR 2.0 by Dierdre Breakenridge. Apple has provided contact information, access to financial information, downloadable photos, executive profiles and product details. But Apple’s newsroom isn’t just for investors and media persons…their newsroom is a great portal for consumers interested in Apple products as well. Apple has made it very easy for those consumers to access the most recent news on their products and important product information.