Bill Stoller, Publisher
time to time, people ask me how public relations has changed
during the two decades in which I've been seeking publicity. My answer:
Twenty years ago, the fax
machine was a newfangled novelty. Our primary means of communicating with
journalists was the telephone and the US Mail. The advent of e-mail and
the web has made life easier in many regards and tougher in others --
namely, thanks to hordes of clowns with money making schemes and software
that "blasts" press releases
indiscriminately to reporters, it's become very hard to get your e-mails
through to spam-weary reporters.
But there's another great advantage provided to publicity seekers by the
Internet -- the ability to create an "online news room." In the
"old days," the press kit reigned. Big bulky folders loaded with
press releases, glossy photos and slides were standard. They were
expensive to design, costly to reproduce and required lots of manpower and
postage to assemble and distribute.
Today, you can simply direct a
reporter to a web URL, where all your press materials and high definition
artwork awaits, ready to be used. It's a huge time and money saver.
A quick note: the traditional press kit isn't dead. It's still handy to
create some physical kits to use with key journalists, as the very novelty
of printed material can give you an edge at times. Also, some
journalists still prefer a physical kit. Press kits are an important tool
at trade show booths & press rooms, and special events. However, gone
are the days of sending out large press kit mailings. Keep the kits for
targeted use only.
Creating a useful online news room is really pretty simple. One of the
main things a busy reporter wants is easy access to press releases,
corporate and executive info and artwork. A well put together media room
should provide a seamless walk-through.
Where Should the News Room Go?
There are two schools of thought on where to put your online news room.
Some companies prefer to have it as a section on their main site, visible
to all as a link on a menu bar or other navigational element. Others build
entirely separate sites just for the media.
There are pros and cons to each. Putting it as part of your main site
allows a journalist to "poke around" your site, absorbing more
of the feel and culture of your company and its products. It also makes it
easier if the reporter wants more information about a particular product
than can be found in your media materials.
Of course, since you'll need
to provide clear links to the online news room to help such reporters find
their way back, anyone visiting your site can access your press materials.
This is probably not an issue but, if you feel potential customers may
become confused if they wander into the online news room, this could be
Creating a separate site allows you to tailor everything to suit the needs
of the reporter and prevents the possibility of confusion for potential
customers visiting your main site. The reporter however, will be unable to
quickly "poke around" the
main site as described above, so you may consider that in your
If you do choose a separate
site, give it a name that incorporates your company (if you're the Acme
Company, go for acmepress.com or acmeonlinenewsroom.com). Also,
provide clear links to your main site throughout, and code them so that
they open in a new window, allowing the reporter to see your main site
without having to backtrack to the online news room.
Some Do's and Don'ts
DON'T force journalists to register or sign in for access. They're busy
folks and may very well decide not to bother. Make life as easy as
you can for them.
DO offer the opportunity for journalists to enter their e-mail address if
they wish to be kept abreast of the latest news from your company, but
don't link it in any way to the ability to access any portion of the site.
DON'T confuse non-journalists who may wander into the site. Make it
clear at the top of your main page of your online news room what it and
who it's for.
DO provide a link to your consumer FAQ page and an e-mail link for
customer service to give non-journalists a place to go to get their
questions answered. This will save you a great deal of time
responding to messages from non-journalists asking "why am I looking
at a press release? How do I download a new driver" or some
such thing. Here's what Gateway says, "Gateway press
contacts are only able to provide assistance for qualified members of the
news media. They are not qualified to respond to product or technical
support needs...If you are not a member of the news media, please feel
free to visit our pages for Product Service and Support."
DON'T try to lay out the online news room if you're not a talented web
designer. Don't use flash, heavy java scripts and other doo-dads.
The face you put forth to the media must be highly professional, and the
ease of navigation and logical flow of the news room is vital.
DO hire a professional designer who has a portfolio that includes simple,
easy-to-navigate, clean-looking sites.
What To Include in Your Online News Room:
Personal Contact Info. The name, address, e-mail, phone number,
fax number and cell phone number of your primary media contacts
must be front and center. If you have an Instant Messaging ID,
put it in there, too.
Press Releases. Place press releases in chronological order (most
recent at the top). Keep traditional press release formatting and
use easy-to-read fonts.
Executive photos, product photos, charts, graphs, and other
appropriate artwork. Provide multiple versions -- 72 dpi (lower
resolution) for online publications and websites, and 300 dpi
(higher resolution) for offline publications. Put instructions
such as To download, right-click and choose "save" next to the
graphics. Make sure your pitch letters and press releases
provide links to the appropriate artwork on your site.
Backgrounders, executive bios, white papers, investor relations
info (if applicable), fact sheets, speeches, awards, streaming
media of: press conferences, product demonstrations, president's
Search Tool. Make it easy for journalists to find just what
want, by making all your press materials fully searchable.
Online News Rooms to Study:
The best way to learn how to put together an online news room is
to see how some very smart folks have done it. Here are three
Stoller, the "Publicity Insider," has spent two decades
of America's top publicists.
Now, through his website, eZine and subscription newsletter,
Publicity: The Newsletter for PR-Hungry Businesses
he's sharing -- for the very first time -- his secrets of scoring big
publicity. For free articles, killer publicity tips and much more,
Bill's exclusive new site:
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