A newsroom has always been a brand’s window on the world.
But the way we’ve been communicating with the world through this tool has changed quite a bit over the years.
Today, in the era of oversupply of all sorts of content, which almost everyone creates now, we find it increasingly difficult to be distinct.
On the other hand, PR people some time ago already accepted the fact that they wouldn’t be able to accomplish much by speaking just to journalists or keep focusing on the same dull formats used over and over again.
The development of new technologies, the ever-present digital connections, as well as the increasingly demanding and well-informed audiences—all these elements have contributed much to the fact that working in PR today requires a more comprehensive approach and oftentimes taking actions that are far from standard.
Most of all, however, it requires a focus on activities that will make audiences come to you because you can offer something extra, like a solution to their problem or something that will address their needs.
Let’s have a look at several online newsrooms of brands, agencies, and freelancers, which have been doing it right.
Each of them has a different style, but all of them, with no exception, have been extremely successful.
But first, let me ask you a question.
If you were to write a piece about a brand, which one of these newsrooms below would be the best source of information for you, in terms of both quality and UX?
Don’t just consider the layout of the main page, also look at the format and the contents of press releases or news posts.
By the way, did you know that as much as 65% of online newsrooms do not meet media expectations? [via Isebox, 2016].
The biggest sins of PR people as pointed out by journalists include:
- poor contact information (69%),
- lack of multimedia content (65%).
Some additional, but not any less relevant findings include:
- “We need more current, concrete information, less corporate talk.”
- “Lacking quality video makes no sense.”
- “Too many companies email content. It should be on the website.”
Zalando: How Their Newsroom Gives Me all the Information I Need
Why in this exercise I’d go for Zalando’s newsroom? Because unlike the rest of them, it fits well with most of my needs:
#1 The way information is structured on the website is clear: I can easily sort all the available news posts by market or topic:
#2 Once I go to a given news post [let’s take this one, for instance], I get everything I need:
- Publication date
- Eye-catching headline and lead
- Concrete and useful information + interesting content
- Attractive pictures with captions
- The possibility of downloading the press release with all attachments without compromising their quality
- Link to the brand’s Twitter account, if I’d like to tag them in my post or browse through their latest posts
- Contact details of a person in charge of media communication who (I’m guessing) would be able to present some more information or answer any further questions I could have in relation to the press release
- Some information on Zalando
- And even the contact details of a whole bunch of other Zalando’s experts who can help me in any other aspect, including front desk or customer care specialists or people in charge of sponsorship matters
Let’s move on to some other examples. I hope they will inspire you to look at communication in a way that will help you stand out.
Havas: An Agency That Talks About Itself Through the Mouth of the Media
I know quite a few online newsrooms and PR agencies. If anyone, firms taking care of the image of other companies should run their newsrooms flawlessly. Why do I like the case of the Havas agency? Because they make the media whose attention they’re competing for every day with other channels talk about them.
When you click on a selected headline on the main page of their newsroom, the system will take you to an article published on a media page, say, adage.com. If you need the contact details of the person responsible for media contacts, you‘ll be able to find them without any problems (try the “Ask” section on the bottom of the “News” page).
Their website also has an interesting tab, “The Download”, where the agency presents itself from another perspective, as an employer or author of consumer reports.
Pixers: Good PR Is to Support a Brand, Strengthen Its Position and Allow It to Reach a Wider Public
Pixers is a brand representing the home décor industry. It’s where aesthetic impressions matter most, while the press is expecting it to understand the trends and deliver interesting pictures, unusual solutions, and inspiring content. This is why Pixers decided to run a newsroom which looks more like a blog rather than a traditional media relations platform for distributing press releases.
“We can see that this form of publications is receiving more attention among journalists and making them come back to us with something every PR pro awaits, that is requests for specific topics,” said Katarzyna Konachowicz, a copywriter at Pixers, “What’s more, running a blog allows us for more publications—we don’t need to use a new product or service, or any other company-related event as a pretext for writing a new piece. We can go for any topic we can think of—we just need to find one element linking it to the company we represent. Bigger forms also increase our chances of getting our texts published in whole.”
They publish mainly texts on decorating and arranging homes and apartments or tips for how we can change them. From their newsroom posts, you can learn how to make your living space look bigger or get to know the hottest trends in interior design. But you’ll also discover how to recycle your furniture while going zero waste, organize your desk at home, or which houseplants will refresh your bedroom.
“The topics we decide to go for are a result of a constant search for balance between our offer, audience and the brand’s values, such as concern for the environment, sustainability, individualism, and creativity. This allows us to address the expectations and aspirations of our customers, but at the same time, we get the opportunity to appear in the media thanks to these unusual content planning activities,” Konachowicz emphasized.
Apart from content, the format also appears to be not without significance. Pixers seems to be interacting with the outside world on a deeper level with each post—by including references, e.g. to their older posts, offering more insight on a given subject and tagging the authors’ social media profiles, thus generating more interest. Many of their posts now also contain image galleries or high-resolution packshots as attachments, so everyone can download them conveniently. All this to deliver on what the reader is expecting.
VMWare: Employer Branding & Stories of Who We Are
VMWare produces virtualization products. Their motto, which also sets the tone for the brand’s overall communication activities, reads, “Work here. Transform everywhere.” The company uses its online newsroom for traditional media relations, but also as a platform for discussion on diversity in the workplace.
Examples? An interview with VMWare’s Ukrainian programmer who chose to leave Ukraine and pursue a career in Bulgaria. “Probably many of the readers will find my story familiar—one day I decided that I need a career change, so I published my CV on a few different job-searching websites. […] I am very happy with the decision to relocate to Bulgaria and grateful for the opportunity to be part of VMware. I enjoy life and feel very excited and enthusiastic about the future of our company and the products we are working on. Our team is growing quickly, and so is VMware’s impact on a global scale! It is great to be a part of it!” Dan Goriaynov said in the interview.
For the reader, this story provides evidence that it’s worth focusing on personal growth. For the brand—it’s an unimposing advertisement of a good employer which served as a driving force for change. A win-win situation.
GE Reports: An Award-winning News Hub Which Ignored Press Releases & Focused 100% on Storytelling
I’m sure you know this one. If not—be sure to catch up on whatever you need to catch up on, because this is a great example of how sometimes you don’t need your newsroom to get journalists to write about you. Just hire an ex-reporter to create even better content allowing you to address the needs of your audiences and build a stronger expert position. And the media will come to visit your website looking for a good story.
Tomas Kellner, who has worked at Forbes for eight years, is now the editor-in-chief of GE Reports, one of the best brand publications (GE) in the world. He publishes 6-7 stories per week, most of them penned by him, and rarely contacts external experts. Kellner mainly covers new technologies. What about his readers? Almost 500K loyal fans sharing his content through their own social media channels.
“We believe in stories,” said Kellner in one of his interviews with Contently, adding, “I basically ignored press releases, and focused 100 percent on storytelling. My stories have real protagonists who are trying to solve real problems and reach real outcomes. That’s one aspect. The second aspect is that the story has to be newsworthy to earn the right to be published on GE Reports. I want my readers to learn something new. When they come to a GE Reports story, it has to give them a piece of information, a nugget that they didn’t know before.”
What’s interesting is that he doesn’t care about the number of leads, instead focuses on brand awareness. What matters the most is traffic and external links. The best are the high-quality ones, coming from Wired, Gizmodo, New Scientist, Fast Company or traditional media like Newsweek, Time, or The Washington Post. Those were the outlets he used when he published his article titled “New Revolution CT Scan.”
Lately, they have redesigned the website to highlight their stories with videos, podcasts, and live streaming. Rather than hearing from them every day, you can now subscribe to a newsletter called The GE Brief.
Key Takeaway: Meet (Not Only) the Media’s Expectations
What would I like you to leave here with today? As David Meerman Scott put it cleverly in his bestseller The New Rules of Marketing & PR, your online newsroom is “a front door for much more than the media.”
What does much more than hethe media mean? Well, your customers, employees, partners, suppliers, or investors. It’s up to you to decide which are your key personas. But it's "the only way you can drive awareness and attract customers, the media, and other influencers. This way you can stand out and build lasting relationships with various publics,” as emphasized the author of yet another must-read book—“Inbound PR”—and this blog, whom I thank for giving me this great opportunity to share my thoughts.
Do you have an online newsroom?