An online press room is a must for the Web site of virtually any organization. But, like any other type of Web content, if it doesn’t deliver what the target audience wants, it probably won’t succeed. Consequently, many organizations are missing opportunities for the press coverage they want.
Journalists increasingly turn to online press rooms because a well-done online press room can save a lot of time. Time is critical to journalists, because of deadline pressures. If they can’t find exactly what they seek, immediately, they’ll turn elsewhere.
Here are a few examples I’ve seen recently of online press rooms that don’t deliver what journalists need…
- University of London: Where are the press releases? Journalists who visit online press rooms typically want to see the latest news first. However, the University of London apparently assumes that journalists know in advance which college within the university is making news. And then, this page directs journalists to the college’s home page not directly to the college’s press room. Journalists who are working on deadline can’t afford the time to hunt around. Also, why is this site’s press contacts list a PDF file? If it were a simple HTML Web page, that would be much easier and faster from the journalist’s perspective.
- U.S. Agricultural Marketing Service: Too many clicks! When you click the newsroom link on the site’s home page, you get to another list of links but no real content. You have to click again to get to their press release page, which does list the title of a current press release, the only one issued so far in 2004. Right now, journalists who want to see the agency’s news from just a week ago must click yet again on the “2003” link but unfortunately, this morning that link is broken. A better approach would be to present headlines from the agency’s 10 most recent press releases right on the main newsroom page, along with contact info for key press officers and other information that journalists would likely want immediately.
- American Express: Check out that home page. I challenge you to locate this company’s press room in less than five seconds. Give up? First, you must click the tiny “About American Express” link at the very bottom of the home page. From there you can easily find the current news releases page. Once there, a little fine-tuning could make this page even more user-friendly for journalists. For instance, AmEx’s press releases are listed in date order so shouldn’t the date appear before the headline? Even more importantly, who should journalists contact to follow up on the news mentioned in AmEx releases? AmEx press releases, like this one, do not list any press contacts! Nor does a list of press contacts appear anywhere on the site, as far as I can tell. This is an especially grave error it implies that the company prefers to dictate to the press, rather than answer questions. Journalists hate that. This approach is guaranteed to undermine a company’s relationship with the media.
What bothers you about the online press rooms that you see? Comment below or e-mail me, since I’ll be discussing this topic more.