How Not to Do an Online Press Room

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…

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

6 thoughts on How Not to Do an Online Press Room

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  1. Here’s another challenge: try to find a corporate press room which provides an RSS/XML feed…. Not many around although very simple to implement. On the other hand, how many reporters (non IT reporters that is) do actually use RSS/XML feeds to follow the news ?

  2. It’s a common mistake made by a lot of companies.
    I think that to make a good online press room you have to see alot of others and try to take all the best they have. After this you can try to make yours.

  3. There are TONS of postings on good press rooms, bad press rooms, how the industry needs to work with reporters.

    For a list of most of the PR blogs, check out mine at http://www.pop-pr.blogspot.com.

    Even a client has gotten into it – http://www.fe77.com/onepress.jsp – which is a program that helps automate press rooms, bring RSS functions to a press room, plus make them easier to access and update for PR executives so they no longer need to rely on Web engineers.

  4. Online Press Rooms: “How Not To Do It”
    Online press rooms come under fire over at Contentious. According to Amy Gahran 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…

  5. Online Press Rooms: “How Not To Do It”
    Online press rooms come under fire over at Contentious. According to Amy Gahran: 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…