This past weekend I gave a presentation at WordCamp Sacramento 2017 about building an online newsroom with WordPress. Here are the slides and my speaker notes, expanded a bit based on the live talk. Note that the talk was only 30 minutes, so I had to cut some of the slides from the actual presentation, notably the sections about third-party solutions for online newsrooms and the examples of WordPress newsrooms that I didn’t build myself.
A few things to get out of the way before we get to the details.
This Talk Does Not Cover
- How to write a press release
- How to attract media attention
- How to do media monitoring
- Detailed code examples
What Is a Newsroom?
Back in the day (as shown in the Wikipedia photo of the New York Times newsroom in the 1940s), the newsroom was the place that reporters and editors created the news. After the articles were written, edited, and given headlines, they were sent down to the pressroom, where the printers would set the type on the printing presses. These days, the following terms are used interchangeably:
- Online newsroom
- Media room
- Press center
- Media center
Wikipedia defines an online newsroom this way:
An online newsroom (also known as a pressroom, mediaroom, press center or media center) is a website, web page or site section that contains distributable information about a corporation or organization. The online newsroom was initially created for corporate communicators and public relations firms to target traditional media outlets, fundamentally newspapers, magazines, radio stations and television stations. Multiple public relations audience interests are now supported, including media relations, investor and analyst relations, community relations, and consumer social media relations.
Who Needs a Newsroom?
You don’t have to retain a public relations firm to put a newsroom on your website. Authors, speakers, startups, and non-profits should all have online newsrooms or media centers. Anyone who can benefit from publicity needs a newsroom.
A Newsroom is NOT a Sales Page
The job of your newsroom is not to sell your product. You have the whole rest of your website to do that. The job of a newsroom to help journalists, bloggers, and other influencers tell better stories about what you do.
What Journalists Want from Newsrooms
There have been several studies done asking journalists what they’re looking for in online newsrooms. (Most of them have been conducted by companies that provide related services, like press release distribution, media monitoring, and hosted newsrooms.) The answers have remained fairly consistent over the years, and in some ways it’s not that different from what journalists wanted 20 years ago, though the demand for photos and video keeps increasing.
ISEBOX Survey 2016
- Updated and accurate media contacts with phone and email (90%)
- Downloadable photos, videos, audio, and documents in various formats (76%)
- Current news and information (71%)
- Easy-to-use search tools (55%)
- Media kit with logos, bios, and standard images (52%)
- Social Media tools (30%)
TEKGROUP’s Top 20 Features Expected in an Online Newsroom
Online newsroom company TEKGROUP recently produced a report listing the top 20 elements to have in an online newsroom. Note the similarities to what ISEBOX discovered.
- PR Contacts
- News Releases
- Email Alerts
- Breaking News
- Crisis Comms
- Company Info
- Interview Info
- Executive Bios
- Product Info
- Financial Info
- Social Links
- RSS Feeds
- Media Credentials
- News Coverage
- Short URL
Ragan’s Top 11
Ragan Communications launched a service called PressPage with a report on 11 Essentials for a Stellar Online Newsroom. (You may not be able to get it anymore, but I can send you a copy if you want to see it.)
- Reachable Contacts
- Thorough Company Description
- High-resolution Image Gallery
- Embed Codes
- Blog Posts & News Stories
- Expert Profiles
- Streamlined Social Sharing
Aside: of course your newsroom should be mobile-friendly. Your whole website should be mobile-friendly.
Most Online Newsrooms Suck
In spite of the abundance of information available about how to create a good online newsrooms, most company newsrooms suck. Going back to that ISEBOX study and the nice infographic they produced as a result, only 6% of journalists polled said that digital newsrooms met their expectations. Asked to choose the biggest problem they encountered, 69% of respondents cited lack of press contact information. If all you do is let journalists know whom to contact and how to reach them, you’re ahead of the game.
65% said lack of multimedia content was the biggest problem; 54% a bad search experience, and 53%, out-of-date information. (Download the infographic for the complete list.)
So about Those Third-Party Solutions
Almost all of these are aimed at companies with large budgets. As in, Fortune 500-large budgets. In addition to hosting your newsroom, they offer services like media contact databases, press release distribution, media monitoring, and detailed analytics. They definitely provide value for companies that can afford them. Most of my clients don’t fall into that category, but here are some options if yours do.
WordPress as a Newsroom Solution
Just because these third-party solutions come with extra features doesn’t make WordPress a bad choice for building a newsroom. It’s an obvious option if your main site is built in WordPress, of course, but some companies (like Facebook) have built WordPress newsrooms in spite of using another platform for their main site.
- American Hiking Society
- Kaiser Permanente
- Nancy Pelosi
- National Museum of African American Art (Smithsonian)
WordPress Newsrooms I’ve Built for Clients
Over the past couple of years, I’ve built several online newsrooms and media centers, from the simple to the elaborate.
Here’s a closer look at ways to build the different parts of these newsrooms.
An expert profile may be part of a team member bio, or it may be separate. The purpose of the expert profile is to explain what your people are experts in and why someone would interview them for an article that’s not about your company. For example, if there’s a breaking news story about (ahem) a security breach at Equifax, a journalist might want to consult an expert in online security for background, or a quote.
News about Your Company
There are several ways you can display company news on your website. The simplest is to use your blog, though if you are already using your blog extensively for another purpose, you may well want to use a custom post type.
Using one or more blog categories for company news is easy to set up, but also kludgy. While you can easily create a menu item linking to the category archive, your media category (or categories) may not fit in well with the categories you’ve already chosen for your blog, and you’ll need to add some custom code if you don’t want the company news items to show up on your main blog page.
Posts with Custom Taxonomies and Custom Fields
A slightly tidier way to handle this is to add a custom taxonomy and some custom fields. Because REVA didn’t plan to publish regular blog posts, I renamed “Posts” to “News” and set up a “News Type” taxonomy so they could easily distinguish between news releases and news coverage. I then used Advanced Custom Fields Pro to add some custom fields for the news coverage posts, for a consistent display of the link to the original article.
Displaying Your News
In addition to a category or taxonomy archive page, you can display your news items elsewhere by using widgets or writing a custom query.
Automating News Coverage
If you don’t want to spend time hunting for news about yourself, your company, and your products, there are tools to help you with it. You can create posts automatically from Google News, either using something like the Google News Posts Creator plugin I used on the AVA website, or any RSS-to-post publication tool, once you’ve created a feed from your Google News Search.
Always moderate these posts before publishing them, unless you’re willing to risk including coverage of your mistakes on your own website.
Publishing Press Releases
Every press release contains some of the same information, such as your corporate logo, press contact information, and company “boilerplate” (a short description of your company). Instead of adding this to each press release posts, create an options page where you can store and update this information. (That way, if your press contact details change, you won’t have to go back and edit every press release you’ve ever published.) I use ACF Pro to create options pages, but you can code your own or use a different tool.
Press Release Post Type
Though I used blog posts for the news releases on the REVA site, I like to make press releases a custom post type. Then I can use the Admin Menu Editor plugin to show the press release options page under “Press Releases” in the admin menu. There may also be per-post custom fields that you want to include, such as a subtitle, or a release date (if you aren’t just using the post publish date for that). And having a separate post type makes it easier to style the archive template.
Logos, Images, and Videos
Very few news outlets are in a position to send a cameraperson out to your company. As a result, journalists are relying on companies to provide not just photos but video. If you’re a keynote speaker, you want to make sure to include video of yourself speaking. If you sell products, you want to include product photos and product demonstration videos. Where appropriate, include “B-roll” video showing you interacting with clients, or people working in your office or factory. You can divide images and videos into separate galleries, or put them all into one gallery. Be sure you do include vector (or at least high-resolution) versions of your logo for use in print publications.
The type of photos you include depends on the type of site you have, but I’m partial to FooGallery for all of them.
I’ve used FooGallery, Foo Video, and YouTube Gallery by YouTube Showcase – Responsive Video Gallery for WordPress by eMarket Design for image and logo galleries. I’ve also built custom lightbox video galleries using the ACF oEmbed field and FooBox Pro.
Traditionally, a press kit is a folder or binder containing news clippings and information, handed out to journalists at a press conference. But you can put a press kit online, too. This is the section of your newsroom where you include documents like your company overview, product fact sheets, and vector images. The media kit for NowSecure below contains the different versions of the logo bundled into ZIP files for SVG, PNG, and EPS formats, as well as photos of the company founders and the company overview.
Go forth and build amazing newsrooms for your clients. I’ll post the video from the talk when it appears on WordPress.tv.