Given all the challenges in reaching out to journalists, it’s surprising how many organizations fall short when it comes to setting up their online newsrooms. If the journalist is coming to you, they shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get the information they’re looking for. A poorly organized media section can also be a waste of your time, because it might prompt a journalist to call for material they could just as easily obtain themselves.
Based on my own experience and my conversations with other journalists, here are the most common problems with online newsrooms—and some suggestions for improvement.
The newsroom is hard to find. Ideally, the home page should have an easily identifiable link to the press section. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in the main navigation bar—putting it in the footer or an “About” or “Company” menu is OK—but I shouldn’t have to click through multiple screens to find it. Also, be sure it’s labeled unambiguously—if I see a link that just says “News,” I don’t know if that’s news for the public or a news section for journalists. Instead, give it a name like “Newsroom” or “Media Center.” If you’re concerned about getting queries from the general public, make it clear that the section is for media use only. Apple’s website provides a good example.
It’s difficult to navigate. The newsroom itself should be designed in a functional manner. Don’t make me hunt for the information I want. Be sure links are clearly labeled. Organize press releases in a logical manner, with full text searches and archives in case I want historical info. And be sure the latest press releases are posted as soon as they go out.
Registration is required. Don’t make me set up an account just to see press contacts or press releases, and don’t compound the hassle by forcing me to wait for approval. I can understand putting some press materials behind a registration wall, but not the basics.