Creating a great press centre can be difficult, but it is one of the most important areas of a corporate or NGO website. Making sure journalists, who are notoriously lazy/time-pressed (delete as appropriate!), can find the information they need quickly and easily will have them coming back to your site time and again, building closer ties and establishing you as a media-friendly operation. Whereas a poorly organised press centre could lose you that vital bit of extra press coverage.
We spoke to a group of media pros with a wide range of experience, from writing for consumer and specialist publications to working on press and PR for charities and corporate organisations. Drawing on our conversations with them we’ve collected some key points that will help you create a media centre that journalists will love using.
1. Identify yourselves!
It’s really important to help people find the names and contact details of your press team as quickly and easily as possible. Some corporates can be nervous about giving out the emails for specific staff members, but our conversations with journalists showed that generic ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ emails were a big turn-off with them. Email contact forms are also a big no, with many telling us they would be sceptical of receiving a reply to their enquiries.
One of our journalists said: “I find contact forms very annoying and never fill them out – I want a phone number and someone I can call instantly.”
2. A picture (or a video) paints a thousand words
Including videos and photos in your news stories can bring them to life – nobody likes reading through reams and reams of press release copy, least of all journalists. In fact, four out of five media professionals we interviewed said they expected to see images and video included in an organisation’s online press area. Any visual material you have should be easily downloadable and collected in a browsable media library.
3. Stay organised and up to date
We’ve found that nothing rankles with journalists more than being made to root around in a poorly organised, undated collection of press releases and images, which may or may not be relevant to their story. Clearly dating your press releases is a good start because it will help users of your media centre find the information they are searching for, and also give them a good idea of what your organisation has been up to recently. Not knowing when a press release was issued is reason enough for most journalists to ignore your story and move onto the next.
It’s also good practice to organise your press releases, images and videos by topic or category, to help people using your site find what they’re looking for. See the RNLI’s excellent News Centre for an idea of the ways charities might arrange their stories.
4. Put the important stuff up front
Did we mention journalists can be lazy? Well they can also be impatient when a deadline looms! It’s vital that your resources are well organised and archived, but providing a fact file of essential info that visitors can access quickly is also very important. Not everyone needs to know the details of your latest initiative or research project, they may simply wish to know how long you’ve been in business or where you operate.
“As a freelance journalist covering a variety of topics for the national newspapers and magazines I need the bare facts on a given subject or organisation very quickly. If I am researching a company, club or charity for an article, an easily navigable website with clear signposting and a simple layout works best. I’m sure this is the same for bloggers, campaigners, politicians, or whoever else might be using a media centre.”
5. Include prepared responses and case studies
Sometimes a journalist wants to know your organisation’s view on a particular issue. Position statements or prepared responses are a good way of saving you, and your site-visitor time by giving them this information up-front, without the need for a phone call or interview. Attributing the comment to a particular member of staff, even if it is only your press officer is also a good idea, as time-pressed writers and researchers can use these as ready-made sound bites or quotes.
Case studies can give people unfamiliar with your organisation’s work a clearer picture of what you do. For health organisations a case study is a good way to communicate the latest research and treatments options, whereas charities might give details of their recent work.
6. Five media must-haves
We asked each of our reporters to tell us what they thought were the essential elements of a media centre, and the following emerged as the most commonly requested features – so as a starting point you should make sure your site is at least covering these five bases:
- Press releases
- Press officer contact info
- Case studies
- Social feeds
We hope these tips will help you create a media centre journalists will love using, but if you’re still stuck, or you’d like more info about our work on media centres for other organisations drop our editorial director George a line!