Creating An Online Newsroom

For a business owner who rarely uses a publicist, Johnny May has certainly managed to garner a lot of media attention over the last three years. The 36-year-old president of Pontiac, Michigan-based Securities Resources Unlimited — an independent security consulting and training firm — credits his firm’s “online newsroom” at with helping to create and feed that buzz for his 5-year-old firm.

Many small businesses are discovering the value of public relations, and use the Web as a affordable, effective tool for “getting the word out” to various media outlets. Bill Stoller, the Fort Lee, New Jersey-based publisher of Free Publicity, the Newsletter for PR-Hungry Businesses, says creating an online newsroom is an easy way for reporters to access press releases about your company.

Stoller notes that companies have two options when setting up an online newsroom: Either include it on your main site and let journalists “poke around” to get the feel of your company, or create a separate site for media needs (and that doesn’t distract potential customers browsing your main site).

In the newsroom, you’ll want to include contact information (name, address, e-mail and phone/fax numbers) for the primary media contact. “If you have an Instant Messaging ID, put it in there, too,” suggests Stoller, who advises firms to list press releases in chronological order (most recent at the top) and to link them to a selection of low- and high-resolution photos, charts and illustrations for media use.

Lastly, Stoller says companies should also include a search tool within the newsroom, where journalists can key in terms and come up with related materials. Be sure to keep the information updated. When journalists see that the latest press release was from five years ago, they may click to another, more current site.

When establishing or updating the newsroom, Stoller says companies should keep their target audience in mind — usually, the harried journalist on a tight deadline and in need of useful, solid information that his or her audience will find compelling. In doing so, you’ll rise above the “slush pile” of small companies that are vying for media attention but unsure how to go about getting it.

“If done right,” says Stoller, “an online newsroom is a very cost-effective way to market small businesses that can’t afford to spend big bucks on advertising or a PR rep.” May concurs, and says that every small business owner is his or her own best promotional tool. “No one can pitch like you can.”

Dos & Don’ts

  • DON’T force journalists to register or sign in for access. They’re busy folks and may very well decide not to bother.
  • DO offer the opportunity for journalists to enter their e-mail address if they wish to be kept abreast of the latest news from your company, but don’t link it in any way to the ability to access any portion of the site.
  • DON’T confuse non-journalists who may wander into the site. Clearly state what it is and whom it’s for at the top of the newsroom’s main page.
  • DO provide a link to your