How to Build a Site The Media Will Love
By Bill Stoller
Monday, August 1, 2005; 1:00pm EST
From time to time, people ask me how public relations has changed
during the two decades in which I�ve been seeking publicity. My
answer: technology. Twenty years ago, the fax machine was a
newfangled novelty. Our primary means of communicating with
journalists was the telephone and the US Mail. The advent of e-mail
and the web has made life easier in many regards and tougher in
others - namely, thanks to hordes of clowns with money making
schemes and software that "blasts" press releases indiscriminately
to reporters, it�s become very hard to get your e-mails through to
But there�s another great advantage provided to publicity seekers by
the Internet -- the ability to create an "online news room". In the
"old days", the press kit reigned. Big bulky folders loaded with
press releases, glossy photos and slides were standard. They were
expensive to design, costly to reproduce and required lots of
manpower and postage to assemble and distribute. Today, you can
simply direct a reporter to a web URL, where all your press
materials and high definition artwork awaits, ready to be used. It�s
a huge time and money saver.
A quick note: the traditional press kit isn�t dead. It�s still handy
to create some physical kits to use with key journalists, as the
very novelty of printed material can give you an edge at times.
Also, some journalists still prefer a physical kit. Press kits are
an important tool at trade show booths & press rooms, and special
events. However, gone are the days of sending out large press kit
mailings. Keep the kits for targeted use only.
Creating a useful online news room is really pretty simple. One of
the main things a busy reporter wants is easy access to press
releases, corporate and executive info and artwork. A well put
together media room should provide a seamless walk-through.
Where Should the News Room Go?
There are two schools of thought on where to put your online news
room. Some companies prefer to have it as a section on their main
site, visible to all as a link on a menu bar or other navigational
element. Others build entirely separate sites just for the media.
There are pros and cons to each. Putting it as part of your main
site allows a journalist to "poke around" your site, absorbing more
of the feel and culture of your company and its products. It also
makes it easier if the reporter wants more information about a
particular product than can be found in your media materials. Of
course, since you�ll need to provide clear links to the online news
room to help such reporters find their way back, anyone visiting
your site can access your press materials. This is probably not an
issue but, if you feel potential customers may become confused if
they wander into the online news room, this could be worth
Creating a separate site allows you to tailor everything to suit the
needs of the reporter and prevents the possibility of confusion for
potential customers visiting your main site. The reporter however,
will be unable to quickly "poke around" the main site as described
above, so you may consider that in your decision. If you do choose a
separate site, give it a name that incorporates your company (if
you�re the Acme Company, go for acmepress.com or
acmeonlinenewsroom.com). Also, provide clear links to your main site
throughout, and code them so that they open in a new window,
allowing the reporter to see your main site without having to
backtrack to the online news room.
Some Do�s and 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. Make life as easy
as you can for them.
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. Make it clear at the top of your main page of your
online news room what it and who it�s for.
DO provide a link to your consumer FAQ page and an e-mail link for
customer service to give non-journalists a place to go to get their
questions answered. This will save you a great deal of time
responding to messages from non-journalists asking "why am I looking
at a press release? How do I download a new driver" or some such
thing. Here's what Gateway says, "Gateway press contacts are only
able to provide assistance for qualified members of the news media.
They are not qualified to respond to product or technical support
needs...If you are not a member of the news media, please feel free
to visit our pages for Product Service and Support."
DON�T try to lay out the online news room if you�re not a talented
web designer. Don�t use flash, heavy java scripts and other doo-dads.
The face you put forth to the media must be highly professional, and
the ease of navigation and logical flow of the news room is vital.
DO hire a professional designer who has a portfolio that includes
simple, easy-to-navigate, clean-looking sites.
What To Include in Your Online News Room:
Personal Contact Info. The name, address, e-mail, phone number, fax
number and cell phone number of your primary media contacts must be
front and center. If you have an Instant Messaging ID, put it in
Press Releases. Place press releases in chronological order (most
recent at the top). Keep traditional press release formatting and
use easy-to-read fonts.
Executive photos, product photos, charts, graphs, and other
appropriate artwork. Provide multiple versions -- 72 dpi (lower
resolution) for online publications and websites, and 300 dpi
(higher resolution) for offline publications. Put instructions such
as To download, right-click and choose "save" next to the graphics.
Make sure your pitch letters and press releases provide links to the
appropriate artwork on your site.
Backgrounders, executive bios, white papers, investor relations info
(if applicable), fact sheets, speeches, awards, streaming media of:
press conferences, product demonstrations, president's speeches,
Search Tool. Make it easy for journalists to find just what they
want, by making all your press materials fully searchable.
Online News Rooms to Study:
The best way to learn how to put together an online news room is to
see how some very smart folks have done it. Here are three
About the Author
Bill Stoller, the "Publicity Insider", has spent two decades as one of
America's top publicists. Now, through his website, eZine and
subscription newsletter, Free Publicity: The Newsletter for
http://www.PublicityInsider.com/freepub.asp he's sharing -- for
the very first time -- his secrets of scoring big publicity. For
free articles, killer publicity tips and much, much more, visit
Bill's exclusive new site: http://www.PublicityInsider.com