The Press Tool Every Website Needs

Make your business more accessible to the media with an online media room.

By Mark Nowlan

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In today's virtually-connected world, a business website is usually the first line of communication between a company and the public. Most small businesses recognize the power of a well-conceived online presence in driving business and attracting potential customers, investors and partners. Where small businesses often overlook the value of the web, though, is in communicating to the media.

As a business grows and gains more notoriety, it's likely to come under the interest of local, trade and eventually national business reporters. Similar to how an informative, professional-looking website can help to lure a customer or entice an investor, having certain elements on your website can increase the chances for media coverage and help generate some much-needed publicity.

Today's news cycle is 24/7. And more reporters are using broadband connections than ever before. This, combined with today's highly competitive business environment, makes it ever more important for small businesses to provide information in a manner that's usable and easily accessible to reporters, wherever they are and whenever they need it.

Understanding this, more and more businesses are finding value in developing sections of their website dedicated specifically to the press. Often referred to as a "media room," these sections contain information that's of greatest importance to a reporter when he or she is deciding whether to pursue a story, and allows you to post stories when you do get covered in the press.

What's an Online Media Room?
An online media room is a "micro site" or section that resides at a separate secure domain, but from a visitor's standpoint is connected seamlessly to a company's main site. The online media room is primarily dedicated to communicating media-specific information to reporters and journalists--it's a two-way communication vehicle to provide and solicit information for publicity-hungry organizations.

What the Media Wants
There are many things you can include in this area, but at a minimum, journalists expect online media rooms to include:

  • PR contact information on every page,
  • current and archived news releases,
  • management bios,
  • company facts sheets,
  • access to both low-res and high-res images.
  • up-to-date information,
  • an "In the News" section,
  • links to industry articles and other information,
  • case studies and testimonials,
  • print-quality image gallery,
  • list of awards and honors,
  • financial and investor relations information for public companies,
  • search functionality, and
  • an opt-in e-mail for journalists to request interviews and additional information.

Your media room should also reside just one click away from the home page.

The things to avoid in your online media room, however, are:

  • too much flash animation or complex Java applets;
  • advertisements and password protected areas; and
  • a lack of journalist-friendly tools such as appointment booking, real-time alerts and feedback opportunities.

Building Your Online Media Room
Technology and internal resources are often the impediments small businesses face when creating an online presence designed for the media's use.

Fortunately there are easy-to-use, turn-key tools available to alleviate this burden. When shopping for a media room tool, make sure to choose one that enables you to mirror the look and feel of your organization's website and fits into it seamlessly, allowing you to update, edit and publish content for any web-enabled workstation. Additionally, the service should have a template that offers suggestions on what to include. And last, but most definitely not least, the service should be able to automatically post your company's news releases in the News Release section as the announcements cross the wire or allow you to post those that are not distributed via the wire.

Whether you build it yourself or use a ready-made solution, every organization needs an online presence that the media--and others--can rely upon for up-to-date information.

Mark Nowlan

Mark Nowlan is senior vice president of marketing & communications at PR Newswire. Nowlan is a frequent lecturer on media relations, strategic communications and crisis communications at industry conferences around the country. Get more information about PR Newswire and public relations with their PR Toolkit for small businesses.

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