What Journalists Want in Your Online Newsroom: Start with a Real Person

Your website press section could keep you from being quoted in The New York Times.

I’ve seen it happen, a missed opportunity that a company in the technology space still doesn’t know about. While handling national PR for the Grand Prix of Baltimore I landed a story about a new technology some of the racing teams were using to power the vehicles. The Times reporter was fact-checking with me and wanted to include third-party comments from a company not connected to the Grand Prix but able to comment on the new technology.

I was on the phone with the reporter as he visited the online newsrooms of a few companies likely to have that expertise. The first company we came across looked great, but the reporter stopped in his tracks. The online press room had no contact names, no direct dial phone number, no email option. Instead, they had a generic “contact us” form.

I’m paraphrasing, but upon seeing the form the reporter said, “ugh, they have one of those forms. Who knows where that goes and when they’ll get back to me.” And that was it. He moved along to other firms in the space until he found one that offered what he needed: a named contact with a direct-dial phone number. The reporter was on deadline and needed assurance that he could reach a real person.

This simple example that cost one company an opportunity for coveted New York Times coverage supports much of what online newsroom surveys reveal. Here’s what reporters said they are looking for:

  • Current and accurate contact info.
  • Executive photographs.
  • Content should be updated timely with social media, not significantly after the fact.
  • Don’t make us jump through hoops to get high resolution photographs.
  • The phone number for a real person that has the authority to speak to products, activities and issues into which the company is involved.
  • Positive feel good stories.

The final bullet comes as a surprise, but the others are in line with what I would expect to see in an online newsroom in 2020. We’ve certainly come a long way from the days when you simply listed press release headlines and links to PDFs, but not everyone is there yet. The first and easiest fix to make? Add your PR contact’s name and contact info.

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