Friday, July 11, 2008

Don't forget the online pressroom

I planned to present a round-table session covering Online Pressrooms at the 2008 Texas School Public Relations Association Conference in Houston, TX in February. However, life has a way of adjusting plans. What I wanted to tell attendees was that an online pressroom wasn't a luxury that school districts could take lightly, but rather an integral piece of a Web site.

An online pressoom can be used as a simple and effective gateway to the important pieces of news and announcements for a school district's stakeholders: parents, students, staff, community, and media. Notice that I put the media at the end. This is intentional because the traditional media should not be the primary way a school district gets its message out. If managed correctly, a school district's Web site will be the first place the community will go to get accurate information. They may get stories (good/bad) from the media, but our communities should be engaged directly, not indirectly via our media friends.

School districts and their PR/Communication professionals should be maintaining online pressrooms on their Web sites. It can be called many things (Press Room, News, News Room, District News, News & Media, etc.) but it must be easily found, easily read, and easily updated.

In an article in PR Tactics, Ibrey Woodall cites an annual survey conducted by TEKgroup International, which was distributed via email to more than 5,000 journalists. Among the elements of an online press room most important to the respondents were press releases (92 percent), a search module (85 percent), PR contacts (84 percent) and product information (76 percent) - for school districts, this may include information about the board, administration, general district info, etc.

Some district's are already doing a pretty good job with this:
There are more but you get the idea. Get more online pressroom samples and other useful links.

Just remember to include the following:
  • Put the emphasis on information and navigation
  • Complete PR contact information
  • Make the title of the release a link to the full text
  • Don't remove your old releases
This is certainly not a complete list, rather some things that usually get left out. Bottom-line: no district's site is complete without the online newsroom. Get the basics down, then move on to the Social Media Newsroom...

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