Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Social Media Newsroom

As Ted has explained, the traditional press release that PR practitioners have known to love (and journalists have learned to ignore) is finding its way online, with both the media and PR sector increasingly realising the benefits of communicating through social media. In harnessing the potential for dialogue, quick fire information updates and video and picture sharing, the social media newsroom concept has been created as a means of generating PR publicity for many organisations.

Shift Communications, the “no hype” US PR agency developed one of the first social media newsroom templates in 2007, which has since been adapted by various organisations as part of their existing websites. In recognising that organisations were stuck in the habit of using email press releases and static, one-way communication media pages on their websites, which only those with passwords could access, the social media newsroom concept was born in the attempt to make relations with both the media and the public more dynamic. In making news release activity more open and transparent, companies who develop these online newsrooms are aiming to gain access to and feedback from the broader online public, including professional journalists, bloggers and those with an interest in their organisation.

The social media newsroom acts as the platform from which social media news releases can be publicly shared. In creating these documents, PR practitioners can adapt their well honed news release writing skills to the online world by providing additional information through links, video content and images, generating a much more vivid picture for the information consumer. What is more, these links, videos and pictures can be directly used in online news reports and on blogs as well as social network channels, with information on most social media newsroom sites being licensed under the creative commons licensing agreement.

A well referenced example of a social media newsroom is one created by the electrical goods company Electrolux. It’s a functional design- the centre panel being the main information focal point, providing the individual social media news releases is complemented by links to the company’s Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and specific product website pages. By including both a tag cloud and RSS feeds for particular issues of interest, journalists, bloggers and customers can subscribe to the content that is most interesting and relevant to them. This is one particular benefit of the social media news release over the traditional news release, with PR practitioners having to worry less about targeting to the correct journalists, who in many cases will be uninterested. In this way, journalists have access to well-packaged stories that they have chosen to subscribe to.

It appears that the social media newsroom has the potential to work really well if maintained properly and should be increasingly used by companies and organisations because of how convenient the platform is, both for the PR practitioners themselves and for the journalists they are hoping will generate the important media publicity. With journalists (and people in general) having less time to seek out the right information from the multitudes on offer online, developing such a platform is an effective way to create a cohesive message in the one, easily accessed place. The multimedia approach also allows organisations to present the company in the best light possible, helping them control their image and therefore what is being written about in the media, on blogs and other websites. It makes the communication process far more direct and also much faster. Through using pictures on flickr accounts, providing links to other relevant information and using video content in particular, a stronger and clearer message can be conveyed in comparison to the traditional news release which relied on telling the story through words. These extra elements provide an added layer and perspective about the organisation.

The social media news release presents a neat package of information that is easily digested. A well designed social media newsroom, with the all important integration of social media channels, should ultimately be the basis for any effective online PR campaign.