Online Press Room: Turn Up Your Association’s Coverage
If you want to improve your association’s news coverage, your association’s online press room should be an information and resource hub for journalists. An online press room should share association news clearly, provide easy-to-find contact information for journalists, and make the life of a reporter easier. Here’s checklist of items to have in your association press room:
- Clear media contact for reporters – a phone number and email address that are regularly monitored should be listed. Some associations use a generic email like press@association… that forwards to a designated person or an entire team of people (extra tip: if a team is managing your media outreach work – make sure you have a good plan for triaging and responding to media requests). The phone number listed should be answered during regular business hours, ideally by a live human being. If this number can accept text messages, that should be indicated. The name for a press contact is also helpful for reporters, who may feel like sending a request to a generic press@ email address is a bit like screaming into the void.
- Press releases – any press releases or statements your association issues should be listed. Some robust press rooms have a tagging system to organize content by topic. Many organize their press releases by date, with the most recent release appearing at the top of the screen.
- Media list signup – add a feature where journalists can sign up to be on your media list and get your releases delivered to them automatically via email or RSS.
- Past media coverage – many list stories referencing their association and its spokespeople in an area on their website. They may only be links due to copyright laws that won’t allow you to re-publish a news agency’s content, but they are still a great resource. Some reporters will review past coverage to see how someone looks on camera or speaks on a particular issue, long before they ever call you with an interview request – so be aware that these links sometimes are used to gauge your appetite for press friendliness and camera-readiness. Some associations will also list coverage by their members, usually on a separate page.
- Information about key spokespeople – biographies, downloadable photos, and background information on what your association’s key spokespeople can discuss will help reporters decide to ask for an interview (or not). Don’t forget to include their job titles.
- Member profiles/speakers bureau request information – if you have members who are trained and willing to speak with journalists, list their expertise and provide downloadable photos and information. I usually recommend that press contacts still route through the association’s press office, so you are in the loop and can help facilitate an interview with a member or speakers bureau participant if needed. This is also a great place to list contact information for speakers bureau requests.
- Logos – your association logo, in multiple file formats suitable for online, print or video work can be available for download.
- Infographics – these can be very popular, especially with blogger and online outlets, and even newspapers will sometimes run them in an ad format in print or online. Provide your infographics in multiple file formats if you can – PDF high- resolution images and PNG graphics files will help a wide range of users. Be clear on where statistics/quotes in the infographics came from, especially if the source is not listed on the infographic itself.
- Audio clips or podcasts – downloadable audio files, a link to an association podcast, or just an audio clip discussing the association’s history or a key issue can be a great addition to your press room.
- Public Service Announcements (PSAs) – this is also a good place to put any PSAs that your association produces. Audio, video, print and online PSAs can share a lot about an issue and ask the public to take an action in response.
- Op-eds/Commentaries/Letters to the Editor – you can highlight your opinions work in a special section if you do enough of this work that it makes sense to call it out (see below for an example).
- Video footage – clips for download about the association or that illustrate the industry the association represents can be very helpful for journalists. If you don’t want to host footage on your website due to bandwidth issues, set up a playlist on your YouTube channel just for informational or press needs, and make it clear you can provide higher resolution footage by request.
- Statistics – provide current and important statistics (cite sources) for your association and the industry you represent if possible. Graphics illustrating statistics can also be helpful for – list or link to key reports from your association and representing your industry. Include source information, especially if the report is one your association did not create. If you issued a press release or statement about a report, try to include a link to it near the report listing so your response is easy to see.
- Special access – if your association issues embargoed press releases on research or reports (like the American Heart Association) that information should go into your press room and you can invite reporters to sign up to get these. Also, if your association hosts meetings or trade shows and allows journalists to attend for free, post requirements, deadlines and procedures for requesting media credentials (it will also cut down the volume of calls about it right before your big event).
- Glossary – if your association covers issues that are complex, uses a lot of acronyms, or simply works in an industry that has a lot of “insider” language and jargon, offer a glossary or terminology explainer to help reporters and others. This positions your association as an expert in the field and contributes to common language and definitions.
- Enewsletters or publications – if your association produces an enewsletter or publication that is free and available to the public, list it with subscription options.
- Social media channels – list your social media channels so they are easy for journalists to find -e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
- Tags – use the content management system on your website to your advantage if your association touches a broad range of issues . Tag press releases, reports, statistics, infographics, photos and other information so it can be easily located by anyone clicking on the tags.
- An easy URL to remember – one thing that can help is giving your newsroom an easy to remember URL. The American Heart Association does this well – their online press room is simply newsroom.heart.org.
Now let’s take a look at some association online press rooms and see what we can learn from them.
The American Bankers Association offers a lot of information in their press room. They issue a lot of press releases and do many reactions to ongoing news. Given their front line role in talking about our turbulent economy during the pandemic, right now they are prioritizing that news at the top of their press room. They have a content management system that allows you to view releases by topic, and scrolling down, you can see a huge variety of resources for reporters. This is a requirement for a robust newsroom online with a lot of content to keep organized. You can also see they offer clear contact information for reporters, photos for download, their media appearances, credentials for select events, media list signup and an RSS fee for press releases.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) even has a video in their press room that talks about how they can help journalists and gives examples! It’ s short one-minute video but it illustrates how the NAMI can help reporters. Their press room offers a lot of resources!
They also have a page with downloadable infographics and statistics on mental health. One tweak I’d suggest is offering their infographics in a graphic file format (like PNG files) so anyone wanting to display them doesn’t have to convert the PDFs. I also like their PSA section. I find their board and leadership information a little confusing, as the NAMI Leaders section is for members only, but you can access their board and executive leadership information.
The National Roofing Contractors Association has a nice online press room with just one contact listed for the media (which is fine). While they don’t issue a lot of news releases, it’s easy to find the media contact’s information and the page is easy to navigate. Three news releases are highlighted with photos in the press room (the most recent) and the rest are listed. If your association is smaller and doesn’t issue a lot of news, this is a good example to consider.
The National Automobile Dealers Association does a nice job of listing media contacts and how to reach them in their online press room. The four people who handle this role for the association are listed on the press room and press release web pages, with photos, desk numbers and cell phone numbers offered. Clicking on their names gets you their email addresses. Their issue multiple news releases per month and also economic reports, and you can easily find information by date. Their setup gets the job done.
One of the more interesting ideas the California Life Sciences Association has applied to its press room is they keep together all of their op-eds, giving the op-eds a listing on their own page. Clearly this was something they focused on more in 2019 as they’ve not posted any new op-eds for 2020, but it’s a great idea. They also list member news on another page from their own press releases. It appears their information has not been updated for about 7 months, which seems a bit concerning. That’s one challenge with online press rooms, you have to keep them current.
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent PR practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites (contact to discuss your project, review our portfolio, sign up for our e-newsletter). She blogs about media relations, social media, public relations, and work-family balance. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven