Planning Online Press Relations

Last Updated Nov 28, 2007 4:47 PM EST

Putting press information online speeds up distribution of material, reduces costs, and can improve relationships with journalists by making it easier for them to obtain information. Web Sites should include copies of current and archived press releases, as well as comprehensive company information and details of contacts for journalists. Online interviews and Webcasts can also be useful press relations tools.

What You Need to KnowWhy is it important to put press information online?

With 24 hour news now mainstream, journalists need to access information quickly. Postal distribution is just too slow and "old news is no news." Putting the latest information online helps journalists to keep up to date with developments and access background information.

What to DoDistribute Press Releases Electronically

To speed up distribution, you can send your press releases by e-mail to a mailing list of journalists. Recommended practice is to put the release into the body of the e-mail, rather than sending it as an attachment. If you decide to send press releases only to selected journalists, you can also send electronic news alerts to other journalists, giving them links to the full story on your Web Site.

Set Up a News Alert Service

You can set up a news alert facility that enables journalists to choose the updates and topics they need. The service, which could be called mynews@abcxyz.com, brings journalists the latest company news, features, and videos to their e-mail box. The material could include:

  • press releases;
  • feature articles;
  • videos;
  • executive briefings;
  • Webcasts and online press kits.

Journalists set their own preferences for format and frequency, and the material is available to them at any time.

Put Press Releases on Your Web Site

As well as distributing press releases electronically, you should also place copies of the latest releases on your Web Site. If you issue new releases regularly, put a short summary of the story on the main press page with a hyperlink to the full story. Make sure that the selection of current press releases are updated regularly. Older versions or out-of-date stories should be archived.

Create a Press Release Archive

Journalists may want to review earlier news about your company. Place older press releases in an archive ordered by date. To make it easier for journalists to find the exact information they need quickly, set up a search facility that will enable them to find stories by topic.

Provide an Online Photo Library

Good photographs can improve the quality of a story and also get you better coverage in a publication. As well as distributing photographs with press releases, you can also set up an online photo library. The photos should be indexed and should have a brief descriptive caption.

Give Journalists Contact Information

When journalists want to get further information, they need to know who to contact. Your Web Site should definitely include the name of a press contact who may then arrange to put journalists in touch with senior executives or specialists. Alternatively, you may prefer to provide a complete list of specialist contacts, so that journalists can make direct contact. In either case, you should include telephone and e-mail details.

Provide Background Information

As well as press releases and photographs, you should also include background information along with links to detailed information on your Web Site. The background information should include:

  • company profile;
  • organization;
  • senior executives with brief biographies;
  • product range;
  • financial information.
Publish a Media Diary

An online diary of key events can help journalists plan future news coverage or feature articles. The diary should cover:

  • product launch dates;
  • dates for press conference;
  • announcement of financial results;
  • dates of events or exhibitions supported by your company;
  • Webcast dates;
  • any significant anniversaries.
Issue Press Conference Invitations

You can use e-mail to invite journalists to press conferences. However, you should be selective in the way you use e-mail. Remember, unless the event is important and the press see a real benefit in attending, press conferences can be regarded as a waste of time, and you could find journalists reluctant to attend later, more important meetings. When planning your invitations:

  • invite journalists and editors from publications that reach your most important customers and prospects;
  • give details of time and location and try to confirm who will be attending;
  • give the press plenty of notice and try to plan the timing so that editorial coverage will appear in the next issue of the most important monthly publications;
  • explain the reasons for the conference in advance and ensure that journalists understand the importance of the event;
  • if any important press contacts cannot attend, send a press pack and arrange a separate meeting if necessary.
Hold an Online Press Briefing

For urgent press briefings or briefings that only involve selected journalists, you may be able to arrange an online briefing, saving time and cost. Journalists have the choice of joining the briefing live via a Webcast or downloading the briefing later. Your invitation should give the date and time of the Webcast, together with the Internet address. If you wish to protect security by restricting access to the Webcast, you must issue passwords to invited journalists. The downloadable version should be available on your Web Site with a brief explanation of the content and links to any other related material.

Arrange Online Interviews with Key People

You can take the online briefing a stage further by offering selected journalists the opportunity to hold a question and answer session with a senior executive or specialist. The session can take place via a video or telephone link, with journalists placing questions via a moderator. The event and the numbers need to be carefully managed to ensure that each journalist has reasonable time and opportunity to ask his or her own questions.

Provide Transcripts of Conferences and Interviews

As well as audio or video downloads of online press conferences and interviews, you should also provide written transcripts which journalists can print or download for easy editing. The transcript should include links to any relevant company or biographical details.

Create a Press Cuttings Library

As well as providing copies of your own press releases, you should include copies of news items or articles about your organization that have appeared in the press. You can either reproduce these as scanned copies of the original or provide links to an online version on the publication's Web Site. If your organization is featured in a radio or television news program, you may be able to obtain video or audio clips for downloading.

Produce "Cut-and-Paste" Press Packs

If you are launching a new product or making an important announcement, you can produce an online press pack that includes all the information journalists need:

  • introduction
  • press release giving details of the product or event
  • news clippings
  • audio clips or transcripts of press statements
  • photographs
  • background information
  • company information
  • contacts for further information

The material should be supplied in Word or text format for easy editing.

Offer Multimedia Content

To gain the widest possible coverage in the media, you should include any available audio and video content on your Web Site. This would include interviews, press briefings, product demonstrations, or product information. The material should be available in different formats for downloading by any journalist.

Set Up an Online Press Center

You can bring all of your press information together in one place, increasing convenience for journalists. This can be identified on the Web Site as news@abcxyz.com,press@abcxyz.com or similar. The press center should include all relevant information:

  • current press releases
  • press release archive
  • photographs and biographies
  • company and financial information
  • articles
  • news coverage
  • contacts
  • key dates (events, product launches, financial results)
  • video and audio clips
  • Webcasts and podcasts
Manage Your Press Center

Online press information must be managed as carefully as conventional press relations. It's essential to check all information for accuracy and legal compliance. You also need to obtain approval from any internal or external sources. As well as managing content, you should monitor the performance of the site. How many visitors are coming to the press center? What are the most popular downloads?

Are any pages attracting low numbers of visitors? By constantly monitoring the site, you can ensure that it remains a useful and popular tool for journalists.

What to AvoidYou Provide Out-of-Date Content

Your content must be kept up to date so that journalists only report the latest news. Remove older or updated press releases and archive them. Make sure that biographies and photographs are up to date. If you provide links to further information, make sure the links reach the latest files.

You Fail to Provide Easy access to Press Information

Make sure journalists can find press information easily by putting clear links from your homepage. You can also put the latest stories as headlines on your homepage with links to the full story. Include an e-mail address and Web Site details on all your printed press material.

Where to Learn MoreBook:

Breakenridge, Deirdre, and Thomas J. DeLoughry, The New PR Toolkit: Strategies for Successful Media Relations. Pearson Education, Inc., 2003.

Web Site:

Global PR Blog Week 2.0: www.globalprblogweek.com