Online Media Room

Most orchestras already publish their press releases online; some even distribute them through RSS. But surprisingly few organizations have a complete online media room. The executive summary of the Nielsen Norman Group’s “Designing Websites to Maximize Press Relations” report is an excellent starting point for anyone setting up an online media room.

The report found that “on average, journalists found the answer to simple questions 70% of the time. A Web site success rate of 70% implies the site has a failure rate of 30%. Leaving 30% of press inquiries unanswered would be considered a very poor performance for most traditional PR departments.”

Furthermore, “the ability to find information on a PR site has a strong impact on the journalists’ impression of the site and thus on the way they perceive the company.”

The report lists the top-five reasons journalists gave for visiting a company’s website:

  • Find a PR contact (name and telephone number);
  • Check basic facts about the company (spelling of an executive’s name, his/her age, headquarters location, etc.);
  • Discover the company’s own spin on events;
  • Check financial information;
  • Download images to use as illustrations in stories

What does this mean for orchestras? Besides the obvious, such as PR contacts, press releases and bios, you could provide an image gallery, the latest annual report, a mission statement and much more. Here is an incomplete list of suggestions:

  • Press releases and press release archive;
  • Public relations staff contacts;
  • Add me to your mailing list/Update your contact information;
  • Multimedia: image library/video library/audio library;
  • Fact sheets: mission statement/key statistics, people, numbers and titles;
  • Biographies: artistic leadership/guest artists/musicians/administrative leadership;
  • Financial information: annual report/990-forms;
  • Press kits: season announcement/recordings/other major announcements

The Nielsen Norman Group’s report further recommends several usability components:

  • Provide fast access to basic facts and figures;
  • Provide a simple way to contact a live human being in the PR department; journalists don’t have time to wade through deep, complex navigation trees or sift factual wheat from marketing chaff;
  • In particular, pages must present information in well-organized chunks that are easy to scan. If journalists cannot find what they are looking for on a website, it could impact whether they include information about that company in the story;
  • Present all press information as simple, standard HTML, designed for minimal download times.

As I wrote before, a blogger’s needs are different than the traditional journalist’s needs. You are working with a multi-media outlet. Images don’t need to be provided in a high resolution; most bloggers can work with a Web-ready image. Just make sure you provide information on how they can use the image and the appropriate credit to use. Video, audio and images can really liven up an online story.

If you provide content, make utilization and attribution easy. Consider providing sound samples, interviews, videos and images under a Creative Commons license, which uses “private rights to create public goods: creative works set free for certain uses.”

In May 2006, SHIFT Communications premiered a template for the “social media release” as an alternative to the standard press release. (A PDF of a template can be found here) The social media press release is an online document specifically geared toward new media content users and generators. Although it has its critics, the concept has found wide-spread use by many corporations. Even press release distribution services, such as PR Newswire, have adapted methods of distribution to accommodate the social media release.

The social media release includes multimedia (photo, video and audio) and features new media concepts such as tagging, bookmarking, trackbacks and even commenting. In similar fashion, SHIFT Communications also produced a template for the “social media room.” (PDF)

Keep in mind that these examples are templates. It is up to your organization to figure out what elements are feasible and which work best. Orchestra consultant Drew McManus offers additional advice on adapting materials for new media.

And lastly, keep in mind that, although journalists’ needs should be the focus and priority of your online media room, the public is sure to read your press releases and find your materials. This does not mean you should adapt your materials for a general public, that’s what other, mainly marketing, materials are for, but be aware that the public can and will read what you publish.

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