Back before brand journalism revolutionized websites, company newsrooms tended to post links to press releases and maybe a catch-all phone number on the side.
That’s no longer enough. Companies are using their newsrooms to tell stories and engender news media coverage. They are thinking not only about journalists, but how to reach consumers and customers. They are offering b-roll with compelling action, as well as executive interviews that TV stations can crib from.
Here are a few organizations’ newsrooms you can draw inspiration from:
Coca-Cola Journey: Beyond the old-fashioned newsroom
Coca-Cola caught the attention of the PR world when it launched an ambitious brand journalism project, Coca-Cola Journey, to tell its story. Rather than establishing a separate storytelling platform, Coke boldly turned its main corporate site into a webzine. Furthermore, it announced it was going to kill the press release.
Coca-Cola was already all-in on the idea of designing for smartphones in 2013, and its commitment to a mobile newsroom endures.
“With smartphones in the hands of so many people, we now have a tremendous ability to deepen engagement with our consumers,” a company leader said at the time.
Coke staffed its newsroom with people who had journalism backgrounds. You’ll find stories on can’t-miss state fairs and entertainment mogul Tyler Perry’s visit to Coca-Cola’s Atlanta headquarters. Coke realized that its people were a selling point, and its careers section doesn’t just list openings, but also tells stories about its people. As a company with a history dating from 1892, Coke understands the value of archival content. The site even boasts social content—inviting fans to upload photos of their “Coca-Cola moments.”
Reporter resources can be reached with a tap from the front page of the mobile platform. It’s easy to find contacts by region, although I’d like to see Coke add contacts at the bottom of every press release.
Cisco: Tech news, smartly designed
Cisco is one of the leaders in its field, but the first iteration of a brand journalism website looked as if it had been designed on a typewriter. The content was excellent. The design? Not so much. That’s improved, though. Its clean, smart responsive design looks spiffy on a desktop, tablet or phone.
Cisco is among the tech giants offering rich content, making them look more like a magazine than a corporate newsroom. Stories feature Cisco’s good-citizen efforts, such as Hurricane Florence relief, and technologically oriented think pieces from its stable of expert writers (“The many applications for blockchain,” for one). There are serious company announcements and fun pieces (“5 jokes only programmers would understand”).
One lesson to draw is this: Make it easy to navigate. From a smartphone, you can tap on a drop-down list for different sections: Home, News Releases, Corporate, Regions and Category (such as Digital, Innovation, People & Culture, etc.).
Glory be, the news releases include named contacts, emails and phone numbers.
Cleveland Clinic: Health tips and, um, ‘musical fruit’
Cleveland Clinic was among the hospital groups to grasp an essential truth: People are hungry for news about health, not the expensive procedures health care executives are hoping to sell.
The clinic’s HealthEssentials site discusses matters of wellness, diet and exercise in the way everyday people do, as in the article, “The Musical Fruit: What You Should Know About Beans (and Gas).” If that man in your life seems to be angry all the time, you might be interested in “Is He Depressed or Just Crabby?”
The famed hospital’s health blog draws millions of visitors a month, but it would not be the powerhouse it is if it spent all its time touting colonoscopies and bariatrics surgery. Its ultimate objective is brand awareness, not patient volume, its content marketing director has said.
A link to “media relations” at the bottom of the page leads to the formal newsroom, with downloadable content and press releases that include names and phone numbers.
H&R Block: The expertise that reporters—and consumers—are seeking
H&R Block works to deliver relevant and timely content, not just to journalists but to consumers as well. The newsroom has launched its internal experts into major publications.
The company often earns news media coverage through newsjacked content—“‘This is Us’ house fire recovery, then and now”—and helpful information for those dealing with the complexities of tax preparation as in “Filing Taxes When A Loved One Is In Prison.” Even when H&R Block doesn’t spark the story, its experts are quoted often, because the newsroom gives them visibility, as in an NBC News story that cited the tax preparer’s vice president of regulatory affairs.
H&R Block’s “Newsroom Resources” offers essentials that reporters ask for, such as news releases, an archive, mini-bios of the newsroom team, leader bios and a media library with b-roll, sound bites and infographics. Plus, it’s all easy to navigate on a phone.
Microsoft: Telling a story
As we noted when we gave Microsoft an award for its corporate newsroom, news.microsoft.com offers frequently updated brand journalism pieces focusing not on products or services, but on people, including customers and employees. The News Center provides what reporters are looking for: executive biographies, analyst reports, executive speeches, fact sheets, video and b-roll, press contacts and (of course) press releases. All of these are easily accessed from a drop-down menu.
Similarly, Microsoft Story Labs reflects a realization that an organization with the population of a city (more than 90,000) has multiple yarns to spin. One piece profiles the guy who composes the bloops and bleeps your computer issues when an email arrives or a battery runs low. Another tells about a Microsoft “technical fellow” who is a computing icon.
Such an approach eases the pressure on PR pros to beg the news media for coverage. Instead organizations can use their own platforms to get the word out.
The borough of Hackney, England: Government news, usefully displayed
It’s not always easy for government entities, operating on a shoestring and hampered by tradition, to come up with a sharp website and invest the money for responsive design.
Hackney’s newsroom (designed with PressPage), pulls it off, with a clean design and content that includes community events (“Play streets galore for Car Free Day in Hackney”) and community history (“explore Hackney’s links to the Caribbean and look at how Black British music has shaped the borough”).
Among other strengths: its design is responsive. If you highlight a quote, a window pops up that makes it easy to retweet, encouraging social media interaction. The Hackney Council Press Office lists its phone number and email address right there on the home page. On behalf of reporters everywhere, thank you, Hackney.
Red Bull: Brilliant content, cautionary tale
I am including Red Bull—a company known for its dynamic content—as a cautionary tale. If you’re looking for inspiration on design and storytelling, Red Bull’s consumer-facing website is hard to beat, and its separate company information site is clean and easy to navigate. The brand is famous for killer stories, images and videos on topics such as madman swimmers, music festivals and bizarre robots doing the jobs you wouldn’t expect, among them novel writing. (Aaaaugh!)
There’s one serious problem: What isn’t easy to navigate is contacts for reporters seeking comment. I had to switch to Google to find a media contact form. Press releases have no phone numbers. All that design and brand journalism prowess is wasted if you make it impossible for journalists to reach you.
As for those “bizarre robots,” how long before they replace all of us writers—to say nothing of PR pros who rely on contact forms (and the occasional energy drink)?
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