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We recently noticed that our online press centre is in need of some serious love and attention, as a number of basic features are missing. With this in mind I thought I’d compile a post that we can use internally to make some improvements. 

There are a surprising amount of ‘basics’ that I think are key components of any online press centre. 

Some of my points aren’t going to apply to all companies, and others aren’t strictly necessary, but as a rule – and speaking from the perspective of a former journalist - I’d say around a dozen of the following points are essential.

About. All websites need an ‘About’ page. It’s one of the first things a journalist will look out for when looking for information on your company. 

Company history. Why not include a timeline of the company’s development, from inception to the present day?

Key facts. Help writers to flesh out articles with some (fast, and up-to-date) facts. Basics might include things like revenue, profits, number of employees, number of stores, unique users, etc. Comet, which has a fine press centre, shows us exactly how to do this.

Team. Include profiles of founders and key executives, with relevant links and details on how to contact them (use a form if the idea of displaying your CEO’s email address gives you The Fear).

Media contacts. Names, telephone numbers, emails, etc. BP displays pictures of its press officers, but - for reasons that may be somewhat self-evident - stops short of allowing journalists to contact them directly.

Press releases. Include your latest press releases, in HTML format. PDFs and Word documents should only be available only in addition to news displayed as web pages. Don’t make journalists jump through hoops to read about your latest developments.

Company news. Press releases are formal, whereas a company-focused blog tends to provide you with a softer way of sharing news. If you have a blog then why not display a list of the most recent headlines? Note that some blogs might not be suitable… it depends on subject scope. 

Image gallery. If a journalist wants to include a picture to accompany an article then you should try to make it easy for this to happen, and on your terms, using your images. Otherwise the journalist will roam around Google Images or Flickr to find something suitable. Images of key personnel, products, stores, etc, should be made available for download. Some organisations, such as MoMA, have password-protected this area (I'm not exactly sure why this approach necessary). 

Brand / creative assets. This follows on from ‘Image gallery’. Logos are often used as part of features and you’d much rather provide a high-res version than a slightly pixelated and off-colour version plundered from some other website. 

Events calendar. Do you run events? Are any of your executives speaking at third party events? Appearing at any conferences? Shout about it via an events calendar. It can help you to connect with journalists (who also attend events). Benetton provides a good example of how to go about this, and note the 'reminder alerts' it offers to journalists. 

Search. Make it easy for journalists to search through your press centre, with a dedicated search tool (as opposed to a site search tool).

'In the news'. Compile a curated list of headline links to stories about your brand that have recently appeared in the press. Blinkx is one firm that isn't shy about doing this.

Social media profiles. Include links to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, etc. You can also pull in content from these sites to display in your press centre, if appropriate.

Subscribe. Allow journalists to tune in to your updates, by email or RSS.

Videos. Text-based press releases are one way of communicating news, but rich media can play a part too. Relevant videos might include keynote speeches, AGMs, interviews with the media, etc. Remember to use a widely accessible format for videos (Flash is installed on 96% of browsers, whereas Microsoft Silverlight hasn’t yet achieved 70% market penetration, according to riastats). 

Awards. What have you won lately? Shout about it in your media centre.

Investor relations. Investor relations is – as the label suggests - aimed at investors, though financial (and other) journalists will often frequent this area of a website. Public companies often align investor relations with their press centres, making annual and interim reports available for download, displaying the latest share price and outlining the shareholder structure. 

Corporate social responsibility. Like investor relations, this is a bigger, broader topic that isn’t just reserved for the press. Nevertheless, journalists like to understand a company’s values, just as customers do. 

What did I miss? What do you agree or disagree with? Please leave a comment below…

Chris Lake

Published 25 January, 2011 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

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Joe Wiggins

Good post - I think you've covered all the main points. There are a couple of things which some companies do which really bug me though. The first is using 'contact us' forms rather than just giving out email addresses. It looks like those companies are keeping people at arms length and gives the visitor no confidence that the inquiry will be dealt with.

The second is posting coverage as company news. It’s fine to post your coverage and include links to online articles where you have been quoted. It shows that you are a mover and a shaker. But don’t dress them up as ‘press releases’ or something that they are not. Stick your coverage in a section called ‘in the news’ or ‘media coverage’ or something like that.

over 5 years ago

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plemoo

As a news writer I would also love to see more companies actually add their press releases to their websites on the day that they are published.

It's frustrating to pick up on an interesting bit of news via Google/blogs, only to head to the company in question's website and find that the latest press release was uploaded three years ago.

One organisation I used to cover frequently was in the habit of uploading their PRs 3 weeks after the initial announcement!

Obviously it's just a matter of an email/phone call to the company's media relations dept to retrieve the PR, but for those of us with very tight deadlines it would make a huge difference to be able to access an up-to-date press room!

over 5 years ago

Scott Hunt

Scott Hunt, eMarketing Executive at eSterling ltd

Great Post Chris, this clearly highlights ways in which companies can structure both their communications points and areas for continued online content growth in more areas than just a blog and twitter account.

This really could be used as a contribution tick list which companies could adapt and build on as part of an ongoing digital strategy. 

over 5 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Joe - yep, agree with all of that. 'Media coverage' is a good label. Forms are in my view perfectly ok so long as somebody actually responds to them, and there's always the threat that they'll be ignored. That's just bad practice though... 

@plemoo - I actually wrote a couple of extra paragraphs on best practice, which would have covered your point on freshness, but wanted to keep this post focused on the building of the house, as opposed to its maintenance and upkeep. Totally agree with you though. I actually went to Yahoo's (much improved) press centre as I remember that it wasn't the best at posting press releases on the the day they were released. Seems to be better now. The whole point of having a press releases section is so that writers don't need to bother PRs, and can get on with the job of writing!

@Clare - thanks. I guess it is a checklist of sorts. That's really why I put it together: it's what I want our online press centre to look like (though I'll be the first to admit that it isn't right at the top of our list of priorities, and with a small tech team these things always take time to fix up).

over 5 years ago

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Richard Michie

As a Marketing Director, I'm always looking for ways to increase PR coverage of my company, so I try to make getting information as easy as possible for everyone. With social media being what it is virtually every visitor is a journalist who can spread a story and I'm very conscious of that. I'll be working through this post and implementing as much as I can. Hope it pays off

over 5 years ago

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Jim Michell

Excellent post Chris, there are some great suggestions which I'll use to strengthen our own online press centre. As a PR agency with a strong focus on digital, we've found that our online press centre is a real asset to our clients, in particular the use of RSS feeds. You're right to say that they are another way journalists can opt in to receive company news but they can do so much more besides - clients can pull in a feed of company press releases to their own websites which automatically update their news pages or a news ticker, which also carries SEO benefits for the client's site. RSS can also update corporate profiles on Twitter, Facebook and Linked In and generate automatic RSS-driven emails.

over 5 years ago

Scott Hunt

Scott Hunt, eMarketing Executive at eSterling ltd

Hi Chris, I feel I need to expland a little on my first comment.

Working for a small seo agency and providing a service predominately for other small companies. What I should have said with regards to the checklist comment is that many of the companies I deal with have no idea what they should be doing with regards to creating regular relevant content and how to communicate this to their audience. 

PR and Marketing to them has no clear meaning and is seen as a drain rather than a way to grow the company. (I believe this is often due to there being no marketing structure within the organisation, let alone PR.)

Items you listed such as News, Videos, Social, Events and Awards, are a clear guide for even the smallest business. In order to pro-actively communicate with customers/prospects, they need to be doing something positive in each of these categories which can then be communicated in a variety of different mediums.

By following your guide (some or all of it), can help to encourage and structure communication.

Kudos once again on the post.

over 5 years ago

Pauline Christie

Pauline Christie, Founder & CEO at ://CORPORACT

Thanks for your excellent post, Chris. Spot on. There may be a few extra reference pointers here in our "building an online media centre" article - http://corporact.com/building-media-centre. You have identified most of them. Over the years Corporact has worked on developing many online media centres (including Comet's - thanks for your praise) and built software specifically designed to bring all the common functions of a traditional press office - news releases, images, corporate information, etc - to the online arena. Pretty much anything is now possible technologically and your online media centre must look good too. However, it takes good content managers or savvy communications professionals working behind the scenes to ensure that their online news environments are kept bang up-to-date, populated with latest news and look good. So loving care and attention and speed and ease of management should come quite high on any check list. Good luck with your own press office developments.

over 5 years ago

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Gareth Rees

Brilliant list, and something I'll certainly be using as a reference for some clients. I think the end game is really to provide journalists or other interested parties the information they need in the format they require it as simply and as quickly as they require it. While some companies might not be able to provide everything in your list, there's certainly at least a few everyone should be able to muster up.

over 5 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Pauline - Top marks on the Comet press centre! One of the best I spotted when researching this post. It's good to see a firm dedicated to this niche. Agree with what you say about the need for quality content managers.

over 5 years ago

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Wellyword

Awesome post Chris. As a company owner and comms specialist it's great to see all this info pulled into one place. I think that creating this 'media centre' concept is really important for small business owners. E-coverage is such a powerful marketing tool today and SME owners would do well to see how these large companies are doing it and translate this to their own websites.

Just my two cents about your 'videos' section. Note that flash isn't available on the iphone (although I think it is via apps now). I think it's just better anyway to post your videos to a thirdparty site (youtube or whatever) and pull them from there. This uses less bandwidth on your site and provides more linkbacks as well as another arena for feedback from viewers.

over 5 years ago

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Donna Vitan

Superb listing overview of things that every company/person should have on their website, regardless the size of the organization or what you are presenting.

over 5 years ago

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