The evolving role of the online newsroom

The NASDAQ OMX Communications Suite team yesterday presented a webinar on “The role of the online newsroom in the age of social media”, highlighting an ever-increasing need in Corporate Communications for such a media hub.

The webinar was hosted by NASDAQ OMX VP, Sam Phillips, who gave us an industry background of an ever-expanding media universe and brand conversations, and also an increased need for companies to be transparent and accountable. Part of that means readily available information and resources, and in a social media driven environment, these must be easy to find and share. We were also fortunate to be joined by Stacy-Marie Ishmael, writer, blogger and former FT journalist, and Hector Marinez, Senior Corporate Communications Manager at global technology company, Nvidia, both of whom shared some excellent insights into how best to achieve this.

As a journalist, Stacy-Marie focused on the ever-increasing time and resource pressures on media publishers, and how we, as content publishers ourselves for our companies, can make journalists’ lives easier. There is no longer the traditional next-day deadline – all journalists are now like wire journalists, argued Stacy, with copy being filed on-line first with very quick turnaround. Few outlets also have the luxury of a picture desk, yet readers are keen for a rich media experience.

A media center can help journalists by centralizing all of a company’s resources (whether IR or PR), with easily downloadable hi-res images and B-roll video to embed. Crucially, the media center must also have named PR contacts and direct email addresses, as generic ‘info@’ and contact forms to fill in rarely bring timely results (if at all). Mobile numbers are always helpful as copy is often filed outside of office hours, and pdf attachments were strongly advised against in emails – keep any text within the body email, and embed images and videos as necessary. Finally, Stacy’s advice of ‘don’t be creepy’ on social media translates into not ‘friending’ journalists on Facebook, or following on Twitter using anonymous or misleading accounts. As ever, transparency and accountability are key.

Hector took us on a tour of Nvidia’s new media center, and its transformation from something fairly static and dry which previously took 48h to update, to a dynamic, multimedia content hub, updatable within minutes. He described the newsroom as being a “vehicle to serve journalist needs in a timely manner”, something which is evident from the center’s homepage:

Journalists can quickly find Nvidia’s latest press releases, top stories, and social media and blogs aggregated. An ‘In the News’ section allows journalists to see Nvidia’s recent media mentions, fully searchable by keywords and categories. The multimedia gallery provides easy to search and download multi resolution images, and broadcast-quality video (something which will soon replace slow and expensive hard copy delivery to journalists).

Integrating all of Nvidia’s social media feeds allows journalists to quickly find relevant user conversations around the brand and individual products with keyword searching, all without leaving the newsroom. The integrated blog allows moderation control, and being owned by PR within the newsroom, ensures consistent brand messaging across channels. Finally, the newsroom lists all of Nvidia’s official social media channels, something which is increasingly useful to clarify as unofficial spoof and protest social media accounts proliferate against high profile companies.

What’s clear is the ever-expanding number of touchpoints an organization now faces, with social media driving the agenda. ‘Traditional’ influencers such as journalists are under more pressure than ever to find and deliver relevant content and stories around your company, and ‘non-traditional’ influencers on social media are keen to read and share your content amongst their niche audiences. The media center has become less of a static repository to more of a dynamic content hub, with us, the communications professionals being the key gatekeepers of this content creation and delivery.

NASDAQ OMX group designs, delivers, and manages corporate newsrooms across all sectors. More information around the webinar is now available for download, and if you’re interested in seeing how we can help, and understanding some more best practices across your industry, please feel free to reach out to sam.phillips@nasdaqomx.com +44 (0)207 033 7543 and we’d be delighted to help.

The Social Media Newsroom Part 3: Comments

Featured

This is the third instalment in my 5-part series about Social Media Newsrooms – to read more about the series read my introductory article here.

Parts 3, 4 and 5 of this series will look at some specific suggestions for things you can do to make your newsroom social, with some good and bad examples of where other companies have done so.  Today I’m having a look at comments, Part 4 will be about using the newsroom to support your social channels and in part 5 I will look at how to make your content more personal.

When looking at how to bring in some two-way dialogue to a company’s newsroom one obvious place to start with is allowing members of the public, or the specific community you are targeting, to post their thoughts, comments and questions on your site in response to your news pieces, blog posts and even press releases.

However, one thing I really don’t like to see on a corporate newsroom or blog is spammy comments!  If you see a blog that has comments that are clearly spam lingering around on their site for days, weeks or even longer what does it say to you?  What it says to me is that there is clearly no-one moderating the site and probably no-one actually bothering to read what people are saying in the comments.

Comments spam and ignored questions – HP blogs

HP has a pretty-looking blog site that is actually a hub pulling together a number of blogs on various topics.

But are they really taking the comments seriously or is this just another gimmick?  Take a look at this post title “Answering your questions”.  Ironically, given the title of the post, no-one has bothered to reply to the people who posted questions in the comments in response to this post.  The last post here from “leo” is clearly spam trying to get some link juice from the HP site (and if you look around other posts you’ll find plenty of spam).  What do you conclude by looking at these comments?  HP isn’t really paying any attention to the community on their site…

Allowing comments and responding to them – Microsoft Hardware Blog

Microsoft have a vast array of blogs on a variety of topics nicely laid out with a summary of the latest posts.  Not all blogs allow comments and you do find the occasional spam but what I like about many of these blogs is that Microsoft does actually respond to the comments people post.

Microsoft Hardware Blog Imagehttp://www.microsofthardwareblog.com/we-want-your-feedback/

This shows a much more genuine attempt to use comments as a way of engaging with people through the site.

How much freedom should people be given to say what they want? Should negative comments be allowed?

This is a tricky question to answer and a lot depends on both the wider culture of a company and also on regulatory requirements.  Aside from preventing abusive posts, spam, blatant self-promotion or links to indecent or illegal content, how far a company goes in allowing people to air their views is really a matter of discretion.

One really interesting example of a company that takes a very tolerant approach to comments on their own site is General Electric.

Take a look at this post about the nuclear meltdown in Japan after the Tsunami and the role that GE played in tackling the crisis.  There are over 111 comments in response to this article, many go beyond negative and are quite damning, it doesn’t really get much worse than being blamed for a nuclear disaster, does it?

The people posting are a broad mix with some people claiming to be engineers and even nuclear experts themselves.  GE have not responded to individual comments but it is interesting to see how commentators with differing views interact with each other.

Do these posts damage GE’s reputation?  GE obviously don’t think so.  Everyone coming to the site first reads GE’s official statement and there are links to other information and posts from GE about the issue on this site.  The community that has developed on this site has also developed a degree of self-correction with individual posters correcting the most blatantly erroneous statements from other posters and there is quite a lively debate about how to tackle the nuclear problems in Japan and the pros and cons of nuclear energy more generally.

There isn’t the usual level of spam, off-topic posts or self-promotion on this site which suggests to me that someone from GE is moderating comments.  Meaning that these negative posts are not there simply because no-one has noticed.

Now the question is, would you let someone say this about your company on your blog?

Comment from a member of the public on GE Reports blog

But look also how the community on the site supply each other with information.  There are a lot of well informed commentators taking part in the discussion.

Comment in GE Reports Blog

I will be interested to hear people’s thoughts on whether such an approach is good for GE but what you can’t deny is that this is ‘social’ in a real sense and also quite ‘brave’ of GE to permit such criticism in a space they control.

In the next part of the series I will be looking at how to use your newsroom to facilitate conversations in other channels.  Thanks for reading!

The Social Media Newsroom Guide Part 2: The Golden Rules of a Social Newsroom

Featured

This is the second instalment in my 5-part series about Social Media Newsrooms – to read more about the series read my introductory article here.

Parts 3, 4 and 5 of this series will look at some specific suggestions for things you can do to make your newsroom social, with some good and bad examples of where other companies have done so.  In Part 3 I’ll look at comments, part 4 will be about using the newsroom to support your social channels and in part 5 I will look at how to make your content more personal.

But first, here are my 3 “golden rules” about what constitutes being social in a corporate communications context:

The 3 Golden Rules of being Social in Corporate Communications

Rule 1 – Conversations must be two-way

You can use as many social media channels as you like but if the mode of communication on each channel is still only one-way broadcast are you really gaining anything?  Just posting on twitter doesn’t mean you are being social any more than being in a gym means you are exercising.

Rule 2 – Communication must be personal

Your business is made up of your people.  Your PR team is a team of people.  Do you always have to communicate behind the mask of your corporate logo?  Bring out the individuals in your business – they will often have their own networks that you can connect with through your site.  Put a name and a face to your communications as often as possible.  In order to be social you have to first of all be human.

Rule 3 – The focus is on the audience

One thing that makes ‘social’ communication distinct from traditional PR is the willingness to share content that isn’t directly aimed at promoting the brand or selling goods or services.   This can involve inviting people from outside the business to create content on your site or sharing links to content not created or related to your business.  The goal here is to create or direct people to content because you think it will be interesting to them not because it’s directly beneficial to you.

I could talk about communicating with an audience where they are but I’m focusing here on things that can make the newsroom social, not more widely on how businesses can be more social in general.

If you want more on the specifics then come back next week when I will be publishing the remaining 3 parts of the series.  Thanks for reading!

The Social Media Newsroom Guide Part 1: How to Fake it

Featured

This is the first instalment in my 5-part series about Social Media Newsrooms – to read more about the series read my introductory article here.

Many companies want to be seen as “social” – there are now numerous case studies showing how social engagement online can be beneficial for business of many types. Certainly, many marketers and PR people want to be seen to be engaging in social media as it’s the latest thing to be seen doing as a marketing/comms professional.

But sometimes the priority can be on “appearing social” rather than actually being social and this can be seen in the way many companies approach communications through their website.  This is most apparent when you look at the company’s newsroom section – i.e. the place where they publish company news and/or press releases.

In terms of what qualifies a newsroom for the additional badge-of-honour prefix “social media” I think the recipe, in the minds of some companies, works as follows:

Step 1
Take one tired looking online press office.

Step 2
Stick in a few Facebook Like/Recommend or Tweet This buttons so people think they can share the story on their social media channel of choice. These buttons don’t actually have to work, just make sure the buttons are clearly visible. Throw in a few other channels for good measure (LinkedIn is popular, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon too and if you are really current try Google’s +1).

Step 3
Instead of hosting your videos on your site host them on YouTube. Everyone knows YouTube is “social” – don’t worry, you can disable comments if you don’t want people saying your videos are boring and your company sucks on a channel you can’t moderate.

Step 4
Make sure you put a few pictures on Flickr. Some people still use Flickr and people will instantly recognise the logo so it will create a warm fuzzy social media feeling inside.

Step 5
Tag clouds! Every web 2.0 site HAS to have one of these. They also make your site look like a blog and blogs are social, right?

Step 6
Show your latest tweets. This may be just a feed showing tweets telling people what’s on the page that they are already on or it may be a stream of tweets to various people apologising that their experience of your company has been bad and telling them to speak to customer services. Either way, twitter is super-social, so just shove it in. It doesn’t matter if the tweets you are displaying offer no information whatsoever to the person on your newsroom that they a) want and b) didn’t have access to already on that page.

Step 7 (optional)
Add some pictures. Podcasts are also funky; if you have them throw them in too. If you have some presentations, why not stick these on Slideshare too?  The more logos of recognised social media channels you can squeeze in to your site the better.

JOB DONE! You now have a “social media newsroom” which you can tell the world about.

“Social” – really?

Don’t get me wrong. Sarcastic comments aside, I’m not saying that any of the things I’ve listed above are bad – in fact many are actually good things that I would recommend. Tag clouds, for example, are a useful way for people to navigate through your content. And there’s certainly no harm in putting videos on YouTube or pictures on Flickr. Many of the self-styled “social media newsrooms” that I’ve seen are actually quite good as far as a corporate newsroom goes and often give a better user experience than newsrooms from other companies in their sector.

What I’m objecting to here is the notion that there is actually anything genuinely “social” about these sites. In my view, the self-applied moniker “social media” is often nothing more than a gimmick – reinforcing some of the more negative stereotypes about PR as a profession in general, i.e. doing something for a headline when the substance doesn’t match up.

But why do it? If a site is genuinely social do you really need to call it ‘social’?  Shouldn’t it be up to the people visiting a newsroom to decide for themselves if the site is social or not?  If they think it is they will ‘vote with their fingers’ by sharing/recommending your content and by taking part in a conversation with you.

Subscribe to our blog or follow me on twitter to get updates on my next posts in this series.

Next in the series: The 3 Golden Rules of Social Engagement in a Newsroom

The Social Media Newsroom – a 5-part Guide

Featured

Last week I came across news of yet another corporate newsroom site launched under the headline of “company X launches social media newsroom” and I found myself again wondering, as I browsed through the site, ‘why have they called this a “social media newsroom” as opposed to just a “newsroom”’.

I’ve seen a number of examples where companies have called their corporate news site a “social media newsroom”. Some of these sites do look rather good and have some nice functionality in them, both for journalists visiting the site and for the public. But when you look through the site it is hard to find anything particularly social about it.

All of this has gotten me thinking about what exactly it is that makes a newsroom social? Are we sometimes confusing what represents best practice, in terms of web design, functionality and usability, with actual social engagement? I think we often do, as I’ve seen a number of these “social media newsrooms” receive praise from some for being groundbreaking when in fact they aren’t really doing anything social at all and it can come across as a bit of a gimmick.

So this an introduction for my guide to building a more social newsroom for your business. I’ve resisted the urge to name and shame the worst offenders when it comes to undeserved “social” badges but I will be mentioning a few examples of companies that I think do a good job of it.

Small Business vs Large Corporations

Some of the best examples of using social media in corporate communications actually come from small businesses, but my experience in working in this area mainly comes from working with large corporations. Bigger businesses have both opportunities and restrictions when it comes to engaging in social media that smaller businesses don’t have – so my focus in this series (as with all my posts) is on the larger organisations. If you have good examples from smaller businesses do please share these though!

Part 1: The Social Media Newsroom – How to Fake it

If you’re not quick, you’re not relevant

Featured

At Glide we know that things don’t always run smoothly. This is why we have a suite of tools to help communicators deal with crisis communications in an efficient, responsive and brand strengthening fashion.

Dark Sites
Activated as and when needed, these websites show the world how seriously you are taking things and how committed you are to providing fast honest updates. Combined with our social media module you can display all of the press releases, updates, tweets, Facebook and blog posts that you’ve been managing in this crisis. All under one tightly controlled roof.

Call Logging & Incident Management
Behind the scenes the phones will be ringing off the hook. Help your team manage this by using our incident manager with updating ‘lines to take’ feature. They can see what the latest ‘for offer’ and ‘not for offer’ information is to help them manage the deluge of enquiries and ensure consistent messaging.

Tracking the Conversation
Does anyone care about this? What’s the real impact to your brand, your stock prices, your sales? Track the conversation and make sense of it all using GlideIntelligence services – daily analyst reports, top stories cherry picked for you, realtime sentiment analysis – the works. You can even poll your customers via GlideInsight.

The press release that got over 30k unique visitors

Featured

It’s all about optimising content. Watch my video about the press release that got over 30k unique visitors here.

If my video is about effective engagement, this blog is about opportunities missed.

What opportunities do corporate PRs forgo if they fail to optimise content?

What risks do corporate PRs run if they remain wedded to comms practises that are no longer aligned to the environment in which they operate?

So here’s my top three list of lost opportunities:

  1. Journalist-only focus: Here’s what a global VP of marketing told me last week. He said two years ago it was all about journalists and corporate stakeholders. Now that no longer adds up. Most people that come to his website are not mainstream media or investors. So the newsroom is not just for journalists; it’s for current and future employees, customers, bloggers, investors, sustainability advocates, and community leaders. The lesson here is we ignore our expanded roster of stakeholders at our peril. Not a risk worth taking.
  2. Not providing options to share on social networks (tweet this, Facebook like, Stumbleupon etc): Yesterday I had a session with a comms director for a major retailer. He told me a critical objective for him is to “make more noise”. I asked him how many employees the company had. Turns out they employ over 130,000 people and the majority of those people are from the “Facebook generation”. So he recognises he has an untapped asset that can communicate his core messages (“make more noise”). Of course the content has to be composed and packaged appropriately so that it can be shared and re-shared easily. Imagine this company has a campaign around organic fresh food. Let’s say they communicate this with their own employees and one in ten like the campaign enough to share it with their family and friends on Facebook. On average people have 130 friends on Facebook so that’s potentially a personal recommendation of your story to over 1 million people – that hasn’t cost you anything. And that is just one group of stakeholders. As an ex-journalist himself he noted that journalists share content with each other via twitter. So it makes sense to make it easy for them to do so. Point made.
  3. Not linking to relevant content: So let’s say a blogger has read an article about your CEO and sustainability that a friend shared with them via twitter. The article has got a link back to the original post on your site. So now what do you do? If your story is about sustainability then why not have a list of related stories on the same subject alongside the article? Now this blogger can find out more about your initiatives in this area and has access to additional content. He’s able to write his own story and add something new to the discussion rather than just repeating what’s already been said. The blogger is happy, the PR is effective and the CEO’s message has increased exposure. Job done.

This list is not exhaustive. These are just three quick wins. Please feel free to add to the list.

Alistair

Online newsrooms of the future – Part 2

Following on from my last post, the evolution of the audience to your newsroom, along with fast growth of influential blogs and use of social media have made it essential for companies to ensure these channels work effectively, side by side.

From press release to blog

Newsrooms of the future will be conversational and more blog like in terms of allowing commenting on the content they hold. This type of conversational approach can give brands the perfect opportunity to engage firsthand with their audiences and can provide instant, valuable insight for product and service development.

Learn how to tell a story in new ways

I listened to Elma Peters, the Corporate Communications Director at GE speak at the European Communication Summit in 2010. She described “360 degree storytelling” and how, as a team, they had to get better at telling stories to help GE engage with the audiences which lie outside mainstream media (including employees past and present).

She also spoke of the challenge laid down to them by their VP of Global Communications “to make one major announcement which doesn’t come from a press release.”

Forward thinking companies like GE have already realised the need to diversify – how often do you watch TV whilst surfing the net or posting to your social media channel of choice?

Give your newsroom some authority in your industry

Newsrooms of the future will pull in news from around their industry to help establish them as hubs of industry knowledge. The ISC Newsroom as quoted on David Henderson’s blog is a great example of this type of authoritative brand positioning.

Make clever use of social media

The exposure brands receive on social media can be leveraged on online newsrooms to enhance user experience. Sony’s Press Centre was redesigned to make better use of the vast exposure which they receive around their products on social media sites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

Bringing in user generated content to their online newsroom really helps Sony to bring their content to life by adding the voice of their consumers and fans to content they created.

What’s important is that you start with your business objectives in mind, then you get creative.

Sam

Online newsrooms of the future – Part 1

Aside

Back when I first started selling the concept of online newsrooms to PR and Communications teams, the idea was simple – provide an online repository for press releases and multimedia assets which could be accessed by journalists online, 24/7.

Fast forward a number of years and the explosion of online as a communication channel has radically altered the PR landscape forever.

The role of PR has evolved to more than a need to reach out to traditional media outlets and audiences. PR has become the organisational force behind how brands communicate across different channels. Therefore, online newsrooms of the (not so distant) future have to evolve too. Step one? Time to review your audience.

Redefine your audience

The online newsroom of the future won’t have a single audience, they will have many: customers, donors, volunteers, employees and investors, each looking to have their needs fulfilled by the content you deliver.

Understanding your audience well makes it easier for you to tailor your content and messaging.

Turn your online newsroom into a brand hub

Successful newsrooms of the future will become their own content and social media hubs. They will become the first place users go to get the latest information, images, market responses, and thought leadership from your company.

It’s important that brands have control over their content and don’t rely too heavily on free ‘tools of the moment’ either, especially when the content they store on them can be campaign critical. Case in point; one of the worlds biggest electronic firms found itself banned from Flickr during one of their biggest shows of the year for apparent “self promotion”. It’s a fickle world when someone else makes the rules.

The newsrooms we build for our clients enables them to store a variety of content, such as text, images, video etc, all of which can be used much like the way most sites make use of Twitter feeds. Best of all, they can tag it, distribute it and share it any way they like.

My next post will outline the importance of blogs and social media channels, and the impact they can have on a company’s newsroom. You can read it here.

Sam

Perfect imperfection

There are lots of things wrong with the Kindle. But I love it. How can that be? How can it be that I’ve spent a hundred quid on a piece of kit that doesn’t work 100% as I want it to, but I still think it’s brilliant?

Well it does what I mostly want it to do. It presents me with a million books at my fingertips. It lets my computer-weary eyes rest on delicious matt print which honestly looks as good as a book. I can turn pages with one finger and no lengthy tome can defeat my single hand. It’s great and I take it everywhere.

It’s a bummer that you can’t quickly jump between chapters. Its a pain that sometimes it forgets what page you’re on and you have to scroll for ages. It doesn’t deal with symbols very well and some of the free books have been formatted by volunteers so they don’t read all that well. Apparently you can listen to music while you read, but I’ve not worked out how yet and it did some funny things to me when I was browsing Amazon in Ireland. Browsing the bookstore unless you know the name of the book or author is fairly tough full stop.

But I still love it. And I never thought I would. The idea of giving up on paper and print was abhorrent – until someone mentioned the number of books I could have on it. And how many were free. And how I could have a book within 30 seconds and be reading it. At that point it was all over – I was in lust and the honeymoon period seems to be lasting.

But more than this, I love the way they deal with their imperfections.

In the manual they have a whole section on things that are included on your Kindle which are still in development. It asks for my comments, suggestions and feedback. It actually makes me feel part of something that’s growing and improving. I feel that as a reader, I have ownership of the direction that this wonderful little device is taking. I feel part of a community and will take the time to show other commuters (who always ask me how the screen looks and how I’m finding it) and tell them honestly how much I love it. I’m a zealot of an imperfectly wonderful bit of kit.

And I guess that’s the point of this ramble. If you want your service or product to be what your users want it to be, just be honest about what you have, and get down on your knees and beg for their feedback and ideas. Make it their product not yours. Keep it moving and improving and keep your ears open and mouth shut.

That’s my new role in a nutshell. I’m here to ensure that Glide develops the platform in the direction that our community of users wants and needs, making it the best PR tool available on the market. Simple? You tell me!

Samantha