7 newsroom features that increase journalists’ engagement
Every corporate online newsroom has “musts”—the essential areas that are most visited by reporters and other key users.
At other times, the essentials have a narrower audience, as when Mayo Clinic posts a b-roll interview with a medical expert.
Either way, the two top newsrooms from widely divergent organizations offer lessons that every communicator should consider. Above all, know your business, your industry and the news media well enough to anticipate what will draw reporters and others.
What we’re trying to do is break through the noise and meet the media and the consumer where they are consuming content. We develop fresh content based on our strategic priorities, but we also want to get into the news cycle as well.
Here are a few areas every online newsroom should offer:
1. Multimedia content
Whenever possible, Mayo produces multimedia content, because journalists like to share information in ways that offer consumers a richer experience, Petrovich says. Similarly, visitors are more like to share multimedia content on Facebook and Twitter.
B-roll is in high demand with reporters at downsizing news outlets that are stretched thin, Petrovich says. TV reporters now must handle social media, and newspaper reporters have to shoot video.
A story on the clinic’s first face transplant story was a prime example of media outlets using b-roll that Mayo produced. To protect the patient’s privacy, the clinic recorded interviews with him and made those available, along with interviews with physicians.
Recognizing that viewers often access video where they can’t play the sound, Mayo has taken to adding captions on all its video stories. This isn’t for journalists, who get captionless video, but for consumers who might have muted their devices when they auto-play.
“We realize that not every story can be heard at all times,” Petrovich says.
2. ‘Bread-and-butter’ information
At Nissan, “the bread-and-butter stuff is the stories,” says Brad Nevin, editor-in-chief for its global communications website platforms.
Nevin used to work at Car and Driver magazine, so he is familiar with the needs of automotive journalists. They want to get on Nissan’s site, get the information they seek and get off. They prefer straightforward navigation that makes clear how to find the assets they are seeking.
“Sites get into trouble when they try to be too fancy and too designed, where there are all sorts of bells and whistles that aren’t helpful to finding information."
Newsrooms are successful when they’re simple [and] clean and there isn’t a lot of circus music going on in the background to distract me.
Have you made it easy to find the news that reporters most often seek from your site, such as executive bios or content supporting major product launches?
3. Financial information
When reporters are slamming out a story on quarterly results, they don’t have time to scour your site looking for scattered data, pictures, YouTube streams or transcripts of the speech the CEO delivered when announcing the results. Corral all these assets in one location.
“It’s putting everything in place on one page,” Nevin says. “You get everything you want very easily and quickly.”
In addition to announcements of results, Nissan also posts transcripts of speeches at significant venues, such as the Detroit Auto Show. Reporters will love you for transcripts. Cutting and pasting from transcripts reduces reporting time—and the likelihood of transcription errors by the journalist.
4. Major events
Speaking of auto shows, Nissan creates event pages where fans and journalists can find the content.
With major industry events, offer press releases, videos and other assets, as Nissan did for this year’s Beijing Auto Show. Also, when you anticipate a spike in viewers because of an event, give IT a heads-up in advance, Nevin advises.
“We know that at Detroit auto show, those views are much higher than they usually are,” Nevin says.
5. ‘So what?’ content
Mayo has 4,000 experts in medical science who have all kinds of information at their fingertips, Petrovich says. What makes for compelling newsroom content, however, is the intersection of such science and conversational storytelling.
You always ask the question, why should people care? And then we try to make everything that we post as relatable as possible.
6. Heritage assets
As an 80-year-old company, Nissan has a heritage page that offers resources for fans and journalists looking for former iterations of its cars. This can be useful for automotive writers who wish to discuss changes in a model over the years. Such sites can be hits with fans, as well.
Nissan offers interesting oddities such as 1935 footage of its manufacturing process and a short film titled “Beauty that is the envy of Hollywood.” The latter was shot in 1937, “when it was still rare for even Hollywood movies to be in full color,” Nissan states.
“I think of myself as the librarian for all our assets in our company,” Nevin says, “and it’s all organized on the menus.”
7. Mobile accessibility
Mobile use is going up, and journalists—like everybody else—frequently access organizations’ sites from their smartphones.
Nissan has moved away from an app is designing its web newsroom to be mobile-responsive, adjusting to the size of the viewers’ screen. Nevin doubts that journalists are doing their major work on a tiny handheld device, but they still use smartphones to view content from the organizations they cover.
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