Every newsroom should be a social media newsroom

Posted on October 3, 2011 5:24 pm by | Media | Social Media

It must have been 1995 or so when my friend Charles Pizzo was on a train somewhere. Neither of our memories are able to retrieve the precise route of that train, but we do remember that Charles got off at a stop to use a pay phone to check in with his office.

At the time, he and his colleague were the principals of P.R. PR, and Charles was representing Bayou Steel in a labor situation.  Bayou Steel had just filed some kind of legal proceeding. Charles’s admin told him a reporter was looking for a copy of the filing to be delivered to him by courier. Charles had a copy with him and wouldn’t be able to send it until he’d arrived at his destination.

He did inform the reporter, however, that the court was making a PDF version of the document available on the Internet for download.

Later, the reporter called back to let Charles know how blown away he was that a legal document could be posted online for such simple retrieval.

Recalling that moment today, Charles says, “It doesn’t sound so special now, but back then, it was a wow moment for all parties involved. We were just uncovering the availability of content online in real time. Faxes and couriers still ruled the day. Delays were the norm. News at the speed of the net was in its pioneer days.”

Soon after, companies began establishing special sections of their website just for the reporters who covered the company. Called newsrooms, pressrooms, media centers and a few other names, they proliferated quickly. (I helped CIGNA develop its first newsroom around 1997.)

And then they stagnated.

Studies appeared from companies like Middleberg Public Relations and Brodeur & Partners that gave reporters and editors a voice in what they wanted from newsrooms. What companies should have taken from these lists is a fundamental truth about technology. People don’t use technology because it’s cool. They use it because it lets them do something they couldn’t do before. The reporter looking for a legal document wasn’t wowed by the fact that a PDF is a PDF, but rather because it allowed him to start reporting on the document immediately rather than wait until Charles could courier a copy to him.

Making your news easy to report should lead every company with an online newsroom transition to a social media newsroom. It’s not that social media is so hip and cool that companies should succumb to its allure. It’s that the social dimensions that infuse social media newsrooms make them more relevant and usable to those who report and analyze news. The more coverage of your company’s news, the better.

Social media newsrooms take a variety of shapes and forms. There are no rules, no hard-and-fast templates you have to follow. Instead, focus your efforts on just a few overarching principles:

  • Include your social content—Your latest blog posts, tweets and other social content should be available from your newsroom. For examples, see Cisco Systems, BASF or Hitachi Data Systems.

  • Make it sharable—The easier it is for people to share your assets, the more likely it is your assets will get shared. The Electrolux newsroom features sharing options for every story and every release (as shown below). You can also make your assets sharable by adding embed codes, easily done by using file sharing sites like YouTube, SlideShare and Scribd to archive sharable versions of your material.

Electrolux Newsroom sharing features

  • Let conversations happen—Commenting should be enabled on every press release and other content. Reading an interesting comment thread is often the inspiration people need to let others know about your company’s content.

  • Make it navigable—Tag clouds, useful search engines, clear categories (like on the Cisco Systems site) and other techniques can make it easy for reporters, editors, bloggers and others to find the material they’re looking for.

  • Make it easy for people to connect with you—Unbelievably, some companies don’t even include phone numbers in online press releases. You should include a variety of contact methods, accommodating the means by which people connect, from email and Skype to the phone and Facebook.

  • Make it easy for people to stay connected—RSS feeds, email updates, SMS subscriptions and other options should allow people to opt in to get your news delivered to them.

Look at examples of how other companies are implementing social media newsrooms—you’ll see a broad range of approaches, formats and elements from which you can choose—and develop a solution that helps make your news more two-way and more sharable. Someday soon, perhaps, if enough companies take the steps to make their newsrooms more useful in the real-time world,l we can drop the “social media;” there will be no need to distinguish between them and we can just call them all newsrooms again.




  • 1.Great post Shel. Totally agree. Being in the business of implementing newsroom for clients (I am CEO of http://WWW.ipressroom.com), the challenge often goes back to clients not yet comfortable with all aspects of "social" especially related to commenting on content. There is a great deal of the "wild wild west" fear of opening their news sites up for comments and then having to moderate those. But those onsite conversations are the most social of all of this. Beyond that, we advise clients primarily to focus on content that is frequent, authentic, relevant, and engaging - what we have coined, F.A.R.E. Then, ensure that content is on your newsroom as you say easily found, shared and discovered. Then, we advise our customers to distribute that content to as many places where their audiences are. I call these other "neighborhoods" so people will share and discuss their and then come back your "home". Similar to how you posted this to Google+ and ppl can discuss there and here.

    So, in terms of the frequent consternation clients feel about comments on their site and other aspects of social that are a bit "scary" what would you suggest to them to help them get the rest of the organization (including legal) behind it?

    chris bechtel | October 2011 | Los Angeles

  • 2.The Electrolux newsroom is especially slick. In addition to the multi-media approach and social sharing options, the related documents and links sidebars are great.

    Ed Healy | October 2011 | DuPont, WA

  • 3."The more coverage of your company’s news, the better."

    Couldn't have said it better myself.

    Miami Divorce Attorney | October 2011 | Miami, Florida

  • 4.A very impressive post, this is a concept I have been grappling with for a few months, this has given me a much better idea about what I need to deliver on our new site.

    I do think that companies struggle with the open and sharing philosophy that drives the social web, but that is why the social media advisor is now a much needed role in most organisations.

    Joe Millward | October 2011 | Cooma, NSW, Australia

  • 5.I only entered into the Big World a few years ago, so I completely missed out on the days of couriers and faxes when it came to business. I for one will have to admit I have always taken for granted the media resources found online. I have acclimated myself to immediacy and patience has gone by the wayside. But it’s not a bad thing in my mind. Now with the use of social media we can do things even faster! It is truly important for this to be adopted by all companies. Thank you for highlighting the all the does of social media newsrooms.

    Jamie Johansen | October 2011 | Missouri

  • 6.Blogging allows for a great addition of non-traditional content and also the opportunity for community generated content as well. I like hearing about blogging in the same context as social media, because it truly is. http://www.areavoices.com is a prime example of newspapers utilizing a blogging platform to give a voice to the community.

    Roger | March 2012 | Red Wing, MN

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