State economic development agency wins PR award for online newsroom


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The award-winning “Pure Michigan” ads that run across the state and around the country have received positive comments from residents and visitors alike. Now, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has won an award for its online newsroom.

Ragan’s PR Daily, an industry trade news site, lauded the MEDC online newsroom for its simplicity and for knowing its audience. In a recent Ragan’s article, a spokesperson for the MEDC said they designed the site to reach an audience that has a short attention span, becomes distracted in the online environment and is influenced by peers.

That characterization of the MEDC audience is on point, but also true for most publics these days. Not only do people have the competition of other websites, but social media competes for attention with and can draw attention to an organization’s website. So the MEDC online newsroom offers an example of good practice to other organizations with a number of features.

  • Content for public as well as journalists. Gone are the days when an online newsroom was just for journalists. There should still be an archive of news releases, as there are. But they are written interactively (links throughout the release) to make them more useful to publics as well as journalists. MEDC also offers short news updates in addition to formal press releases.
  • Subscription options. It is possible to subscribe to new content from the site through RSS (real simple syndication). This is a must these days, since people typically don’t bookmark sites and check back for new content. They want new content to come to them. MEDC also shows savvy by allowing not just one RSS option, but the ability to subscribe to specific types of content on the site.
  • Searchable. The site has a search bar to find specific content within it. I would also hope that all the content is written in a searchable way according to SEO (search engine optimization). This means using words that are not the jargon of your organization but the actual words people would type in Google. In this way, more traffic will come to the online newsroom from journalists as well as the public. Google has a good guide about SEO.
  • Social content. The site has links to its Twitter and Facebook pages. Not only do they have these popular social sites, they populate them with relevant content frequently, and they seek to engage people versus pumping out one-way self-serving blasts. Social media needs to be social, not just another channel. A recent study showed many Fortune 500 companies do not link to their social sites even if they have them, because they fear the “open” conversation of social and want more control of message. I believe this is a mistake strategically and a lost opportunity in this era of consumer sovereignty.
  • Video content. The site also links to a YouTube channel which features interviews with MEDC executives as well as other short news packages. Video content is enormously popular online. YouTube is a social medium as well, of course, so these videos can be shared by viewers with their personal networks via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other networks to increase reach. Packaging videos as VNRs (video news releases) offers content that TV stations can use, if not on air, at least on their own websites. I would advise having MP3 files of quotes (called “actualities” in radio) for any radio reporters interested in a story.
  • Photo content. A Flickr channel offers photos for use by journalists, but also is a great visual promotion for the public to use. Just as with videos, photos can be shared on Flickr, as well as other common social networks and the emerging visual social media such as Pinterest and Istagram. An objective of promoting the natural beauty of Michigan lends itself to harnessing visual media.
  • A blog. Blogs, web logs, have a different voice than news releases and other public relations content. They are intended to be more conversational and invite feedback to spur conversations. The MEDC blog enables sharing posts, but this is one area where they could improve — offering comment options.
  • Events. MEDC lists its own as well as other related events on a separate page to make it easy for people to find.

If you’re looking to update or launch an online newsroom, you would be well served to glean some ideas from MEDC. If you’re going to do it, modeling your own online newsroom off an award winner can’t be bad.

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