Recently, I was asked to speak at the Florida Public Relations Association's Annual Conference on the topic of social media and online newsrooms. Over the past five years, I've presented frequently on this topic, usually as a three hour seminar or workshop, or sometimes webinars. My presentation, 28 Steps to Socializing an Online Newsroom, provides a framework for thinking about integrating social media into all of the features and functions that you have in your online newsroom. From press releases, to images and video, to distribution and monitoring - most areas of an online newsroom can be socialized. In preparing for the upcoming engagement, I realized that I only have one hour, and so I'll either need to talk really fast, or work on condensing my workshop down into a concise, to-the-point, presentation.
The idea of integrating social media into an online newsroom is not a new one. Over the past five years, more and more companies - from Fortune 50's to small, non-profits - have been increasingly opening up their online newsroom to a wider and much more diverse audience, including news consumers.
Social media helps communicators in many ways such as being able to automatically publish content from an online newsroom to various social media channels, providing a framework for customer feedback, engagement, and interaction, and creating an environment to listen and monitor what is being said about an organization's products, people, and industry space. A socialized online newsroom can help in all of these areas. As communicators we have to move beyond thinking of journalists as the only visitors to an online newsroom. There are so many additional opportunities to reach analysts, investors, employees, customers, and potential clients. Creating a socialized online newsroom helps you more effectively connect with and provide information to these various news consumers.
In our Social Media News Survey Report, we found that more than 75% of social media users visit a corporate website or online newsroom after learning of news through social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook.
These numbers help to provide a framework for understanding why you need to socialize your online newsroom and below are 28 steps to help you begin to make it a reality!
1. Turn your news stories and press releases into Social Media Press Releases. There are many examples of good social media press releases, and SHIFT Communications provides a nice template to help understand what items you should include. Ford Motor Company does a great job of bundling various content onto one single news release page, including videos, links to technical specifications, and related content.
2. Enhance your PR Contacts by including LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype, and Facebook profiles. In the past, your PR Contact information mostly contained a phone number and email address. Let people find you on social channels as well by including as many social outlets as you are actively part of as part of your contacts profile.
3. Evolve your Executive Bios into organization-wide contacts, subject matter experts and thought leaders. By making some of your subject matter experts available to answer questions, participate in online chats, and act as spokespersons, you can help position your organization as a thought leader in your industry. Prudential and Ameriprise Financial are good examples
4. Transform audio clips into dynamic podcasts that are shareable and available on iTUNES. Ford uses audio soundbites for their sales and financial information
5. Repurpose video by creating shareable clips available on YouTube. Starbucks does a great job of utilizing video, repurposing commercials, live events, and press conferences into short, featured, shareable video clips.
6. Leverage existing images by integrating with Flickr and other image sharing sites. People love images. Journalists, bloggers, and news consumers all appreciate a good image that is easily shareable and embeddable across platforms. Photo sharing sites like Flickr make it easy to upload galleries and integrate those photos with your online newsroom.
7. Modify your blog into a larger presence with a blogroll and guests and featured bloggers. A great example of an organization that has utilized this technique successfully is McAfee, including featured bloggers and industry specific content.
8. Take your chats or press conferences and turn them into tweetcasts with live Q&A. Twitter is a great place to conduct realtime chats quickly and easily. Deirdre Breakenridge moderates the Public Relations Student Chat, located at #PRSTUDCHAT and consistently gets great participation on a variety of interesting topics.
9. Plug your events into social channels such as Foursquare and Facebook Live. It is easier than ever to take your live events - press conferences, trade shows, speaking engagements, product launches - and make them available in social channels, offering discounts or recognition for check-ins and participation.
10. Extend your digital press kits into interactive flipbooks with infographics. The wildly successful iPAD Flipbook app provides a good example of how you can take your digital press kits, filled with pictures, videos, and text and create a compelling interactive press kit. A new site called Visual.ly allows you to create custom infographics that can be tailored to your message.
11. Use the technology for a dark site to create micro-sites, event and product launch sites. Traditional online newsrooms contain a tool allowing you to create a dark site or a crisis communications site behind the scenes so that when a crisis does hit, you are prepared. Taking that a step further and creating micro-sites for live events, product launches, and trade shows is an effective way to leverage an existing tool.
12. Utilize your investor relations area to help with web disclosure and social media disclosure. Google is a shining example of an increasing number of companies that are using web disclosure instead of releasing financial information the expensive newswire services. Also, social media services such as StockTwits help provide that additional exposure and realtime disclosure that the SEC Regulation FD requires.
13. Adapt your search to expand into social outlets and allow for shared and saved results. Search is one of the most requested items within an online newsroom. It is a common mistake to think that people are only interested in breaking news or have the time to scroll through pages of reverse-chronologically listed news releases. A lot of online newsroom visitors are doing research, perhaps on a story from several years ago, so it is very important to allow for a deep archive search and to allow visitors to save their searches or share their search results as a feed.
14. Transform your password protected and secure areas into shared communities for product ideas and customer feedback. Starbucks did a great job of creating a shared community for the redesign of their coffee cup. They solicited ideas, engaged with users, and ultimately designed a social contest around the project, all from within a shared community area on their website.
15. Handle information requests with iCHAT and Twitter CRM. Information requests, media requests, credential and interview requests can all be handled effectively using social media channels, especially Twitter. CIGNA's @cignaquestions is a great example of this.
16. Understand that SEO now includes social media signals and social marketing. This is critical. So many organizations spend a lot of time and money trying to perfect SEO, while at the same time ignoring one of the important components - social media. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are now integrating social signals into their formulas for displaying search results, so the more content that you are making available on social channels and the more of your news that is being shared by your followers, the more effective your SEO will be.
17. Modify your features and promotions to allow for user generated content and recommendations. Giving your loyal customers and fans the ability to submit their own content or ideas is a great way to interact and engage with brand supporters who ultimately can help distribute your message into their networks. Cisco does a great job of this.
18. Expand your email alerts into social media distribution especially with Twitter, Facebook, and sites like StumbleUpon and Reddit. Email alerts are still an effective way to reach a targeted audience with your message. Extend this idea out into social media by distributing your news releases and stories on Twitter and Facebook and submitting your news to social news sites as well. The Florida Keys online newsroom has a dedicated news Twitter account - @keysnews - that provides content from the newsroom as well as related travel industry news.
19. Analyze your contacts and media lists; start to include them in your social networks as friends and followers. Most organizations maintain media contact lists that include journalists, bloggers, investors and analysts. By now, most of those same contacts have Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn profiles. Start to follow them and connect with them on those same channels.
20. Allow for more than one RSS feed; categorize your RSS feeds, make them shareable or personalized. Toyota has created specific RSS feeds for all of their brands and special topics so that people that are interested in only one subject, can get news sent to them on just that subject, instead of having to wade through one massive corporate RSS feed.
21. Embed social memes, badges and content feeds into all areas of your online newsroom. Ensure that you have at least Twitter and Facebook badges that allow peopel to quickly find your organization in those outlets. Dunkin Donuts does a good job of making those badges front-and-center on their online newsroom.
22. Integrate Twitter into your publishing system to allow for publishing to multiple, disparate Twitter accounts such as regional or product based accounts. Using your online newsroom as a communications content center gives visitors the ability to quickly find all they need. Vail Resorts embeds their live Twitter feed right into their online newsroom.
23. Extend your Facebook integration to include a group page centered around your news. With nearly one billion users, it is no secret that Facebook is certainly a place where you want to make your news content available and shareable. Create a special group page focused on your organization's news content, in addition to the main corporate Facebook account. Link to your online newsroom from within Facebook as well.
24. Consider using traditional newswires less and begin developing your own social media network that can grow and that you can engage with and provide news to directly. This will take time, but ultimately, you will find value in increasing your follower base directly so that eventually you will be able to publish your content to a large group of interested news consumers at little or no cost. We utilize our StoryStream social network to provide our clients' news to a growing audience of social media news consumers.
25. Upgrade your site metrics to Google Analytics and take advantage of their reports to tailor your content and keep up with current trends of what people are interested in. Many web analytics software packages exist including WebTrends and Omniture, but Google Analytics has really raised the bar in terms of features, functionality and ease-of-use. Make sure you analyze the social aspects of Google Analytics to see how many people are coming to your online newsroom from these channels and then modify your content.
26. Include shares, Facebook Likes, and Twitter RT's in your content reports. In addition to showing user sessions, page views, and time spent on your site, include the number of shares, likes and RT's that you have received on your news content.
27. Expand your media monitoring to include social media coverage. While it is still important to understand what kind of coverage you are generating from traditional sources such as print, radio and broadcast, consider including social media coverage in blogs, message boards and on social media outlets as part of your overall analytics strategy. Trackur provides a great resource for aggregating social data.
28. Analyze your user registration and activity reports to provide personalized content, targeted email alerts, and additional content. As news consumers subscribe to your online newsroom or sign up for email alerts, ensure that you are providing tailored content to meet their desires. Follow other social accounts of similar companies to see what kind of content they are providing to their users and then adjust your strategy, if necessary.
Obviously, it will take considerable effort to utilize all 28 of these steps; however, just concentrating on a handful will help take your online newsroom to greater heights, making it more user-friendly and providing a resource for news consumers to share your organization's news content.