Online Media Relations - Establishing Credibility

Successful online media relations requires some smart thinking and a lot of diligence put into the who, what, why and how.
News has taken on a life of its own on the Internet and it has become more demanding. Internet users, including members of the media, can search the Internet for information they need and turn-it-around as quickly as it takes to type. The rules are different and they are blurred; advertising isn’t necessarily clearly separated from editorial, and corrections are not necessarily posted as corrections – the information is usually quietly up-dated (and sometimes ignored altogether). And of course, there’s also the issue of photo manipulation.


The number one priority of surfing journalists: contact information. If you want to remain friendly with the journalists covering your beat, you better provide names and phone numbers right on the media relations home page. In fact, it’s best if you organize this contact information into categories including areas of expertise and geography (two great examples of this include the IBM and Microsoft media relations home pages).
"It's amazing why companies keep information such as addresses and phone numbers a secret," Hollywood's KNX Newsradio Executive Producer Ed Pyle told ClickZ (March 20, 2001). "Unless you're located in Area 51, you ought to make this information very easy to access.”
Despite the basic necessity and learning of anyone that’s ever received one hour of media or public relations training, it is still not uncommon to come across press releases that have NO CONTACT INFORMATION!!! There is absolutely no excuse for such an omission which deserves a rap on the knuckles.
And if you do publish the contact information, you better make sure that person is available to return a journalists phone call quickly (within an hour or two, or use a substitute).
Stan Sutter, in a poignant Marketing Magazine Article entitled 10 Things I Hate About PR” also points out yet another unforgivable shortcoming of bad PR: So many press releases we see are just badly done. They're often overwritten and take forever to get to the point. And they're often missing the basic who, what, where, when, why and how much: information that journalists all need as the starting point of any story.”


Everyone, especially media, want information fast and they want it to be current. Therefore, be committed to keeping your information up-to-date and make it easy to find – have descriptive, clear headings and date information.
Your media room should contain:
  • Contacts, addresses, phone numbers and email (for each contact or office)
  • News – up-to-date and newsworthy
  • Fact sheets and backgrounders (include number of offices, number of employees, safety info – if applicable, etc)
  • Press Releases – clearly named and dated, with an archive for older releases
  • Biographies of executives
  • Press clippings – links to other articles
  • FAQs
  • News features
  • Case studies
  • Speeches and presentations by senior executives – in html, PDF and original formats (Word or PowerPoint)
  • Executive and product photos – high and low resolution options, easy to download
  • Product/service information (brochures in downloadable formats)
  • Brand your site (but don’t recommend downloadable logos because logos are part of your branding, image and reputation – if you post downloadable logos you lose control of how and where they are used)
  • Audio and Video clips – name them clearly and indicate size and format; Provide sound bites from the CEO
  • Global and local information
  • Calendar of events – with a contact for more information
  • Quick links to affiliations, partners, community, industry information etc.


Media need a quick reference tool to find the details about your organization – and let’s face it, you’d rather they find out from you then someone else. No matter what angle the reporter’s story, if they can’t find the information they need you will be giving them the message that you’re not being cooperative or transparent and you will lose credibility. If you lose credibility, then who knows what angle a journalist will cover. If you hang your clothing on your line then there is no need for anyone to look for dirty laundry!


It can’t be said enough...

  • Make sure your information is current and accurate
  • Make sure online information can be found and is accessible – this includes:
  • clear taxonomy (naming conventions)
  • structured information architecture
  • following through on posting information you said you would
  • no broken links
  • information available (as appropriate):
  • in a variety of formats (html, PDF, Word, PowerPoint and Excel)
  • in a variety of languages
  • Make sure your story is news worthy (especially press releases)
  • Write well – be concise and spell check
  • Forums and blogs can create dialogue and interaction but make sure you moderate them


Stan Stutter further advises media relations professionals “you should know your target and their needs. If it's clear you know what my media organization is about and what I'm delivering to readers, I'm much more likely to take you seriously. Don't waste our time with useless and badly targeted information.”
Therefore, availability of contacts and corporate information is the most important means for online media rooms to be effective agents for transparency and credibility. It’s hard to measure a media room’s success but everyone knows the consequences of not having a strong media relations presence.

Prescient Digital Media is a veteran web and intranet consulting firm with 10+ years of rich history. We provide strategic Internet and intranet consulting, planning and communications services to many Fortune 500 and big brand clients, as well as small and medium-sized leaders.