Updating Your Website? Make sure your Media News Room is Journalist Friendly

By Henry Griggs, CCMC Co-Founder and now Independent Media Consultant, February 15, 2014

Key features of any nonprofit group’s website are the gateway and content used to serve the needs of working journalists. These elements may seem straightforward enough, but getting them right actually poses some interesting questions.

There has always been considerable overlap between things that interest the news media and things that interest the general public. Each group must consider its own tailored design that will 1) invite both audiences to learn more, but 2) steer reporters and producers in one direction, while general traffic moves in another.

One way to start thinking about this issue is to examine the websites of a number of relevant organizations that are well regarded for effective outreach to the news media. As part of our survey of best practice, we reviewed various tip sheets, newsletters, and other sources, and interviewed several highly placed editors and reporters for their insights.

Here are the Basics. Go to our section on Tips for the full memo, links to case studies and references.

Key elements of successful media center design

  1. Include the media/press center button on your home page. It should be as prominent as the other main buttons. Assuming that one of your priorities is to raise awareness of the issues, media coverage will be a prized commodity to your partners and donors. The button should have a drop-down capacity, and it is best to keep the list to 6 to 8 options. Reporters should be one click away from critical contact information and other relevant sections such as a press kit, FAQs, news stories, press releases, free photos and videos clips, etc.
  2. Design the media center for the widest range of journalists: This means the widest possible skill levels and access to technology. Think of your journalist audiences as both those who regularly use digital and social media, likely younger reporters, and of those who have less on-line abilities, likely older, more senior reporters, and those in countries with slower internet bandwidth without capacity to download large files in a timely manner (this includes parts of the United States.)
  3. The #1 item on all lists from reporters is 24/7 contact information for your press officers so that live interaction can take place in the shortest time possible. But not all groups have a large staff. So the #2 item journalists look for is good background information on spokespeople including a short bio, longer background information, photos and, when they are available, really good examples of short broadcast interviews. These latter features make it possible for journalists to do basic research and get relevant data and quotes even without access to a live person.
  4. Personal stories are key. For most journalists and the vast bulk of their audiences, personal stories are essential to animating interest in your work. In a desert of data, personal anecdotes and narrative, especially those that include an element of conflict, are a cool oasis. But it’s also important to ensure that those stories are both verifiable and sympathetic to general audiences.