Online newsrooms, brand journalism and Gillian Shaw

I was fortunate enough to attend a Vancouver CPRS breakfast event where Gillian Shaw, Digital Life Reporter for The Vancouver Sun, spoke about what it is like to be a journalist in the age of social media. It was an excellent event – well run, interesting and I walked away feeling like I had learned something valuable. Gillian Shaw is an excellent speaker – full of knowledge, authentic and she gives the audience information, knowledge and her experience. She isn’t there to impress, she is there to share and provide insight. (Which means she ends up impressing.)

Ms. Shaw had a lot of insight into how the world is changing and how we as communications professionals can make the most of this. One of the areas that she talked about was the online newsroom. The online newsroom is a component, in my opinion, of brand journalism and it is a hugely effective tool for an organization.

We’ve all made use of (and in some cases still are using) media kits. Most of us have, at some point, created b-roll for media use and provided images on a disk. The online newsroom holds all of the information that would normally be in a media kit – and more. It allows your organization to become a “media outlet” on its own, because these days, you aren’t just informing and showcasing your news to journalists – you are making it available to all stakeholders online. An online newsroom can have interviews with key subjects about a topic (including industry and community leaders and other relevant individuals), it can provide a range of photos (for web and print usage), it provides facts and stats. It can provide editorial style articles, brief profiles, and industry overviews and “state of the industry” forecasts. And, as Ms. Shaw pointed out, some organization’s online newsrooms even provided suggested tweets about their organization. I have to admit that when she first said that, I was skeptical – but the more I thought about it, if the tweets are accurate, interesting and aren’t self-promotional, I don’t see why not.

I think it will take some time and effort for more conservative organizations to wrap their heads around an online newsroom and brand journalism. It is a culture change for them. However, times have changed. An online newsroom and telling your own story is now not only accepted, but expected. Getting the interest of a journalist has always been challenging, it is more challenging these days. Not only could an online newsroom help you get their interest, it also provides a direct opportunity to connect with stakeholders directly. A well-produced online newsroom can become a resource for journalists, bloggers and your target market.

One of the things Ms. Shaw said was that social media actually provides more access to the newsroom of media outlets. (This is achieved through following journalists on social media as well as creating relevant content so they follow you back.) I took that remark seriously. It makes a lot of sense. And when our clients get to those newsrooms and catch the attention of journalists like Gillian Shaw, I want to make sure we provide everything she wants or needs for her story. It is the communicators’ role to provide credible, authentic, accurate information – with a real story attached – to journalists. And, now, thanks to the online world, also directly to stakeholders.

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