The digital press office

One innovation in the way that local councils communicate is the developments of digital press offices, or newsrooms.

There are two elements to these, I think. The first is having a digital savvy communications team, who get the growing importance of online new sources and the need for mixed media; as well as the increasingly realtime nature of news reporting. This tends to be the result of already existing inspiration in the team or through training.

The second is having the means to deliver on this, often through an online platform. Some examples of these include Birmingham, Shropshire, and Leeds who all have separate microsites for their digital newsrooms. I hear that Warwickshire have one in development that is close to release.

Often these site are using a lightweight, flexible publishing system like WordPress, rather than being a part of the corporate content management system (CMS). Why is this? I suspect there are several reasons:

  • Speed – using a tool like WordPress you can circumnavigate some of the process and workflow associated with a big enterprise CMS and get messages live as soon as you need them
  • Flexibility – WordPress and tools like it can handle pretty much any content you throw at it, whether text, images, audio, video
  • Conversation – the inbuilt commenting engine in WordPress means you can have a discussion with journalists and other media outlets – again, not the sort of thing that happens often on a corporate CMS

One way that such a platform can be used is to develop online news releases, rather than the more static traditional variety. Rather than sending out a PDF or Word document to journalists, the release can b published online, and the link sent out to people – so if there are any amendments made, the latest version is always the one that’s out there.

Photos, videos, related links and documents to download can all be embedded in there as well, so everyone has all the available media resources to work with as well.

What’s more, this way of doing things ensures a bit of visibility, and findability too. Rather than sending your release to the list of people you know, which is obviously pretty finite, by making it searchable online, many different people are likely to find it, and make use of it, whether they are newspapers or hyperlocal bloggers or whoever.

If you’re interested in developing a digital press office, or newsroom, at your organisation, do get in touch!

One thought on “The digital press office”

  1. A digital-savvy comms team is a definite advantage and I certainly like all the ideas you’ve put forward. But most councils are still missing a trick with their website content.

    Public companies typically provide a media centre type facility for professionals writing a story about the company. Rather than limit themselves to simply publishing press releases, the savvy PLC will have pen portraits of key staff, provide guidance on correct usage of the corporate logo (and how to get hold of one), and ensure there are some good links to relevant and useful site content rather than expecting the press to find it for themselves.

    Whilst all press offices would ultimately welcome the direct engagement between a journo and the organisation in order to get the story right first time, by providing some self-service resources online in addition to press releases means that the quality of interaction between the two parties, plus the accuracy of articles published, can be considerably enhanced.

    I think Lloyds Banking Group is a great example. I’m slightly biased though … I set up HBOS’s first online media centre before I left the organisation in 2001, and subsequent iterations still largely follow my format:

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