Nearly all journalists use search engines when seeking sources for their stories. A trend which is unlikely to change anytime soon. In fact, journalists’ desire to speak with subject matter experts increased worldwide in 2018 (Quartz). This makes search visibility and a well-organized newsroom vital to any company hoping to be a resource for news stories.

Most company sites rank highly for a branded search involving their company or product name. So if the reporter is already familiar with the business, and looking for a spokesperson, the goal is quickly helping them connect with someone to talk to.

To get inbound press inquiries, ensure your company site shows up for keywords about your preferred subjects. These might not necessarily relate to your company’s value proposition. For example, a startup may comment on GDPR or remote working, neither of which relate to their AI-based security platform. The newsroom can serve as a home for search-optimized content about those topics. This ensures they don’t interfere with more conversion-oriented information on the general site.

Content should be designed and organized in a way that lets a journalist or blogger quickly find the relevant information useful to their needs. Follow these best practices to support inbound queries, highlight your team’s expertise, and turn your company into a go-to media resource.

1. Accessibility – Make essential information easy to find and verify

75% of journalists who responded to Cision’s 2018 State of the Media report say accuracy in reporting is more important than being first on a story or the promise of exclusivity. Nieman Lab reports that 2018 sees journalists working hard to build public trust. Brands who can be good partners and verify essential details will get quoted more frequently.

Link from the homepage to the news or press section prominently, so reporters don’t have to hunt. Typically the newsroom is housed in a primary navigation menu under ‘About Us’ or similar. There’s no point being clever about reporters’ expectations, so make sure it’s there in the primary navigation. It’s also a good idea to highlight news on the homepage and provide a link to the newsroom in the footer.

2. Action – Make it as simple as possible for a journalist to reach your team or complete their story

When journalists are working on deadline, they may prefer not to reach out to a company contact. Help them complete their stories easily, especially when working on a weekend deadline. Include the following in your newsroom:

  • Latest news – rather obviously
  • Recent coverage – and keep it up to date. Don’t confuse announcements with coverage
  • High-resolution photos (people, product, locations) and corporate design assets (logos, screenshots, product shots)
  • Executive bios with links to their LinkedIn profiles
  • B-roll or other video assets if available
  • Corporate background details (history, proposition, management team, customers, funding)
  • Direct PR contact of a specific person: their name, email, and phone contact prominently displayed and easy to find

3. Content – Make it abundantly clear why a journalist would be interested in speaking to your team

The rise of trust in expert perspectives coincides with journalists’ interest in nuance and complex facts (Nieman Lab). Include executive bios with specific subject matter expertise for which they are available to speak today. Only list specific topics for which this applies. If your team requires additional time to research or prepare a perspective, this will not be useful to journalists working on a deadline.

Include recent articles so journalists can see your leading thoughts in print. These articles highlight the third-party validation provided by other news outlets for your executive team’s expertise.

Include upcoming events so journalists can see how you’re connected to the professional community. Share the specific details of events such as location, date, and any essential information like ticket price, details to RSVP, etc.

Keep content current and up to date. Include a variety of content, not just press releases. Highlight and provide a link to download and reuse owned content. Increasingly, journalists will not write a story about a product or corporate change such as an appointment. Illustrations of trends or market intelligence provide resources journalists can draw from.

4. Design – Make relevant content easy to find

Organize your newsroom content by category. Tag content so related information appears with one click. Don’t force visitors to hunt around to understand the organizational hierarchy. Include a custom search function for all content in the newsroom and blog. Include the date of news as a search parameter, so journalists can find relevant and timely updates.

5. SEO – Optimize your newsroom for discovery by search engines

Internet search is a huge factor for inbound media requests. If your newsroom is not optimized, you are missing opportunities with your target media on relevant topics.

For discovery by media, focus on non-branded keywords about topics you can comment on. Most of this will relate to the proposition, so naturally be part of the SEO program. However, you may wish to add copy highlighting related subjects or enhance the bios of spokespeople to note that they are an ‘expert’ or ‘spokesperson.’

Adding these qualifiers will improve ranking for hotly contested keywords. The volume will be low, but the payoff will improve quality inbound requests. If there’s a ‘media contact’ form in your newsroom, you can set up relevant SEO goals, and see which terms convert. It’s possible a reporter will find you in searching about one subject, but end up discussing another once they’ve learned more.

Media relations advice from MIT Technology Review editor


About the Author

Maura Lafferty is an influencer relations specialist, with a particular focus on media outreach over social channels. Maura has over 14 years' experience in public relations, and relationships with media working in national, California, and Silicon Valley newsrooms.