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How to Build a Better Online Newsroom: Part II

I did a post back in January about how to build a better online newsroom, where I looked at the online newsrooms to tech giants Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft – all of which are great examples.

I’m sure a lot of you were wondering, “What if I don’t have a big budget like those companies?” I thought it would be good to revisit the topic and look at some newsrooms for some smaller companies.

Since my original analysis focused on tech companies, I stuck with the same theme for my look at smaller companies. I looked at the online newsrooms for three of my favorite startups: HubSpot, MailChimp and 37Signals. Here’s what I found…

HubSpot

HubSpot specializes in inbound marketing (the opposite of traditional “interruption marketing”). In short, they specialize in making customers (and media for that matter) come to them. There online press room is a great example of how a small company can attract media attention with the press room alone.

What I Like:

  • Content – HubSpot probably does a better job of providing content on their site than 99% of the companies out there today. This is their business. Content is key to improving search engine rankings and driving more qualified traffic to your site. HubSpot has built a content-rich press room that gives journalists all the information they might want to know about the company.
  • What You Do, What You’ve Done – journalists want to know what you do and what you’ve accomplished as an organization. HubSpot leads with this information in their press room – providing a quick at-a-glance list of accomplishments to date.
  • Quick Links – HubSpot provides quick links to all kinds of additional content across its various sites. Not only does this help visitors navigate the information on its site, it also helps keep visitors (and search engine ‘spiders’) on the site longer. These are key factors in improving search engine rankings.
  • Calls To Action – while the press room is geared towards the needs of journalists, it also includes standard calls to action for its products and services (a free trial and a free “Inbound Marketing Kit”). We like this because some journalists might be prospects, and journalists may mention the free resources in their stories.
  • Contact Info – it’s easy to find ways to connect with any member of the HubSpot team, along with a dedicated media resource (with phone, email and social media contact information present). Few online newsrooms provide this level of information.
  • News Coverage – a chronological list of news coverage on the company – linking to the information. A great resource for journalists and bloggers.
  • Bonus Points – in addition to having key facts about the members of its executive team, HubSpot provides videos of its executives in its Press Room. This is a great feature, as it gives journalists and bloggers an easy way to size up the quality of spokespeople at HubSpot – no doubt a factor in securing broadcast interview opportunities.

What Could Be Better

  • HubSpot’s Press Room is one of the best I’ve seen and there is little to criticize here. That said, the company is a master at landing pages and forms, so it could provide a more engaging option for “requesting and interview” or “requesting information.” Then again, that’s nit-picking a very effective online newsroom.

MailChimp

MailChimp is one of Journalistics’ favorite companies. This Atlanta-based startup is a popular email marketing software company that knows how to provide a lot of fun and engaging content for both its users and the media.

What I Like

  • Just the Facts – a lot of companies are protective with their customer data. MailChimp leads its Press Center information with the fact that it has more than 225,000 customers. This attention-grabbing stat keeps journalists from leaving the site before they get to the good stuff.
  • The Good Stuff – quick links to all relevant information a journalist or blogger might be looking for (logos, press releases, recent articles, spokespeople, etc.) are all a click away from the Press Center.
  • Bonus Points – the Press Center features a “Most Popular Articles” section, including an article on Email Marketing that has been downloaded more than 250,000 times. This information can be of interest to many different types of journalists and bloggers writing about email marketing.

What Could Be Better

  • Contact Info – the Press Center could have more prominent information on media contacts for the company (or a media request form). There is an option on the company’s Contact Us form for Media Inquiries, but it requires a journalist to dig for the information.
  • Press Coverage – I know for a fact that MailChimp has been featured in major business and trade publications, but press coverage isn’t a dominant element of the site. Some companies believe press coverage will make journalists and bloggers less interested in them, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. Journalists want to see you’ve been featured before – it makes you a more credible source.
  • The People – it’s not obvious who the people behind the company are. Journalists and bloggers like to talk to real people – featuring bios prominently in your press room is a good idea. Bonus points if you provide a way for journalists to engage with these individuals directly – providing a Twitter handle is a good idea here.

37signals

37signals has been the poster-child for Web apps for small businesses. The company’s wildly-popular Basecamp project management application is used by thousands of customers around the world, and the company is regularly featured in top-tier small business and technology trade media. While 37signals doesn’t have a traditional online newsroom, it’s About Page qualifies in this capacity.

What I Like

  • Look and Feel – 37signals gets design. The company’s About section uses a healthy dose of informational graphics to tell its story. For example, the site features a timeline of its major milestones to date, all of which are newsworthy. It’s so easy to find the information on this page – anyone could benefit from looking at this example when designing their site.
  • Content – in addition to its milestones, the about section features everything a journalist or blogger might want to know about the company, in well-organized and easy-to-scan buckets. The site also features Press/Media kits for each of its products and services, providing journalists with instant access to more-detailed information.
  • Bonus Points – 37signals has an impressive collection of media placements on its site from major media outlets. This does two things for the company: 1) reinforces the fact that the company is a relevant media source, and 2) suggests the company is responsive to media requests and able to provide experienced spokespeople.

What Could Be Better

  • There is general contact information on the About page, but journalists and bloggers often want direct access to a named PR contact – or at least a “PR hotline” they can call when they’re on deadline.
  • Blog as the information hub. On one hand, we’re strong believers in the power of the blog to serve as the cornerstone of communication with all your audiences. 37signals’ “Signal vs. Noise” blog has a HUGE audience and is regularly cited as one of the best blogs on the Web. This point aside, providing a separate blog for media could save journalists time when they’re searching for company news, versus other less-newsy information.

What do you think of these online newsrooms? What could be better? What features do you like most? Are there better examples you’d like to share of small businesses with great online newsrooms?

About Jeremy Porter

Jeremy Porter is co-founder and editor of Journalistics, a lively blog about public relations and journalism topics.