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Online Newsrooms: Why Ease of Use is a Strategic Imperative

Online newsrooms are the heart of effective online organizational communications, as I tweeted on #journchat last week.

Twitter and Facebook may be major arteries, but your online newsroom is where awareness is converted to measurable social, informational or ecommerce transactions with the least resistance.

But before you get mired in the muck and start thinking tactically about how to staff and manage an effective online newsroom, there are important strategic best practices to consider first.

In this post, I’m going to address one of the most important strategic best practices: ease-of-us.

Jakob Nielsen, “the guru of Web page usability” according to The New York Times, says there’s a correlation between the experience someone has in your online newsroom, and their perception of your brand, product or service.

If the in site search function in your online newsrooms is clumsy, if reporters have to fill out a request form to reach a media contact, or if your video plays with excessive buffering, users have a poor experience and your reputation suffers.

If you’re a PR person, and you’ve taken the time to create compelling press materials that are genuinely interesting and newsworthy, and someone goes to your online newsroom and can’t find it as easily as they can through Google, or they can’t watch your video cause it downloads too slow, the impression is one incompetency, and your reputation takes a hit before you even start communicating.

In the right hands, Blogger, YouTube, Flickr and Feedburner are tools for serving all formats of content, effectively and efficiently. But more often than not — in the hands of someone with no experience designing interfaces that promote positive user experiences — cobbling together a handful of Web 2.0 services is a recipe for a bad user experience.

Just to hammer that home, remember, if the user experience suffers, your organization’s reputation suffers. So if your job is reputation management, guaranteeing a positive user experience is task number one.

Before you hire anyone to design your online newsroom, look at the sites they’re designed for other organizations and make sure they’re easy-to-use and navigate. Make sure they’re seamlessly integrated into their host site. Make sure they’re aesthetically appealing. And make sure they demonstrate best practices.

Because if they don’t, you could wind up painting yourself into a corner with a vendor that doesn’t know how to create an interface that leads to a positive user experience.

Next, I’ll be blogging about another important strategic best practice for online newsrooms, and what you should look for from a PR software vendor pitching you on an online newsrooms solution.

Photo By: Spackle Toe

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