Designing Effective Online Newsrooms: Making Ease-of-Use a Strategic Plan


As I tweeted on #journchat, online newsrooms are the heart of effective online organizational communications.

Twitter and Facebook are your embassies, but your online newsroom is your homeland, where awareness is converted to measurable advertiser impressions, user registrations, lead generation, and ecommerce transactions with the least amount of friction.

But before you get mired in the muck and start thinking tactically about how to staff and maintain an effective online newsroom, there are essentials to your strategic plan.

In this post, I will address one of the most critical strategic best practices in designing effective online newsrooms: baking ease-of-use into the front and back end of the content management system you deploy.

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.

PR Agency Approach to Maintaining an Online Newsroom

If you’re a PR agency professional, 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, WordPress, Shopify, Magento, YouTube, Flickr, and Instagram are tools content marketing agencies use to promote your brand. 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.

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 part of that task.

Before you hire anyone to design your online newsroom, look at the sites they’re intended 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 newsroom solution.

Photo By: Spackle Toe

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