University online pressrooms – best practice examples

Harvard's pressroom made it possible for me to download this nice image in abut 10 seconds.
Harvard’s pressroom made it possible for me to download this nice image in about 10 seconds.

University communicators – how is your online pressroom? Is it meeting journalists’ expectations?

If your media site is like the average, then according to a new survey your site needs some revamping. A study led by Proactive Report and Press Feed found that only 15 percent of PR practitioners are delivering the information that media need. Some 500 people journalists and media relations professionals took part in the study.  Among the findings are:

 ▪       83% of journalists regard images with news content as important

▪       38% of PR pros add images to news content

▪       39% of all companies offer an image gallery

▪       49% of images failed to meet the quality standards for publication

▪       53% of journalists and editors said video is important with news content

▪       Just 13% of PR practitioners add videos with news content

▪       35% have a video gallery in their newsroom

▪       82% of journalists ask for video to be delivered via embed code

▪       37% of online newsrooms offer embed codes

While this survey wasn’t strictly related to higher education, there are surely tips that communicators should consider in revamping their university or school pressroom web sites (or best practice to consider if you are building out a pressroom for a new academic initiative).

As we all know, traditional media newsrooms are being squeezed and reporters are under immense pressure. Many newsrooms have cut back on photography budgets, meaning your pressroom’s ability to deliver quick and easy to find photos can mean the difference between being prominently featured in a piece or getting squeezed out of the article for space constraints to another school which has these photos readily available in a high quality downloadable format.

I took a quick jaunt around the US News and World Report top 10 universities and checked to see which schools had all of the following three elements: 1) a “pressroom” or “for the media” link available from the main university homepage with one click of the mouse; 2) high quality photos easily and instantaneously available for download; and 3) video links with embed codes easily accessible.

Based on my search, the winner is Harvard. The main Harvard site has a clear media link available at the top of the home page which links to the public affairs and communications overview page. From this page, there are clear links to photos that can be easily downloaded and videos that can be accessed with embed codes. The whole process would take four easy clicks.

In comparison, many of the schools in the top 10 didn’t have a clear link for the media site available from the main university home page. I get the fact that you don’t want to clutter too much information on your home page. But if earned media is a priority, then surely the words “pressroom” or “For the media” is a worthy investment of home page real estate.

Some schools made the access to photos tricky (requiring payment or sending email requests). Sure, I get the point about protecting intellectual property, but when push comes to shove, if I am writing a story about elite universities and need an image and/or photo to accompany my story, then I am heading to Harvard’s site as the process will take about 10 seconds total. In fact, I did that for this blog post as you can see from the image I used!

Here are some other nice features to incorporate into your online pressroom based on what other schools and universities are doing (besides the normal – media contact information, news releases, press kits, etc).

  • Harvard Business School’s expert source list is amazingly extensive. There are hundreds of topics and even breakdowns by industry and geography.
  • IMD business school (where I previously worked) includes a high-resolution downloadable photo of every professor.
  • IESE business school in Spain has a handy search function for journalists.
  • My former colleagues at Duke University offer a great resource for journalists through its news tip service that offers quotes and analysis on the latest stories making headlines.

So some aspects to consider whether you are looking to evaluate and revamp existing pressrooms, or if you are building a pressroom presence from scratch.

These examples are just a starting point. If you are a university PR person, what do you to make your pressroom media friendly? What are other good examples out there?