“Journalists are moving away from wire services,” says Steve Momorella, founder and owner of Tekgroup, a Virginia company that has developed software to help businesses establish an online newsroom.
Tekgroup recently released the findings of its 17th annual survey of journalists regarding their attitudes towards business newsrooms. Among the conclusions is that if most businesses do not yet have a newsroom assisting it in its marketing efforts, it is imperative to change that. That is because 97 percent of those surveyed indicated a newsroom is important. Moreover, three-fourths of respondents said they visit online newsrooms of both large and small companies.
Why would a law firm need its own newsroom? According to Momorella, “a newsroom is a less expensive way to market” the firm’s announcements and events than other methods. Creating a comprehensive, attractive and easily navigable place for the media and anyone interested in your firm can build your firm’s authority.
The main reason a law firm would choose to create and maintain an online newsroom is to boost its bottom line. Increased recognition can lead to more clients, and that, of course, is good news for law firms.
How can leadership know if a newsroom is right for their firm?
One important measure is the activity that a law firm website generates. If visits to the site are on the uptick, indicating an increasing interest in the firm, a newsroom might be in order.
Another determining factor is the volume of newsworthy activities occurring at your firm. If you are publishing at least one noteworthy matter a month, consider putting the stories in your own newsroom. According to Momorella, if you are publishing once a week, then your firm should further explore the option.
However, a newsroom can function as a valuable asset regardless of how often you publish new stories. If you are trying to grow press contacts and make it easy for journalists to publish stories about you, consider creating a simple newsroom that contains a fact sheet, contact information, bios, high resolution photos and a press quality logo. When journalists find they can easily access information about your firm, they are more likely to use you as a source for future stories.
“Online newsrooms are good for lead generation,” says Momorella. Say a person visits a firm’s web site searching for information about a particular lawyer or area of the law. If, when there, the visitor locates news or announcements they find useful, they are likely to return when they need information again in the future.
Therefore, as the firm gets its name out, it also builds trust and credibility. “To get new clients, you have to generate awareness. Awareness lets people know what you are doing, all with the goal of getting people back to your web site to attract leads,” he says.
Steps to take
There are steps law firm management should take to ensure its online newsroom accomplishes its goals. First and foremost, “scout the competition to see what they doing. See what’s working and not working for them. It’s one thing to have a newsroom and another to fill it with valuable information,” advises Momorella.
Perform some searches for your top keywords to see how your competitors are ranking. Look for articles that appear organically in Google’s search results, and check to see if competing firms’ stories are appearing in Google News. If their posts are gaining traction, investigate why. Is it because they publish stories often? Are their posts rich with valuable content?
Another thing to look for is whether other firms utilize wire services to distribute their stories and press releases. If so, that means they are investing monetarily in distributing their updates and are reaching a wider audience. Anticipating what opposing counsel will argue in a case can help you create a strong counter-argument, and awareness of a competitor’s marketing can help you strategize to counter those efforts.
Momorella says the initial foray into an online newsroom should include certain components. “Begin with a detailed analysis of your target audience,” he says. Think about who will likely be visiting the newsroom. Will it be members of the media? Business partners? The public?
Once you have determined who will be using the newsroom, make it useful. For example, a good newsroom will feature high resolution photos of your team and executive bios. RSS feeds and an opt-in email are also good ideas.
When creating content, use titles and tags that contain your keywords. “Tags are important to search engine algorithms,” so it is imperative to use them to improve your rankings, says Momorella. He also suggests using HTML meta-data, creating URLs using keywords and utilizing press release wire services to distribute compelling information about the firm.
When you create an online newsroom, be sure to make it easy for reporters to access, view, navigate and share. Make important assets easy to find. If your law firm’s brand has use standards for its assets, dedicate a page to describing those standards. The newsroom should also enable media to be able to subscribe to RSS feeds and/or email updates so they receive updated information and news as it becomes available.
Content appropriate for the newsroom includes summaries of cases in which the firm was victorious, press releases and announcements. The site should also feature a searchable archive of news and stories, including multi-media.
Update content frequently, or at least push old content off the front page. Stale information can work against you, reducing trust and making it less likely journalists will see you as a source. Another best practice Momorella recommends is making sure the newsroom is easy to navigate to. That means not only placing a link to it on the firm’s home page, but also allowing people to search for it from any page.
You should also be prepared in case of a crisis. Make sure you have an easy-to-use content management system that allows you to update your newsroom should unexpected events occur. Momorella suggests offering visitors a toll-free phone number they may use when seeking updates in an emergency.
Other crisis-management steps include providing “backgrounders for media, media contact information and prepared statements,” Momorella says, adding, “be sure the site can handle overload, if it happens.”
Online newsrooms can be resources for journalists and potential clients. The easier you make it for reporters to write about your firm, the more likely they are to turn to you when they need a source. And the more potential clients see your firm in the news, the more likely they are to trust you.