Heard Over Lunch: Spruce Up Your Online Newsroom (Unless You Want To Be Invisible and/or Boring)

PORTLAND—Members and guests of Portland Ad Fed are gathered in the Heritage Room at Bridgeport Brewpub in Northwest Portland to hear from Terri Nopp, a veteran of the Portland branch of Edelman Public Relations and principal of PR startup Online Newsroom.

Nopp has witnessed the “dramatic decline of the press” and says there aren’t as many reporters to pitch a story to today. Nopp also believes that the reporters left standing don’t want pitches, they want fully packaged stories.

“We’re moving from a pitching to a publishing model,” she says. “We don’t have to wait for a story to be told.”

She mentions that it is a brand’s responsibility to provide the information that consumers are searching for, and that the place for this information is “The Newsroom” a.k.a. news section of the corporate website.

Nopp shows the audience a slide that illustrates how tame and uninviting a corporate news page can be. Nordstrom’s, Boeing and PGE are boring, while Nissan, Cisco and UCLA are not.

“Cisco is so brilliant,” she claims. They’ve branded their newsroom (it’s called The Network) and hired reporters like Steve Wildstrom from BusinessWeek to tell their stories.

Nopp also likes Intel’s Free Press newsroom. She says Intel writes about the stories that aren’t being picked up by the press, and that interestingly enough, reporters now come to Free Press to find story ideas.

Regarding one of the challenges involved in producing this kind of content, Nopp says, “there’s confusion around who owns the newsroom.” She mentions that IT departments are often charged with maintaining the newsroom and that leads to the sterile results found on Nordstrom.com and other sites.

“Evolve or get left behind,” she challenges.

Editor’s note: this is where the reporting ends and the editorializing begins…

As an ad guy up to my wader tops in digital waters, I find it interesting to hear how a PR professional frames the need to tell brand stories. Nopp’s focus is on the corporate newsroom and she’s excited by the possibilities of a more dynamic experience there. She’s right to be excited, but I know what a real world challenge it is to tell compelling stories that people want to read and share. When a company does compelling things, their stories are there to be picked like fruit on a tree. Yet, even in these best case scenarios a company needs a way to harvest the fruit and get it baked into a pie. That’s the hard part and that’s where advertising, PR and media pros can add value.

But how? How do we act on the EC=MC* equation to benefit the brand and drive sales? And how do we measure it? Inquiring client minds want to know. Thanks to the DIY nature of many of our most popular digital tools, a company’s internal team can launch a blog and update it daily or weekly. A company can also create a place for community interaction on Facebook and run the whole thing themselves. But that doesn’t mean they should. Once we all agree on the importance of telling stories to customers and prospects, the next step is to realize that these stories are important enough to be put in the hands of a writer, or team of writers. People trained to engage readers in a compelling narrative.

*Every company is a media company.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am now head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.