Social media newsroom X Factor at Communicate corporate communications conference

I attended Communicate Magazine’s Social Media in a Corporate Context conference last week and sat on the ‘judging’ panel for a session which aimed to examine social media newsrooms in the style of an X Factor audition. The other ‘judges’ were Ruth Sunderland (Business Editor of The Observer) and Sam Proctor (Director of Emerging Media, PR Newswire).

As well as being on the panel, I have a lot of experience in creating social media newsrooms for our clients. In fact, two social media newsrooms that the Wolfstar team has implemented were presented for judging!

You only have to search for the #smcc10 hash tag on Twitter to see that the session went down very well. And, I was obviously very pleased at how popular our social media newsrooms for Sony Ericsson (presented by Merran Wrigley, Vice President Head of External Relations, Global Communications) and First Direct (presented by Amanda Brown, Head of Media Relations) were with the audience! The third social media newsroom presented was by Keith Childs for GM Europe.

@juliusduncan: Best Social Media Newsroom at#smcc10 X Factor? I think it’s @first_direct !

@lucynixon: Missed #smcc10 yesterday? I loved Social Media Newsrooms, X-Factor style: http://su.pr/2lhNdt

But, let’s go back to basics and forget all the X Factor related stuff.

To those who haven’t used or created a social media newsroom before, the two key questions are:

  • What is a social media newsroom?
  • And, why do I need one?

A social media newsroom (or SMNR) is essentially an online centre for all of your information. This can be information that anyone, from customers to the media would want to get hold of. In a typical SMNR you’d usually find news releases, photos, video content, contact details, links to social media assets and the list could go on and on.

You need one because it will completely change the way you and your organisation approach stakeholder engagement and media relations.

Although customers can access your social media newsroom, it’s mainly there for the media, whether this be journalists or ‘citizen journalists’ i.e. bloggers and other publishers of content on social media and social networks. It essentially gives them a way to quickly and easily access the information they need. You can also start being smarter about what you put up there, getting to know the media you want to be in a dialogue with will allow you to tailor your content to their needs making the resource much more worthwhile to you and valuable to journalists.

I’ve already touched upon some of the key functions of a social media newsroom, but here’s how one example of the final product looks:

First Direct Social Media Newsroom

As you can see, there are:

  • Press releases and news articles
  • Photo content – using social photo sites such as Flickr and Picassa to make it easier to share and embed photos
  • Video content – using social video sites such as YouTube, Vimeo and Brightcove
  • Audio content (podcasts) – including listing them on iTunes and other sites
  • Social bookmarking and other sharing tools such as Delicious and Digg
  • Contact details
  • Tags and categories – to make it easier to find information and improve SEO
  • Links to other corporate social media assets such as blogs, Twitter etc
  • Instructions about how to use the site
  • Corporate backgrounders, spokesperson biographies etc
  • Search functionality

But, like every other form of activity online, there certainly isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach. We work with our clients to find out what they want, how it can work and how best it can be implemented. And it’s definitely not just a case of ‘build it and they will come’. A new social media news room also enables you to totally modernise the way that you do media relations and much of the consultancy we provide is helping in-house press and corporate communications team understand the new rapidly changing demands of journalists and how best to meet their needs.

And there are some stumbling blocks along the way, we have a list of the key components that make up (what we consider to be) a perfect social media newsroom. However, we can rarely achieve the perfect SMNR due to the constraints that most large corporates face. Challenges include getting ‘buy-in’ from other departments and functions, legal restrictions, for multi-nationals – language, geography and time-zones, and corporate IT infrastructures.

For Sony Ericsson we worked closely with its in-house IT department who actually built the social media newsroom for us based on our brief, project management and specifications. One of the challenges here was being able to incorporate all of the functionality we wanted within the constraints of the existing corporate content management system (CMS).

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The third social media newsroom presented at the conference was meant to be GM Europe. This was the first social media newsroom in Europe and started in August 2007 as a ‘standalone’ site that wasn’t integrated with the traditional press room on the corporate website. Keith Childs explained that this has now been rectified and the old generic GM Europe social media newsroom no longer exists. Instead all of the social elements have now been added to GM’s various newsrooms for its brands.

Vauxhall UK Social Media Newsroom

As well as First Direct and Sony Ericsson we’ve also built a series of multi-language social media newsrooms for Philips in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. As far as we’re aware the Philips social media news rooms were the world’s first attempt at creating a suite of multi-language newsrooms.

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But, we’re not the only ones who have done this well, here’s a great social media news room from Cisco:

Cisco Social Media Newsroom

If you want to know more about how a social media newsroom might help your business or organisation then give me or one of the Wolfstar team a call on +44 (0)845 838 7282.


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
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