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How to build a newsroom or press office for the modern media environment

StoryWorks is Ketchum’s worldwide standard for newsroom and press office design and delivery.

The press office is the front line between an organisation and the media. Its primary function is creating media content and managing relationships with the media.

Traditionally press officers have created content and managed relationships with journalists face-to-face or via the telephone.

It’s a simple model that scales up and down depending on the size of the organisation. Press officers are typically assigned to an area of the organisation or a campaign.

A senior manager acts as the interface between press officers and management, and oversees the organisation’s calendar of announcements or news grid.

There’s typically a mechanism such as a pool phone number or shift rotation for managing out of hours enquiries.

Media and skills explosion

This model started to creak in the early 1990s with the rise of broadband internet, mobile phones and fragmented media.

Modern press offices have evolved to work across all forms of content and media.

The skills of a team have developed to include: listening and monitoring; creative; content development; production; community management; and media relations. These are delivered as separate job roles, or by multi-skilled individuals.

Specialist functions such as paid media and video production may be outsourced, depending on the scale of the organisation.

Ketchum’s StoryWork’s newsroom model

At Ketchum we’ve developed a press office or newsroom model called StoryWorks. It was developed as a project in Chicago but has been rolled out in all our offices worldwide.

It’s typically a dedicated room configured for the purpose. In London it’s an open plan area at the front of the office.

StoryWorks brings together skills from across an office to create a bespoke newsroom team for a client.

The layout is simple, consisting of a large table and bank of screens. Four to eight co-workers work around the table, and review content shared on the screens.

Teams run scrums at frequent intervals throughout a week, or day, depending on the scale of an assignment.

News grid: agile and planned content

The benefit of StoryWorks is that it allows us to manage both agile and planned content. A typical programme will consist of 60% pre-planned content; and 40% improvised content.

In this way an organisation can manage its own news flow in addition to responding to relevant conversations.

It’s public relations as defined by the Cluetrain Manifesto: listening to publics and responding with appropriate content on behalf of an organisation.

Workflow: tools, content, creation, pitch, post and amplification

The process starts with monitoring. A variety of tools including BrandWatch, Google Hot Search Trends, NewsWhip and Reddit, are used to spot relevant stories from the geographic region or market sector.

This enables us to either frame a planned announcement or content around a breaking news events; or spot opportunities to respond to relevant topics.

A content concept is brainstormed and quickly developed, and pitched to the client.

We also work on a plan for Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned (PESO) media execution in parallel.

Once we’ve got a go decision from the client or client team, we’ll build the content; manage approvals; and then pitch, post and amplify the content.

A no decision means starting over in the next cycle.

Real time monitoring enables us to handle community management, and manage performance and measurement.

The entire process is completed from start to finish in a matter of hours. Members of the team jump in and out as required.

Rapid turnaround is critical, particularly on the initial concept and pitch; and the final content.

Key messages, themes and go and no go areas are typically developed in advance with the client to accelerate this process.

Show and tell

We’ve created variants of StoryWorks solutions for programmes including crisis, events, and executive profiling.

Please look me up if you’re working on a branded news room or press office deployment. I’ve love to help.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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