10 Ways to Make Your Online Press Room Perform for Your Nonprofit

To capture a journalist’s attention and answer her questions, a repository of press releases plus some bios and head shots (which comprises the entirety of most nonprofit press rooms), just isn’t enough.

How to ensure you’re providing the timely, meaty information and insight journalists crave, enough to engage and motivate a call or email for a conversation? Every media pro worth her paycheck knows a great online media room means the difference between multiple column inches and a mere mention, if that.

Here’s how to do it:

Online Press Room vs. Media Kit

Online media rooms, and journalists’ expectations of them, have evolved. Many nonprofit organizations now feature “virtual press kits,” but an effective online press room is more than just a media kit.

The last thing you want is for a journalist to hit a wall, and become frustrated or annoyed, when trying to dig into your nonprofit or program online. Here’s the construct to follow to avoid that ugly scenario:

  • A press room is the area on your site expressly for the media, although other audiences may be interested in the content. Most of the content here is on the organizational level, rather than specific to a single program, service, location or event.
  • A media kit is a set of essential, easy-to-use and downloadable information focused on your organization, or a program, product, leader, service or event.

What to Include in Your Online Press Room

Your online press room should provide what you used to include in your hard-copy press kit, and then some:

  1. The absolute latest news. Journalists who’ve come to expect the most up-to-the-minute information from your site will seek out your virtual press kit; it’s a matter of consistently fulfilling expectations. Planned Parenthood makes its latest news accessible by topic and by date.
  2. Downloadable photos and graphics to accompany stories. Think leaders and staff, programs in action, product shots and more. Include several versions of your logo, and provide all downloads in high, medium and low resolution. Take a cue from the American Red Cross which provides clear terms of use and specs for its downloadable images.
  3. A directory of your organization’s experts. Make it easy for journalists to get to the expert on the particular subject they are covering. The directory should be searchable by name and topic.The National Resources Defense Council does a great job with its Expert Finder.
  4. Succinct backgrounders and fact sheets. Make sure the information in your backgrounders is relevant to the latest news you’re pitching, or responding too. Frequently, backgrounders are too generic to fill journalists’ needs.
    • The Non-Profit Housing Corporation of Northern California provides a pithy snapshot on Bay Area affordable housing issues as a download, plus an experts directory and list of hot stories.
    • Here’s a multi-page version from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
  5. Up-to-the-minute event calendars and timelines, updated daily if necessary. Make it easy for journalists to get the latest. Nothing is less impressive than an outdated listing. Keep your listing up to date like this one from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE).
  6. Guidelines on writing and reporting on your organization’s key topics or issue areas. The UCP’s (formerly United Cerebral Palsy) online press room offers useful interaction and etiquette tips for writing on people with disabilities.
  7. Audio and/or video clips. Definitely include multimedia if possible, and transcripts for time-starved reporters. The Sierra Club’s online press room offers audio and video clips of the org’s radio and television ads.
  8. Awards and Recognition Let your successes speak for your organization, rather than saying it yourself. ACCION does a good job of this.
  9. Recent Clips Clips add credibility, and give the media an idea of what’s already been done (and the gaps they can fill). Make sure your clips are up-to-date, unlike those in this online pressroom (from 2008 and prior).
  10. News Feed for Automatic Receipt of Press Room Updates Make it easy for those who are interested to get press releases and other news hot off the press via an RSS reader. The American Cancer Society makes this very easy.

Of course, the more relevant information, the better. Resist flooding the press room with useless content. Above all, avoid going overboard with hype or flash. Hyperbole gets you nowhere.

What to Include in Your Program-Specific (or Product, Location, or Event) Media Kit

Pretty much the same big 10 outlined above, sans awards.

Consider adding any or all of these elements:

  • Milestones
  • History
  • Relevant statistics (impact or change generated)

Most importantly, make sure content is current. These kits need to be updated weekly if not daily.

More Tips for Your Online Press Room

  • Feature a highly-visible link to your press room on your home page, and on every page throughout the site. Include it in your site’s main menu bar. Press kits on current topics or programs should be highlighted on the home page.
  • Include clear contact information for your organization’s primary media contact, and the back- up.
  • Offer brief bios of your organization’s leaders and experts, to provide a context for quotes or coverage.

Online Press Rooms that Work

Review these nonprofits’ online press rooms for ways to strengthen your own:


American Cancer Society


University of Missouri

But my best advice for what to include in your nonprofit’s online press room? Ask the press you work with most frequently what they want. They’re your customers and it’s all about meeting their needs.