How to set up a Corporate Newsroom 

Do you have a Corporate Newsroom in your company? If not, would you like to know how to set one up?

You’re in luck as I have a guest post for you today by Leah Bowden @humanizecomms, who is an in-house Head of Internal Comms, to discover everything you need to know.

I’ll hand you over…

How to set up a Corporate Newsroom

Whether you’re ‘the only’ communicator in your organisation, or you lead a multi-disciplined global team, how to make your content work really hard for you will be top of mind.

Inspired by a roundtable discussion hosted by Communicate Magazine and Speak Media earlier this month, I’d like to share how you can set up a Corporate Newsroom, no matter the size of your team. 

Why would you need a newsroom approach?

Well, because even the most brilliant content needs a little structure to shine. And with that structure, you can create stand-out stories that elevate your organisation’s brand, its strategy, its purpose; stories that work across multiple internal channels and can be chunked up into different assets for different social platforms, in turn giving you better return on your investment (financial or time).

Is it easy to do?

Yes, if you get the fundamentals right. I’ve previously worked in an organisation that attempted a newsroom approach, but it failed to deliver the return I’ve alluded to above. Why? Because the structure was missing and roles and responsibilities were unclear.

The great thing about failure though, is that it gives you the opportunity for success next time.

So, here are some tips for getting it right:

The ‘F’ word… Framework

Framework, governance, clear roles and responsibilities are really important when setting up a newsroom.

As a bare minimum you’ll need:

  • A senior sponsor, preferably part of the Executive Committee. This is person who’ll back the newsroom approach when it becomes clear to the MD that you’re no longer going to publish everything and anything.
  • A managing editor (or Head of Content, or you, if you should happen to be that ‘only’ in your organisation). This role is key. Ideally, the managing editor should have ultimate sign-off and editing rights on all content, without having to ‘run it past’ anyone else. They will also have final say over the content planner to ensure it’s telling a coherent story over the course of a year, and will lead the reporting back to senior stakeholders.
  • Sub-editors: these could be your business partners, or country IC heads, if you’re in a large organisation. If you’re on your own, create a coalition of communications champions who sit within each part of your business. These are people for whom communications is not actually part of their day job but who love
  • Planning tool: this could be a specifically designed Content or Social Marketing solution such as Percolate or Sprinklr, or something as simple as a shared Outlook calendar…which is what I currently use.
  • Finally, someone whose role is dedicated to gathering data, insights and metrics. AKA you, Internal Comms ‘only’!

Governance

Having a governance structure is important for reporting purposes, for ensuring communications and business priorities continue to align and for getting further investment. I would recommend a 5-tier structure:

  1. A production / editorial meeting to discuss and move along content – meets weekly.
  2. A working group that feeds into the steering group, led by the managing editor – meets monthly.
  3. A steering group, led by the sponsor that discusses dashboards, performance, overall direction – meets quarterly.
  4. Sitting above all of this, the executive committee, to whom the sponsor would report progress on a regular basis (1-2 times a year).
  5. Finally, a 1x yearly planning meeting with your sub-editors / communications champions to set the forward-looking calendar once again. 

Make a date with your data

Last – but by no means least of your structures – is measurement… Data is really important to maintaining the integrity of your newsroom approach because:

  • Data informs your dashboards and provides your license to operate.
  • Data is your ‘no, because’ to irrelevant or unpopular proposed content.
  • Data is your best means of predicting future content success.

I’d recommend also agreeing a framework for measurement.

One possible example, courtesy of GlaxoSmithKline @gsk, is F.E.C.A. which tracks metrics for:

  • Familiarity
  • Engagement
  • Conversion
  • Advocacy

I also look at participation, collaboration and contribution rates, as well as applause and engagement rates for content. Once this is all set up, you’re almost ready!

Form follows function

Now you’ve got a working framework in place, it’s time to turn to form ie. your content.

Don’t be put off if you’re a really small team of one (or two, like me!). You can still work this approach and get measurable results. 

After your framework’s in place, what next?

You’ll need to agree with your sponsor and key stakeholders:

  • Who are you creating content for?
  • What do you want them to know, feel, do?
  • How will you source your content?
  • How will you keep the content on message?

Let’s look at each of these in turn… 

Asking or telling?
Deciding who your newsroom content is for – employees or senior leaders – is critical.

Will you jump every time a JFDI* comes from on high? Or will you build in editorial autonomy from the start so that when the order comes down, you are empowered to say no if it’s not strategically relevant?

*Just F***ing Do It  – we’ve all had them!

I know which I would choose…

Sourcing content
Earlier in this article I recommended you use IC Business Partners or communications champions to source stories. But this is just one approach.

As work channels become more social, I encourage every new joiner during their induction to be a journalist and post on our Enterprise Social Network. Their stories are a rich source of authentic stories that can evolve into newsroom features.

If you’re lucky enough to have actual journalists in your organisation, Rachel Cooper at gsk has written an excellent blog about how to make the most of their talents and experiences.

We also regularly run personal branding workshops in-house. These are really good at getting people who ‘wouldn’t know what to write’, writing and posting about what they love. 

Templates (or keeping your content on track)…
Having a template for people to fill out is a great way to keep your content strategy on track. If you’re communicating your strategy, include a drop-down box in the document asking which element of the strategy this particular story relates to.

This has a two-fold purpose: it reminds those requesting a spot for their content what the strategy is and gives you licence to say no (or to suggest another way to tell the story) if it doesn’t align to the outcome you’re trying to drive for your business

Phew, that’s A LOT…

It is, initially. And if all this sounds like a lot of hard work that you neither have the time nor team for, companies like Speak Media can do it all for you.

If you decide to go for it, sure, there’ll be challenges on the way – like navigating the gap between what employees want to hear and what leaders would like to tell them, and getting agreement for a managing editor to have the final word on published material.

But ultimately your employees, and the business, will thank you.

Of that, I’m sure.

Post author: Leah Bowden.

Thank you Leah. What do you think about what you’ve read? You can find Leah on Twitter @humanizecomms or feel free to comment below.

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