In weather situations, clients can begin at a web page where they can view the real-time status of other organizations. After logging in and posting, they get a confirmation email.
Information is distributed to the news media in three ways.
- Your information posts into a page for the media (FlashAlertSeattle.net) as soon as it is received. The media monitor the page, which refreshes every 10 minutes. When their browser detects new information during a reload, it puts an alert on the screen, even if the page is minimized. This page also has links to a search function to locate contact info for FlashAlert clients and other tools.
- New or changed information is emailed to newsrooms at the addresses they provide every 15 minutes on busy days, and immediately for single events.
- Every 10 minutes, the info is “pushed” into news media web sites and TV crawls or “tickers.” The information appears on their web page, where the public can view it. Click here for an example of TV station use. At the end of the day, the system deletes the information and subscribers may begin placing information regarding the next day. Postings made the previous night can be flagged that they pertain to the next day and are not deleted that night.
The public can see your information on a page for just your org, which you can link to. The optional FlashAlert Messenger (see below) allows you to send emergency messages and news releases directly to parents, staff, students and others at the same time as the media.
A new tool allows you to record a sound bite or full video to accompany your news release.
• Emergency Information: What is appropriate for FlashAlert?
In weather situations, clients can begin at a web page where they can view the real-time status of other organizations. After logging in and posting, they get a confirmation email. FlashAlert provides the news media with local, accurate, time-sensitive information that impacts a large number of people. Airtime is in great demand during emergency situations. The news media will air information they deem appropriate; you will have greater success if you give them only what you really need to communicate.
• News Releases: For your everyday news
FlashAlert’s second “channel” distributes non-urgent news releases. You choose which cities you wish your releases to be sent to. You can upload photos or PDFs or even a video clip. You can have a text preview emailed to yourself or anyone else you choose.
Newsrooms get hundreds of emails per day; FlashAlert helps them filter this mail and see items from local organizations first. The news releases are available on an archive web page. You also can save a release as a draft, and even schedule it for future delivery.
FlashAlert distributes to all media – radio, TV and daily/weekly newspapers – in the cities you choose.
Customization and Your Organization’s Own Page
You can add into your account the e-mail addresses of “Business Partners” – people whom you would like to receive your emergency message and news release (in addition to the news media). And any time an organization’s name shows up to the media, it is as a link to the organization’s home page, enabling the media to quickly get to your site.
If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, FlashAlert can post your emergency messages to your feeds. If you manually delete a message in FlashAlert, it also is removed from FB/TW. If the message reaches its delete time, the message stays on your page.
Each organizations has a page with their FlashAlert information. On this page are your emergency messages and news releases and a starting point for a FA Messenger subscription, if the org has opted in. No more need to update your own news web page – just link to it from your home page. Click here to see the page for Oregon State Police.
FlashAlert Messenger: News direct to the Public
FA Messenger is a companion service where the public, including parents, employees and students may self-register up to three email addresses and receive your information at the same time as the news media. When someone registers, they trigger test messages to make sure they’ve entered addresses correctly and that messages pass spam filters. Each summer, an opt-in message is sent to keep the database current. Text message addresses are discouraged due to the delays caused by cell companies and them truncating messages.
Even faster is the free iOS/Android app FlashAlert Messenger, which allows the public to receive push notifications of your emergency messages – much faster and more reliable than text messaging. They also can view all emergency items and news releases in their region.
If you want to get more specific, you can add sub-organizations that your constituents can subscribe to. A school district, for example, could make each school a sub-org. In fact, FlashAlert allows you to add a sub-org third level, so you could send news about a specific school’s PTO or Band Boosters. A police department might set up sub-orgs for their precincts, and be able to target news releases to people subscribed to that precinct, as well as the news media. You also can create an account or sub-account that limits subscribers to those who have a specific email suffix, in the event you want to keep some communications restricted (such as messaging employees about when to report).
There is no charge to the public for the Messenger service; Messenger is included in premium accounts in the Seattle region. Click here for sample text you can use to explain to the public how to sign up for FlashAlert Messenger.
We discourage text messages, in favor of push notifications through the free Messenger app. If someone simply must get a text message, they can enter their phone manually using their cell company’s suffix (AT&T for example might be firstname.lastname@example.org).
New Premium Tool: News Media Monitoring
FlashAlert distributes your news.
It now SHOWS YOU THE RESULTS!
Now included in your FlashAlert subscription at no additional cost is media monitoring by Your News Inc.
FlashAlert and YNI have partnered for several years, but now, your premium subscription to FlashAlert includes free local TV/Radio/Newspaper/Online media reports showing exactly where your news was used (for clients new to YNI). Additional YNI services are available to FA clients at a greatly reduced rate.
Here is a sample report for Portland Police: www.flashalertnewswire.net/MonitoringReport.html
Ashley Massey with the Oregon State Marine Board uses both services.
“We use FlashAlert to distribute the agency’s news releases to specific media outlets, depending on the target audience and area where we’re hoping to get coverage,” she says. “FlashAlert is a one-stop portal to easily distribute important local or statewide news to media outlets and subscribers about, for example, “all things recreational boating.”
Similarly, YNI is a one-stop portal that captures the media outlets who shared news releases or other media stories using key terms and words important for the client. Together, these portals provide an A-to-Z solution for your outbound news and inbound media coverage. You control news that goes out to the public (via FlashAlert) and what news actually gets reported (via Your News Inc). Your News Inc’s portal also enables the end user to view, edit and archive tv and radio segments.
On your account management page, you’ll find a checkbox to activate Media Monitoring. Once you click this, YourNewsInc.net will contact you for the information needed to start providing you with your free local media monitoring reports and tell you about statewide and national monitoring options also available.
Speed and Reliability
News editors prefer emails, since the info can be forwarded and copy/pasted. They are faster than faxes, more accurate than phone calls. FlashAlert is redundant in that stations can see information online as it is posted or through the e-mails every 15 minutes.
While FlashAlert resides on a group of servers with multiple power supplies, the Internet is an unregulated medium and performance cannot be guaranteed. Also, subscribers should take into account the reliability of their own Internet service provider (ISP) through which they access the network, as well as their home/office power supply. The FlashAlert web sites are tested every 20 minutes by an independent monitoring company.
FlashAlert does not generate open rates, the percentage of emails that are actually opened and, presumably, read. Open rates are based on putting an invisible, one-pixel graphic in the news release. The idea is that when someone opens the email, it calls for the graphic and the request is logged. But many mail clients (including my own) no longer call for the graphic unless you tell it to. Therefore, the open count is greatly skewed lower. And many reporters ignore the email and get the info off the FA website. Between these two factors, the count ends up much lower than it should be and of no help.
FlashAlert has managed emergency communications for the school districts in the Portland area for 44 years, starting with phone calls, then faxes. In 2000, the Internet created the opportunity to bring in other regions and organizations. Users benefit from easy access to the news media, while the news media benefit from having an organized, information clearinghouse. The automated nature of the network keeps costs low.
Here’s who is using FlashAlert in Central Oregon: Participant list
Click on the link and choose your region to see annual fees for unlimited use (September-August billing cycle, pro-rated after November 1). View fee schedule.
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