How to Make Your Web Site Press Friendly
by Mark Shapiro
Many public relations and marcom managers find themselves spending tens of thousands of dollars or more, establishing and maintaining a web site. In addition, they may spend tens of thousands more every month on public relations. But is the web site press friendly? Does it make it easy for editors, analysts and writers to find the information they need?
Most of today’s journalists use the web for their research. It’s very effective. Many of them like doing research at night or during odd hours, when they don’t need to be answering phones. However, when a journalist or editor visits the web site to do some research and write about a company or its products, often they can’t find what they are looking for. When your pr department is home asleep, your web site is your only representative to the press.
Here are several tips to make your web site press friendly:
Organization and Information
Is your site well organized? Is there a good and logical site map with a Find/search button? Does your web site allow journalists to readily find specific information as it is needed. “Be fast, easy to navigate, and have basic info on the home page,” counsels Loring Wirbel of EE Times.
Editors are in a hurry. If they can’t find what they need with a minimum of hassle, they are off to another site. Happy editors write good copy and prpvide good press coverage for your technologies and services.. You don’t want to irritate them. Make sure your site map is complete, up to date and accurate.
By the way, like most of us, editors hate broken URLs and pages under construction. It displays lack of professionalism and make sithard to fidn the right info. After a few broken links, most people will abandon your site.
Comprehensive Product/Technology Sections
Writers may not be up to speed on the technology. Some editors are looking for the big picture, the 50,0000 foot viewpoint. Others want the nuts and bolts of your technology and product. Your site should be able to provide access to various levels of technical expertise.
Your web site should have comprehensive product sections that include:
· Data sheets
· Summary of what your company does and a short concise history
· Bios of executive management – especially if they have been around awhile and have traction in the industry.
· Feature spotlights
· Press releases
· White papers
· Past press coverage
· Short and detailed descriptions of each product
· Thumbnail and high resolution pictures for each products
Many times journalists are seeking certain types of products and do not have the patience to call up product info page by page to check on each and every product.
Make sure your site information is up-to-date regarding product names, product features, prices, etc. Journalists may go directly to your site and print information they find there without double-checking to see if it is correct or not.
Press release sections are very important as well. “Your press releases section should be searchable by date and by topic,” said Richard Adhikari, freelance journalist with InformationWeek. A good site needs comprehensive and well written press releases with good, up to date contact names and numbers listed.
Also, requesting that an editor register or fill out a complex form before allowed to access the documents and files is very offputting. Even worse, is a site that requires to again fill out the form each and every time you visit it to download an image or a document. If you want the world to know about your news and products, make it easy to access.
Graphics, photos, charts and other illustrated artwork is very important. I have found that great art greatly improves your odds of getting positive press coverage. You should include both product photos and technology illustrations. If possible, include photos of people using your product. Don’t just post low resolution pictures on your web site. Instead, make it easy for writers and production departments to download large size 300 dpi print quality art as needed. For example, many smart sites post thumbnail photos and illustrations with links to a set of easily downloadable high-resolution images. That enables the writer to download and include a small JPEG in the draft. Later, if needed, the publication’s production staff can go back and download the full high-resolution image suitable for printing on the cover.
Make sure your web site is speedy – Alternate Non-Graphic Version
Provide an alternate non-graphic version of your web site that provides fast access. Nice graphics, frames and Java animations are cool but slow. “A plain-text, frameless and caffeine free alternate site is very important for journalists who don’t have time to look at your refrigerator art,” says David Hakala of PC World and SmartPartner. “40-50 percent of surfers cruise with graphics turned off, and if I can’t find things that way then you’re SOL.”
And, to sum up: Keep your web site well organized, up to date and provide current contacts. Make sure that all relevant product, corporate and technology information is easily accessible. Editors and writers have different needs than your customers and casual web surfers. When you design and set up your corporate web site, remember that the press are important. Don’t ignore their needs or they’ll ignore your company.
Readily Available Contact List
Writers often need a little extra that can’t be found on the web site. Maybe they need a quote from the president or a copy of your software to review. You need someone that can quickly handle and respond to the press’s demands. Because, if those demands are not met, the editor will throw her hands up in disgust, and move onto to a more press friendly web site. David Hakala of PC World and SmartPartner wants a contact list right on the home page, so there is no delay getting the information he needs ASAP. “My biggest frustrations concern contact information,” says John San Filippo, editor of ComputorEdge. “On some sites, I can’t find a single iota of contact information. The next worst thing is e-mail-only contact information. When you’re in a hurry, the phone beats e-mail any day of the week.
Every corporate site should include phone numbers for press people.”"The thing I most often find missing is complete contact info. For example, the address, and phone number that readers’ should call for more info so that I can publish it. And the press contact I can call for more info,” complained Maury Wright at Commverge. “Many companies remove that contact info from releases before posting them on the web. Either leave the info in or have a separate press section with an up to date list of press contacts.”
Many companies are now using a reply submission box. Make sure someone is actually monitoring those queries on an hourly basis. I have seen too many companies that funnel ALL the incoming web queries to a single email account monitored by a receptionist or salesperson. PR inquiries can sit for days or weeks without an answer. This is a sure way to make sure your company does not get press coverage.Often writers are working on a deadline and can’t wait a day or two for someone to get around to reading the email inquiries. A phone with a live person answering it during working hours is the best solution. By the way, it might seem obvious, but make sure email and snail mail addresses are correct and up to date. If you are lisitng email contacts on your old archived press reelases, make sure you update them when a new person takes over that role.
Also, make sure your public relations and marketing people check their email in-boxes regularly (several times a day) and follow up on opportunities. Responsiveness gets results!
For the least 15 years, Mark Shapiro has provided media relations and public relations services for a wide range of high tech companies and organizations worldwide. Wearing his editor hat, he has written for dozens of publications. He can be reached at email@example.com 619 249 7742
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