Is Your Web Site Barring the Door to the Press?
Every organization wants to get positive media attention -- that's a no-brainer. However, some Web sites seem designed to keep the press out. If you'd like to optimize your chances for getting coverage, make it easy for journalists to find the information and tools they need to tell your story.
09/29/09 4:00 AM PT
Does your Web site work for the press and analysts who visit? How much time and money does your company spend promoting your Web site, your business, your services, technologies and products to the world? What happens when an editor comes to your Web site and tries to find information? Can they find what they need -- or do they click away, going to one of your competitors' Web sites to get the info they need instead?
Over my 25-year career as a journalist and public relations consultant, I have seen many sites that just did not work for the press. Wearing my writer hat, I have experienced too many sites that made me turn away in frustration, unable to find the information that I needed.
Your press room site should be an important component of your PR, sales and marketing plans. Unlike your staff, your online press room is open and working for you 24/7. Editors and writers often work late at night, on the weekends and holidays when your PR and marketing teams are not available. Your Web site and its press room have to be able to provide all the info needed.
So, how do you create an effective online press room?
Location, Location, Location
First off, make your Press Room easy to find. You can put a link on it from the front page -- labeling it as "News," "Press" or even "Press Room." I have seen too many companies bury their press rooms three or four clicks away. The only reason that I, as an editor, persisted to find the press page was that I knew the info was there somewhere.
Obviously, you want to include links to your press releases and announcements. Make sure your lists are up to date. As soon as a release goes out, make sure it is also on your Web site.
Don't require an editor to fill out a contact form to retrieve your press releases. Editors don't have the time for that. If they don't just click away, they will more than likely provide a fake name and phone number. I have heard marketing folks say that they don't want the competition having access to the press releases. If you have distributed the press releases and got some coverage, (which is the whole point of PR), those releases and info should already be available on the web anyhow.
Don't post your press releases as PDFs. Writers and editors like to be able to easily cut and paste information from your press releases, data sheets and other online documents. Post them as straight text on the Web page. Do not convert your content into jpgs and images -- make it easy for writers to access and "borrow" your content in order to promote your products and services. It make it easier for writers, and it also makes your site a lot more search-engine-friendly, which means better "organic," or natural, search results.
Finally, you may have heard of the "long tail." This applies to press releases as well. Unless there is a compelling reason to remove them, keep all your old press releases up on your site and available via a press release archive. Another reason to keep those old releases online: The more press releases -- the more content -- the better SEO you will get for your site.
If you have changed PR companies or PR contacts over the years, make sure that the PR contact information on the old press releases is current.
You HAVE to have PR contact info. Make sure you list a PR contact or two for editors who have questions. It should be easily found on your press room page. If you operate in various regions -- e.g., the U.S., EMEA, Europe -- then list the press contacts for each area. If possible, list local phone numbers for each region. If your organization is very large with many divisions and product areas, you may want to have a separate PR contact page to make it easy for a writer or editor to find the appropriate contact.
This is important: Make sure that there is someone available to answer the emails or to pick up the phone for the press contact. I have seen companies that list a press contact email or phone number that goes to an answering machine somewhere that only gets checked once a week or so.
For good PR, you need to be responsive. If an editor or writer calls, you should be able to respond within 24 hours or less. This is also important: If the editor asks for some info or a document that is not readily available, respond. Acknowledge that you got the inquiry and that you are working on it. Don't leave a journalist wondering if anyone is at home. This is especially important for companies that use a pr@ address on their Web site.
Within the contact area, and maybe on other pages as well, provide an RSS link and news links so that editors can sign up and get automatic updates to the press room or to recent press releases. Also, provide a sign-up form to enable editors, writers or analysts to receive updates and new press releases.
Photos, Images and Video
Editors and writers love photos and images. Why do so many Web sites make it so difficult to find and download these images to use in an article? If your press releases are product-oriented, include a small thumbnail with links to a choice of product images of various sizes and angles. Provide small gif or jpg images for Web and blog use. Offer a large 300 dpi image for print purposes.
You may also want to create and maintain a standalone image library that includes company logos, company execs and managers, graphics and charts, in addition to product shots. Most tech editors prefer standalone shots of the product -- without a person holding it or using it.
Video is also becoming very important. If you are using video in your PR and marketing mix, post a small thumbnail with a good description with a link to the video. This can include videos of webinars, podcasts, product demonstrations and b-roll, presentations and management speeches, and even commercials for your product.
Your press room should as include links to white papers, company backgrounders and corporate information, organizational history, profiles of company leaders and management, a list of upcoming shows where the company will be exhibiting or is available for interviews, and so forth. If appropriate, include other technical documents, product descriptions, data sheets, etc.
If you want editors and writers to try out, review and then write about your products and services, make it easy for them to find that info. Also include relevant user and reviewer guides for easy download.
If you want to position yourself as the thought leader in your industry, you may want to create and post articles, blogs, short columns, etc., about the latest trends, developments and standards that impact your industry sector. If you are in a highly technical space, you may want to create and post your own wiki or a definition of terms important to your industry.
Think how powerful it is when an editor cites your company as the source for info about particular technology or industry initiative.
You may also want to provide suggested guidelines regarding your company's positions on key topics and trends. You can also include a listing of various industry and standards organizations that your company belongs to, as well as awards and other forms of recognition.
As a PR professional and as a writer, I really like to see an archive of recent press coverage. As a PR pro, this vindicates the work done and demonstrates that the editorial community is picking up on the news. These press coverage lists can also be very useful to sales reps in the field to use as marketing collateral. "Check it out, XYZ Magazine is saying wonderful things about our company and solutions." This helps the sales process.
For writers and editors, the list of press coverage demonstrates that other members of the community see the value of this company and its offerings. This press coverage page can include news articles written by third-party journalists, press release coverage, as well as white papers and articles that have been written by company representatives and then posted in important trade magazines.
Do not go overboard with your press release coverage. If possible, primarily feature the publications and writers that have written something over and above what was said in the original release.
When you post a press release to one of the wire services, it often gets picked up and posted by a number of sites, blogs and tweeters who simply copy it. You do not need to list each and every one of them. List the original wire URL and maybe one or two BIG NEWS sites that picked it up as well. Do not copy a Google news search results list of press release pickups to your online press room.
Mark Shapiro provides PR and marketing consulting services to technology companies worldwide through his firm He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.