Establishing and maintaining a website can cost tens of thousands of dollars each year for many public relations and marketing communication managers. They might also shell out monthly PR budgets in the tens of thousands. Is the site press-ready, though? Do editors, analysts, and authors have an easy time locating relevant data?
In most cases, no.
The Internet is now the primary research tool for most journalists. It has a significant impact. Many of them choose to conduct study late at night or at inconvenient times when they are not required to be available by phone. When researching a company or its products, journalists and editors sometimes find themselves frustrated when they visit the firm’s website and are unable to get the information they need. Your website is your only point of contact with the media while your PR team is sound sleeping at home.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while designing a site for the media:
Informational Structure and Arrangement
Is it easy to navigate your site? Is there a search bar or site map that makes sense? Ask yourself if journalists can easily discover the information they need on your site. “Be fast, easy to navigate, and have basic info on the home page,” recommends Loring Wirbel of EE Times.
Times are tight for editors. If they can’t get what they want quickly and easily, they’ll go elsewhere. Contented editors produce quality drafts. It’s best not to get them mad. Maintain an accurate and comprehensive site map.
By the way, editors despise downed websites and temporary pages just as much as the rest of us do. It’s unprofessional and embarrassing.
Sections on Products and Technologies in Depth
It’s possible that the writers aren’t up-to-date on the technology. Some editors require a bird’s eye view or the 50,000-foot perspective. The meat and potatoes of your product and technology are what others are after. Your website needs to cater to users with varying degrees of technical knowledge.
If your business has been around for a while and is making waves in its field, it is imperative that your website features in-depth product sections that include: Datasheets A summary of what your firm does, and a short concise history Bios of top management.
Highlights Short and extensive explanations of each product Thumbnail and high definition photographs for each product Awards Past press coverage Feature articles
Reporters often have specific product categories in mind and lack the time to go through each product’s detail page by page.
Verify that all references to products, their features, prices, etc., on your site are current. Reporters might not verify the accuracy of the information they discover on your site before publishing it.
The media coverage portions of press releases are very crucial. Freelance writer for InformationWeek Richard Adhikari suggested adding date and topic searching to the press releases area. An excellent website will provide well-written news releases that include current contact information.
Furthermore, it is quite off-putting to require registration or a lengthy form fill-out from the editor before granting access to the files and papers. Sites that make you re-enter your information every time you want to download an image or a document are much worse. Make it simple for people to learn about your company and its offerings.
Photos, charts, and other visual representations of data are crucial. My experience tells me that having excellent artwork increases the possibility of favorable media publicity. Photos of the product and diagrams of the technology should be included. Photos of actual customers using your product are highly encouraged. Don’t only upload low-resolution images to your site; instead, make it simple for authors and production teams to grab the print-ready 300 dpi artwork whenever they need it. For instance, many well-designed websites now provide thumbnail versions of photos and artwork alongside clickable links to full-size versions of the same. The author can grab a low-resolution JPEG and throw it in there. The publication’s production team can get the high-resolution cover art at a later time if necessary.
Alternative Textual Representation
Give people a quick way to access your site without having to deal with the graphics. Beautiful yet sluggish graphics, frames, and Java animations. “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. As one user put it, “40-50 percent of surfers cruise with graphics turned off, and if I can’t find things that way, then you’re SOL.”Finally, make sure your website is always up-to-date with relevant information and contact details. Make sure that any and all information about your company’s products, services, and technologies can be found quickly and efficiently. Customers and casual browsers have distinct needs from editors and authors. Keep the press in mind as you plan and build out your company’s web presence. If you disregard their wants, they will do the same to your business.
Easily Accessible Address Book
Sometimes authors require supplementary material that isn’t available online. Perhaps they require a presidential quotation or a test version of your software. Someone who can promptly respond to the needs of the press is essential. If those conditions aren’t met, the editor will give up and go on to a site that is more press-friendly. David Hakala, of PC World and SmartPartner, requests a contact list on the homepage to facilitate instant access to the data he needs. As ComputorEdge editor John San Filippo puts it, “My biggest frustrations concern contact information,” There are certain websites where I can’t even find a basic email address to write to. Email-only contact details are the next worst thing. When time is of the essence, nothing beats picking up the phone instead of sending an email.
Include media contact numbers on your company’s website. The lack of full contact information is the most common issue I encounter. For instance, if you want me to publish something, please provide me with a contact address and phone number where interested parties can reach you. “…and the press contact I can call for more info,” Commverge’s Maury Wright groused. When preparing press releases for online publication, many organizations black out direct contact information. Keep it in, or create a dedicated press page with a current list of media contacts.”Response boxes are being used by more and more businesses today. Verify that someone is, in fact, spending an hour per day keeping an eye on those requests.
Too many organizations, in my experience, have a single email account that a receptionist or salesperson checks for all web inquiries. It may take several days, if not weeks, to respond to a press inquiry. This is a surefire technique to prevent the media from covering your company. Sometimes writers are on a tight schedule and can’t wait for an email to be read in a day or two. The most efficient method is to have a phone that rings and is answered by a real person during business hours. Verify both electronic and physical correspondence addresses, which may seem like a no-brainer. In addition, have your PR and marketing staff check their inboxes frequently (several times a day) and act swiftly on any leads they may find.
PR and Media Relations for Technology Companies http://www.srs-techpr.com Mark Shapiro
For more than 15 years, Mark Shapiro has worked in high-technology public relations, media relations, and journalism. With a particular focus on the computer and internet industries, he assists a wide variety of organizations with media relations, marcom, and marketing. From Fortune 500 enterprises to start-ups and mom-and-pop shops, he has clients across the business spectrum.