Create a Press-Friendly Web Site

by Debbie Neville

As the corporate Web site becomes a powerful communications center, public relations practitioners should make sure the site effectively supports the media relations function. Here are several strategies to ensure that reporters can easily find your site when they need information about your company, locate useful information within your site, and feel encouraged to contact you.

Make sure the press can find your site. Try to register all possible names for your company. If possible, a Web site name should be the company or organization’s name (or appropriate abbreviation or acronym) followed by .com, .org, or .firm. Most reporters will try that before utilizing search engines. Make sure your meta tags (hidden HTML code that provides information for search engines) include critical key words related to your organization, and ensure that your home page title includes both your company name and major business category. For example, the page title for XYZ Company, which an HR software vendor would access, might read: “XYZ Company delivers HR software solutions to businesses worldwide.” Include your Web site address on everything — business cards, product literature, press releases, e-mail signatures, etc.

Keep it brief, especially on the home page. The home page should be simple, composed of a brief explanation of the organization and a telephone number with clearly labeled section headings such as: About the Company, History, Products and Services, Contact Information, Press Information, Staff Biographies and Site Map. These will provide a sufficient starting point for Web site patrons.

Include an “XYZ Company In the News” section with published media clips about your company, either scanned as images or keyed in as text. Providing published news about your company saves reporters time doing the leg work themselves and adds credibility to your company because the clips are from third-party sources.

Offer recent press releases dating back at least six months to keep reporters up to date on what your company has been doing. Reporters changes beats and companies regularly and appreciate a primer on their new assignments.

Revise and refresh. If the last release on your site is dated six months ago, your corporate image will be stagnant and reporters will not be confident that your company is able to provide timely information. Post news releases and update corporate/product information regularly.

Organize site information based on the needs of your visitors. Reporters will return to your site if they find information quickly and easily. Provide a link directly from the home page to a page titled “Press Information,” which will in turn lead to appropriate media contacts, press releases, success stories, and a calendar of the organization’s upcoming events.

Serve as an information resource, providing valuable background that reporters may need beyond basic information about your company. Include white papers written by company executives and industry analysts, links to research on your industry, as well as links to appropriate industry organizations. Offer value-add content beyond marketing rhetoric.

Include downloadable artwork on your organization’s Web site. Photography increases the amount of space devoted to your story and adds an element of visual interest, increasing retention. Include product shots, action-based artwork to accompany success stories, as well as your company logo and photography of key company executives. Clearly labeled PDF or TIFF files with a minimum of 300 dpi will meet most publications’ requirements.

Enable interaction. When appropriate, include a product demonstration. Perhaps a video clip of a customer talking about the results they have achieved with your product, or a “request an interview/request a product to review” form. Include key questions on the form such as the outlet, topic of discussion and questions, familiarity with the company, and if the media have a specific individual with whom they would like to speak.

Offer a roster of in-house company experts, by subject or area of expertise. Include biographies of staff members to further enhance their credibility. This section can save the reporter as well as your staff time by connecting the right person to the right source.

Include a press guest book. Invite reporters to register online to be included on the press list to receive releases. Keep the request form brief to encourage reporters to take the time to reply: Include fields for name, outlet, phone, fax and e-mail.

Ultimately, journalists need to obtain accurate information quickly. The media has traditionally provided the public with news in a clear, concise manner using the pyramid style — placing the most important details in the beginning of a story, followed by the supporting information. Press-friendly Web sites should be designed keeping this format in mind. The home page should provide quick, easy reference points to efficiently lead the press to the information they need.

About the Author

Debbie Neville delivers integrated marketing communications solutions for O’Keeffe & Company, Inc., a full-service high-tech agency headquartered in McLean, Virginia. Neville’s experience includes media relations, brand definition, and Web site design for leading business-to-business information technology and telecommunications clients. For more information, visit www.okeeffeco.com or e-mail dneville@okeeffeco.com.

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