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Want An Effective PR Web Site? Do What Your Users Do!

By: Andy Marken

In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Sit down this evening at your computer…do a competitive round-up article with news, comparisons, illustrations.  And you’re on a short deadline!!
We just completed a detailed analysis of the reports we received on global editorial traffic to one of our clients press kits that were posted on Virtual Press Office following a recent trade show. Since we have known the founders for years we asked for some additional analysis access numbers by press release in the on-line kit.

We liked what we saw from the perspective of quality, quantity and global reach. But what happened after they read the releases? Did they get everything they needed photos, information? Did they do an article?

Some called or emailed us so we know they were taken care of. Did those who didn’t contact us go to the client’s web site for more information? Did others simply not go any further because…well just because?

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VPO is a good service but it is only part of the solution for serving members of the media 24x7, around the globe. The PR web site as Shel Holtz, author of Public Relations on the Net, points out in his book is or should be an even more vital tool in your PR program.

With the VPO access report in hand, we email surveyed 180 of the editors/reporters we know in Europe, the Pacific Basin and the Americas who had accessed the online press kit. We asked them if they recalled using the online kit.

Every editor/reporter had used some of the information from the VPO on-line kits.

We asked them if they had also visited company PR web sites our clients and others that were at the show to obtain more information. We also asked them what they expected from a PR web site.

Everyone had his or her list of what a PR web site should contain. Everyone had his or her list of press friendly, “unfriendly” and abrasive sites.

PR Site Checklist

What company PR web sites need isn’t brain surgery…it’s journalism 101:
  • Contact information real names, phone numbers (office, cell), email addresses, not Forget those forms we often see that requires reporters to fill in with their query and someone, sometime will get back to them. Clearly written PR policy commitment to get back to the editor, reporter, analyst in at least 24 hours (faster if possible). If the company has PR people responsible for various product or company areas list contacts so the press doesn’t have to practice the email shuffle or play phone tag

  • Current news releases as word documents, not HTML or a month-long data stream. List them by most current date and release summary with a live link to the complete release

  • Company and product background

  • Technical/application white papers

  • Product Q&As, FAQs, product data sheets

  • How-to pieces and customer case studies

  • Stock and in-use, environment type product shots they can download immediately without having to jump through hoops low and high resolution

  • Key executive photos and bios

  • Industry and financial analyst contact information

  • Screen shots and PowerPoint presentations

  • Demos of products/services

  • Executive speeches with approval to quote freely with direct PR access for added information or assistance

  • If you want the product reviewed by the media; have a fast, easy method for the reporter, analyst, editor to request evaluation product…then deliver immediately after they have been qualified (you do know most of the journalists in your space right?)

  • Prices company stock and product (suggested retail and street)

We received mixed signals from the responding journalists about PR sites that request members of the media to register for access to the web site and the content. Some were concerned about being inundates with “news” from the company. Others thought it was okay to register if they could select the areas of information they were interested in receiving. Others said they never registered for the PR web sites and got their information either from VPO or by doing subject searches using Google, Yahoo and other search engines.

Our Own Findings

Armed with the inputs from the press we used our journalism education and researched our own round-up article on the show. We set our own editorial deadline that the piece had to be started and completed in one evening. One product category using the web as the media does increasingly to gather the necessary information.

Some of the sites were good.

A few were a reporter’s dream. They made it easy for these people to:
  • get the information and photos/illustrations they want and need from the firm

  • have ready access to the right individual or individuals to obtain answers, assistance and/or guidance

  • do their job quickly and thoroughly
Most weren’t.

We got so frustrated after attempting to get the information we needed from 10 sites we wondered how the press ever got rush pieces done. We got the information we needed from three sites. We got part of the information we needed from four sites. We gave up on three sites.

Three companies would have had excellent coverage in our “article.” Four would have had modest coverage. Three would have wondered why they weren’t included.

Lazy reporting? No!

Editors, reporters and analysts need the information when they need it. Not when it is convenient for public relations. They should be able to obtain general information round the clock and round the calendar. They shouldn’t have to “request” public relations to provide basic information.

Other Points to Ponder

Every company can benefit from having and maintaining an online newsroom to provide documents, graphics and press kits to the media. Public relations shouldn’t be a gatekeeper in today’s global access world. We should be facilitators.

Online PR materials are an increasingly important part of the mix. The problem is the PR site has to be easy to access, easy to use and be constantly updated. Public relations needs to be able to use the content management software so they can update information, add breaking news and deal with crises without waiting for IT or the web team.

You need their assistance to promote news, events and activities on the company home page and have links to more in-depth information. You need their help in understanding how you can track who accesses the press information and what news or areas are accessed and used most. You need their expertise in gathering data that can show the value of the PR web site and the return on investment the company gets from the site.

Confession Time

Were our client PR web sites equal to the challenge? The two clients that would have been included in the hypothetical article admittedly had shortcomings in their PR web sites.

Guess we have a little work to do with the companies and the web teams.

© Copyright 2005, Andy Marken

Other Articles by Andy Marken

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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