Does your web site work for the press and analysts that 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 instead, do they click away instead of going to one of your competitors’ web sites to get the info they need?
Over my 25-year career as a journalist and PR consultant, I have seen many sites that 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 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 website and its press room have to be able to provide all the info needed.
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So what are the Top Six Steps to Have an Effective Online Press Room
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 that bury their pressrooms three or four clicks away. The only reason that I, as an editor, persisted in finding the press page was that I knew the info was there somewhere.
Press Releases – Obviously, you want to include links to your press releases and announcements. However, make sure the list is up to date. As soon as the release goes out, make sure it is also upon your web site.
Please don’t require an editor to fill out a contact form to retrieve your press releases. An editor does not have the time for that, but they will probably give you a fake name and phone number anyhow. I have heard marketing folk 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. Editors and writers like to easily cut and paste information from your press releases, data sheets, and other online documents. Please post them as straight text on the web page. Do not convert your content into JPG’s and images – make it easy for writers to access and “borrow” your content to promote your products and services. Not only does it make it easier for writers, but 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. Also, as 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, i.e., the US, EMEA, Europe, then list the press contacts for each area. If possible, list local phone numbers for each region. If your organization is huge 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. Ensure that there is someone available to answer the emails or 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.
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 important if the editor asks for some info or a document that is not readily available, responds, tells them that you got the inquiry, and is working on it. Don’t leave them wondering if anyone is at home. This is especially important for companies that use a pr@ address on their web site.
As part of the contact area, and maybe on other pages, provide an RSS link and News Links so that the editors can sign up and get automatic updates to the press room and/or to recent press releases. Also, provide an editor sign up form to enable editors, writers, and analysts to receive updates and new press releases.
Photos, Images, and Video
Editors and writers love photos and images. Why do some websites 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.
The 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 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, etc. If appropriate, include other technical documents, product descriptions, datasheets, etc.
If you wish 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 position 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 recognition.
Press Clips and Press Coverage Page
As a PR professional and 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 picks up on the news. These press coverage lists can also be handy for sales guys 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 community members see the value of this company and its offerings. This press coverage page can include news articles written by third-party editors and journalists, press release coverage, and white papers and articles written by company representatives and then posted in important trade magazines.
Do not go overboard in 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 several sites, blogs, and tweeters who copy it. You do not need to list every one of them. List the original wire URL and maybe one or two BIG NEWS sites that picked it up as well. Please do not copy a Google news search results list of press release pick-ups to your online press room.
With over 25 years as a technology writer and editor, Mark Shapiro now provides PR and marketing consulting services to technology companies worldwide through his firm SRS Tech Media Relations.