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Making Your Web Site Press-Friendly

Q: What are the most important things to have on the Web Site for Press usage?

Sometimes the simplest things can create the biggest impact. Case in point, many companies don't put the most basic, relevant information front and center on their Web sites or press releases. When the Press needs information quickly, or a user needs a quick address or phone number, it sometimes takes a lot of digging to get the information.

As Randy Barrett, Senior Writer, Interactive Week Magazine said at the September 1997 Ask the Experts Panel on Public Relations, "Put ,what we call, an industry "duh page" on your Web site. A "duh page" includes the name of the company, address, telephone number, etc. I can't tell you the amount of time I waste every day trying to find that information on Web sites. By putting it right up there, you'll save everybody trouble and you'll probably get a reporter to call you." Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Technology Industry Reporter, for The Washington Post added, "In the How To Contact Us section, make sure you have a little button for press and investor contact information."

Jim Pierobon, Vice President, Potomac Communications Group, Inc., and formerly the Chief Energy Writer and Washington Correspondent for the Houston Chronicle agrees, adding that netpreneurs should: "Consider providing names of senior-level officials journalists can reach quickly. If, a company's senior contact changes, then simply update your site to reflect it. If you post the name of a media relations person, she/he shouldn't be just a gatekeeper but someone who can impart a lot of knowledge and then connect the journalist with a higher-ranking official.

Stephen Miller, editor at the New York Times concurred. "The one thing that has been driving me crazy is the fact that the people who ought to be using the Internet better than anybody are really bad about press sections on their Web sites. When I'm on deadline, and I need some information after hours, I go to the Web site, and still can't get basic information." Mr. Miller believes a good press section includes names and phone numbers for after hours contacts. If you don't feel comfortable listing this information, you can make it for registration only, for the Press only.

Mr. Pierobon believes there are many simple do's and don'ts in making your Web site Press-friendly. "Don't automatically design columns into your sites that limit the amount of text that can be seen on a screen. As a former journalist, the more scrolling I do the more of a hassle it is to find the info I need. Sometimes all a site needs is a concise contents and tight, clear summaries of the text that can be easily clicked on. And don't take up the first 'screen' of your home page with elaborate graphics and/or messages welcoming users. Welcome them yes, but top-load your site to minimize the clicks needed to answer questions that can communicate your message. Remember, the more elaborate the graphics, the longer it takes to show up on the journalist's computer. Put yourself in their shoes: the typical newspaper journalist may not be using more than a 66Mhz / 486 without a sound card. Have you tried finishing a project on deadline with that kind of equipment?"

Another basic omission is not including a URL on your printed material, including a press release. Mr. Barrett believes that including the URL is of utmost importance. "Sometimes after reading a release, I want to find out a little bit more about a company and not having a media kit handy. I go to the site and click in the About Our Company section to see who the players are. It might indicate the partners, funders, and other information that helps me gauge my interest level in a story." Neil Oatley, of the Morino Institute added, "The number of Internet companies that send out press releases that don't have their URL frankly astounds me. When you want to do a quick site check just to see what is up, you're forced to start searching through Alta Vista or some other engine. About 40% of the press releases that I see don't have a URL – and they're Internet-based companies."

So, make sure your URL is on every piece of marketing material you create, especially press releases. And online, create a "duh page" including contact names, phone numbers, and other vital information for the press. Doing so may convince a reporter to do a story and contact you. As Mr. Miller concludes, "Make it easy for us."


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