What Does the Media Think of Your Site?

Those of us wearing public relations and marketing hats spend a lot of time trying to think like reporters. We try to anticipate what will make an interesting story to pitch, what questions will be asked of us, and — perhaps most important — how we can help reporters so that we become trusted news sources for them.

Have you considered the media when creating your Web site? Unfortunately, most sites are created for their target audiences, but one of the most influential targets — the media — gets a page or two hidden well past the home page. Well, guess what? Lots of journalists out there look at your site and become very frustrated that you didn’t anticipate their needs when you planned your Web site content.

What do reporters want from your site? Consider the following:

Contact information and addresses up front. Recently, I asked a few reporters what their number-one Web site irritant was, and almost all said it’s having to dig for numbers of public-relations contacts, corporate and branch offices, and even simple addresses. “It’s amazing why companies keep information such as addresses and phone numbers a secret,” says Hollywood’s KNX Newsradio Executive Producer Ed Pyle. “Unless you’re located in Area 51, you ought to make this information very easy to access.”

Los Angeles Times reporter Karen Alexander notes that these contacts can be a lifeline to reporters who are on deadline. She says she won’t go to a company’s Web site for breaking news because she knows that most of the information will be “passive,” but if you can give her the right phone numbers on your site, she can quickly call to get the real news she needs. “Reporters know most sophisticated reporting goes beyond what is accessible through Yahoo,” she remarked.

Links to related organizations and agencies. Reporters need lots of data quickly, so why not provide links to logically related organizations? For example, if you’re building a site for a city, provide a link to the local school district. Take a look at Pyle’s favorite, The Tampa Tribune’s site. The navigation bar has tons of links — nirvana for a busy reporter.

A section for the media. Reporters like the idea of a special Web site section for them, although few companies have set one up. Obviously, a good section should include all relevant contacts and addresses. Profiles of company executives are also a smart idea, as is the company history. Anything that can help the reporter with basic background information is appreciated.

Archived press releases. Most likely, a reporter won’t go to your site for your latest press releases (that’s what fax machines are for). However, archived releases are appreciated when background information is needed. Alexander notes that having a search engine for these releases “may be overkill.” For a simple but serviceable press-release archive, check out Engage Inc., which categorizes releases by the years the news occurred. (Interestingly, Engage also has downloadable logos in its “press room” section.)

Keep it current. Not updating the name of your public relations contact, or worse, your CEO, really pushes a reporter’s buttons. Also, if you’re going to post your “hot news,” don’t let it cool down from sheer neglect. Old news gets a very frosty response from the media. Karen Alexander gives the Broadcom.com site high marks for keeping information current in both its “what’s new” and its “press room” sections.

Recognize that press releases and features are different. Don’t post press releases as text for your site, and don’t give reporters feature pieces to wade through. A press release can be rewritten into great Web site content — just recognize that the two are inherently different.

Consider the guru. Don Middleberg, the guru of digital public relations, also recommends downloadable images, video, and audio for reporters. And for even more great ideas for public relations on the Internet, check out his book “Winning PR in the Wired World.” Follow his suggestions, and you’ll be a favorite news source of every reporter.

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