Designing a Media-Friendly Web Site

Everybody knows it makes sense to be customer driven when designing a Web site, especially if you're doing business online. For a company doing PR, an important application of technology on the Web is the virtual pressroom — the section of a company's Web site designed specifically for use by the media.

The top three things journalists want to find quickly when they visit a site are deep financial information (for public companies), a file of historic press releases, and readily available contact information (e-mail, phone, address).

Company background/history

Often lumped under a section titled "All About XYZ Company," this information may sometimes include so many different pieces of information that you should consider making it a separate section. Here are some types of information you can include:

  • What the company does
  • Mission statement
  • Industries/applications
  • Philosophy
  • Founders and an explanation of how the company got started
  • Historical markers and milestones
  • Philanthropic events and charity sponsorships

Anotherkey piece of information you can offer is a list of customers. Case histories or customer success stories are also valuable.

If part of what you offer new clients is confidentiality, posting a list of customers and the projects you performed for them violates that confidentiality. Be sure to get permission from all customers you list on your site; then note on the site that all customers listed have given their permission.

Key management

Read business articles and you notice that journalists like to give descriptions of key players of the companies they're writing about. So, make executive bios available to journalists on your Web site. Be sure to provide

  • Where managers hail from
  • Individual biographies/background
  • Responsibilities
  • Contact information
  • Links to their e-mail addresses

It's amazing how many companies hide contact information. A high percentage of sites have addresses and phone numbers on their sites, but most are almost impossible to find. Journalists need this type of basic information. Always have an e-mail and phone number available for the PR director or whoever is the company's main contact for the press.

You can also list key personnel, but be warned: Web sites are a ripe source of information for headhunters who want to steal your employees. So if recruiters are actively raiding companies for people, you may opt not to list your personnel on your site.

Press release archive

Archiving all of a company's press releases for online retrieval on a Web site has become common practice. On larger corporate Web sites, some search engines give the visitor the option of excluding press releases from the documents being searched by keyword — otherwise, the results would be overwhelming. If you decide to offer a press release archive online, include these parts:

  • Chronological listing (most recent first) of release announcements, including the date of the release followed by the title
  • Downloadable photos of your products
  • E-mail link and phone number of your PR manager or main media liaison
  • E-mail hot links to press contacts, resources, or quoted sources, when applicable, within the body copy

Financial information

More and more publicly traded companies are making their financial data available online. At a minimum, you should include

  • Key current financial data for the year and by quarter (taken from annual and quarterly reports)
  • Historic financial information

An added bonus, especially for financial reports and stock analysts, is charts backed up with Excel spreadsheets showing the financial history of the company.

Increasingly, larger public companies are putting both their annual reports and their proxy statements online. Be aware of how your print document translates for the Web.

Product/service catalog

Customers and prospects come to your Web site for product information, so there should already be plenty of it for journalists to reference. The product information available to the media on your site should include the following:

  • Product or service descriptions and specifications
  • Up-to-date pricing and availability
  • Mini product photos you can click on for larger views and more information

Article/white paper library

The coverage you receive from major media helps establish credibility with other media and makes them more comfortable in running your story. Therefore, your Web site should give journalists access to press clippings and other evidence of the major media coverage you've already received. You should

  • Include HTML or PDF color images of the covers of major magazines where your company has been featured in a cover story.
  • Provide links to these articles if they're posted online at the publications' Web sites.
  • Provide links to the e-mail addresses of the authors of those articles.

Trade show list

Journalists want to know where you'll be and the industry events where you'll be speaking or exhibiting. Your Web site is an ideal place to post

  • Shows that the company attends, promotes, or sponsors
  • Links to releases associated with shows
  • Links to specific trade show sites or sponsor sites
  • An option to schedule a booth visit

Locations/facility information

In the cyberspace age, you can easily forget that people want you to have a physical presence, not just megabytes of text and images on a server. Be sure to include

  • Maps to headquarters and major regional facilities, including sales offices
  • Site capabilities (what is manufactured there or major activities/services)
  • Number of employees at each facility
  • Links to e-mail addresses of facility managers or key authorities for each site
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