By Jon Boroshok

Like any other business these days, the press is overworked, understaffed and usually under deadline. They're trying to work faster, and sometimes have to cut corners to file a story on time.

When the press calls for information, experienced PR practitioners know that they must return calls or respond to e-mail in a manner of minutes, not hours or the next day. The reporter's deadline will be here soon, and you can bet that as soon as the reporter leaves a message, he/she is calling your competition. With constant deadline pressure, reporters need facts and figures as quickly as possible

Making a journalist's job easier increases your chances of winning coverage, and it's essential to have an easily accessed, informative online pressroom. This can't just be something the marketing department adds when they have time. It's both amazing and appalling that even in 2004, many companies still don't know how the press uses a Web site.

Before calling a company's media contact, a journalist is likely to visit the Web site to:

  • Find a PR contact (name, telephone number, e-mail address)
  • Check basic facts about the company (spelling of an executive's name or date of birth, headquarters location, current financial data, type of products, etc.)
  • Research the company's own "spin" or reaction to events, regulations, and economic factors that impact its market and marketability
  • Check financial information, such as the annual report
  • Download images, such as executive photos or logos, to use as illustrations in stories

Simply having a pressroom on a company Web site is not enough - it has to be easy to find and easy to use. Too many company (and PR agency) Web sites don't tell where the company is located until two or three "clicks" into the site. Others actually require the media to fill out a form to request information!

A 10-point usability test for online pressrooms:

1. Is it easy to find? There should be an obvious "press room" link on your home page.

2. Is it easy to access? It should be plain HTML, with no flash or other bandwidth hogging technologies. Many reporters work from home on old computers with dial-up Internet access. The site should work with older versions of Netscape as well as the latest version of Internet Explorer. One click from the home page opens the pressroom. No passwords or registration required - the media won't fill out forms.

3. Is your PR contact the first item? The name, full street address, phone number, and e-mail address of your primary PR contact should "jump out" at a reporter.

4. Is there a "press release" section? There should be, and that section should only be one click away from the main pressroom. Releases should be in chronological order, with full headline in plain view.

5. Are press releases easy to access? One click should open the press release on screen. Press releases should open as HTML files, with the option to download a copy in MS Word, not PDF format. Avoid unnecessary animations, useless graphics, and irrelevant headshots.

6. Is there an online media kit? Again, just one click away from the main press page, your online kit should contain a company backgrounder (who you are and what you do), bios of key officers, stock/investor information (if a public company), a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document, one-click downloadable company logos and photos of products and company officers. All photos and logos should be downloadable in both a high resolution (at least 300 dpi) and low resolution (72 dpi) formats.

7. Is the pressroom full of hype and buzzwords? This is not a marketing document. It should be factual and hype free. The goal is to help the press do their job, not "sell" them. If possible, don't let someone in marketing develop the pressroom. Keep objective journalism as the focus, not sales.

8. Is it timely and up-to-date? All information should be current. Do you still list a contact that is no longer with the company? Do all e-mail addresses still work? The pressroom should be updated on as close to a real-time basis as possible. If you put out a press release this morning, it should be accessible on your Web site this morning, not this afternoon.

9. Does it include links to coverage you've received? The online pressroom should have links to as much media coverage as possible, and all links should be checked periodically to make sure they are still working.

10. Have you included case studies? Nothing tells your story better than a happy customer. If you've solved a problem for another company, make sure you tell the story in your online pressroom. Case studies should be one click away from the main pressroom. For more about case studies as a PR tool, see

©Copyright 2004 - Jon Boroshok/TechMarcom, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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