What Your Web Site Says About Your PR Savvy

Copyright 1999 Jeffrey Geibel, All Rights Reserved

The Internet can be a very powerful tool for your public relations program, but a lot of that depends on how effectively you use the web. Unfortunately, many companies don't get the full potential of the web for their public relations program. This is not due to any unique technical knowledge or webmaster tricks, but rather ignoring basic web characteristics and user orientation, and in some cases, neglect of simple web site ‘housekeeping'. Here are the categories of the ‘Press Room' sections of many company web sites, most of which reflect a decidedly un-savvy public relations orientation when it comes to the web:

The Stealth - can't find it unless you type in the exact URL. Like the site belonging to a national company I know of that is in the M&A business. I searched on the name in a metasearch ( engine - couldn't find it. If you can't find a site with a metasearch engine - you had better call out the US Navy's search and rescue ship the Grappler. I had to look up the exact URL in my records - this was even after I went to some related sites, and found their name mentioned, but no URL link. Believe it or not, there are a number of sites like this. You are tempted to ask - why do they bother putting up a site if they don't register it with the search engines or establish links? Kind of defeats the whole purpose of having a web site.

The Egyptian - Derived from a bumper sticker seen on Route 128 - Denial is not a river in Egypt. Egyptian web sites are run by companies that want to deny the obvious - usually bad news. For example, your CEO was indicted for cooking the books - it's all over the business news and wire services - yet your site is blissfully silent. Let's face it - if it's out there, you had better respond, because the first place web cruisers will go for detail probably will be your site. If you put up a plausible explanation - they'll probably stop there. Mission accomplished. If not - they'll keep cruising for more salacious goodies. Rather interestingly, some recent studies have indicated that information posted to company web sites has more credibility that read in the media - so be sure to take advantage of that if you need to.

The Smithsonian - The Smithsonian is often described as the 'nation's attic' and that's a fair description of your web site. It hasn't been updated in at least six months, more likely a year or two. I just visited a web site that proudly proclaimed the company was on the Inc. 500 list - from two years ago! In web chronology, that's the Cro-Magnon era - almost predates recorded history. If you are not going to bother to update your site at least once a month - then don't bother to have one.

The Release-of-the-Week Club - These sites have a whole slew of releases - all of which say nothing, or it could have been said a single sentence. This is like someone who announces their every move - "I'm going to the post office, now I'm going to the dry cleaners, now I'm going to the supermarket," - who cares? Worse yet, if you're looking for some information in context on these companies, the superficiality of their releases just frustrates you. These sites totally ignore one of the key concepts of the web: Content is king! If you don't have it - then get it, but don't post superfluous stuff. You'll quickly be clicked into oblivion.

The Professional - Almost knocks you over when you encounter one of these. Very rare, but worth the wait. The ‘Press Room' page has everything on one page: tabs that will take you to a company backgrounder, the executive bios, management team, financials, etc. Vignettes on the top three or four customer profiles, with a click through to the full application story. The last three press releases summarized, also with click through to the full version. Contact information for both the media and business users (e.g., sales prospects). All of that on one page, which not surprisingly, is a handy reference when printed out. And it prints out completely formatted, or is a downloadable Adobe® pdf file. This is a company that knows how to reach web visitors with a well organized, quality web site public relations section. Nirvana.

Copyright 1999 Jeffrey Geibel, All Rights Reserved

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