Getting a journalist to write about your business is an excellent way to promote your brand for free. But most small businesses aren't making it easy for journalists to write about them.
Today most journalists start their writing process with an online search, most often using Google, according to a 2009 study by Jakob Nielsen. They are turned off by Web sites that don't give them the information they need in a clear and concise way. If they have the choice, they'll choose another company to write about because tight deadlines often lead them down the path of least resistance.
Don't hand your chance for free publicity off to your competitors. Use the following tips to design the press section of your Web site to make it journalist-friendly.
Stick with the Facts
Journalists are trained to be objective and present the facts of a story so the reader can form an opinion. Design the press section of your Web site to include facts, and leave the marketing pitch for your home page and product pages. For example, a journalist might find explanations of the technical innovation behind your product interesting if it's presented in a factual way. It's the exact opposite of how you write your marketing copy. Think features over benefits.
In the Nielsen study, one journalist looking at the BMW Web site commented:
"This term 'crumple zone,' I would find use for in my article… About the lights, these are all high-tech things I think readers would find interesting. Those are the kinds of specifics I would be looking for."
Be Clear about the Company's Mission, Purpose, Products and Services
A journalist who visits your Web site is looking to find out what makes your company unique. Take a look at your mission statement and ask yourself whether it could apply to your competitors, or any other company. If the answer is yes, rewrite it to make it specific to your company. It should communicate quickly and clearly what your company is about and how it's different from the other industry players. The same is true with descriptions of your products and services.
As you're writing this section, try to get to the core of your message in as few words as possible. The more specific you are, the easier this will be.
Use Simple HTML Pages
Most journalists work from home and are not on the cutting edge of technology. Don’t crash their computers. Make the press section of your Web site accessible without the latest version of Flash. Use simple HTML pages to present your information, and make sure the whole thing is easy to read using older Internet browsers and operating systems.
Optimize Your Web Site for Google
Because most journalists start their research with Google, a good ranking in the search engine's results can give you an advantage. If you need help developing a search engine optimization plan, we offer plenty of articles to help you get started.
Include Links to Previous Press Coverage
Like everyone else, journalists trust independent third parties more than a company advertisement or press release. If other publications have written about your business, include links to the articles in the press section of your Web site. You're making it easier for a writer to learn about your business and proving that your company is newsworthy.
Provide the Name and Phone Number of a Press Contact
The number one reason journalists in the study gave for visiting a company's Web site was to locate a public relations contact, specifically a name and phone number. Don't give them just a generic email address to contact. They're on a tight deadline, and they'll write about the company they can reach right away. A journalist can't risk waiting for you to check an email box.
Present All the Important Company Information
Another important reason for visiting a company's Web site is to get the basic facts such as the company's full name, the spelling of an executive's name or the location of the company's headquarters. Include a fact page with all of this information plus graphics such as a head shot of the CEO and the official company logo.
Make Your Content Scannable
Again, deadlines dictate the amount of time a journalist will spend on your Web site. Eye tracking studies show they skip the intro paragraphs and get right down to the information on a page. Make all of your headlines concise and easy to understand just by reading a few words. Present your company facts in bulleted lists rather than paragraphs and make all of your copy scannable.
Creating a journalist-centric press section of your Web site will not only help the journalists who stumble upon your company through the search engines, it will give you a great place to direct writers if you personally pitch a story to them as well.