One of the great secrets of the internet is that with a killer press centre, you'll be able to attract many more editors and reporters to your company site, and generate many more stories about your firm in the news media.The trick to putting together such a centre is knowing how to trigger story ideas, knowing how to relentlessly promote what you're offering, and being sure to post the equivalent of a neon 'welcome' sign for members of the press.
"News publicity costs you nothing," says Thomas Wong, author of 101 Ways To Boost Your Web Traffic. "It often produces better results than advertising, because people trust news articles more than sales ads. Press releases often lead to personal interviews on the phone or TV or radio appearances, which can make you and your web site very popular."
In fact, there are so many tactics and new web technologies available for courting the media, building a killer press centre on your company web site can become an ever more sophisticated, ever more publicity generating pursuit.Below are some of the top techniques.
Offer web-friendly press releases
While some text, quotes and contact info is a good start for a press release, you'll get better play if you optimise press releases for the web. This means embedding a relevant keyword in the press release headline, as well as in the text, if possible, so it can be easily found by the search engines. It's also a good idea to make it easy for others to spread the word about your press release by adding a free social bookmarking tool like AddThis.
"In the last two years, there has been a sea change in how the press release is viewed and utilised," adds Paolina Milana, vice president of marketing at Marketwire. "The once 400-word all-text release has evolved into an interactive tool that incorporates multimedia elements, social media tags and bookmarks, in-release performance stats, and feedback mechanisms." Sweden-based Axelar AB, for example, offers web-friendly press releases through its press release distribution service PR Newswire.
Trigger coverage with other content
Editors and reporters are always hungry for story ideas, so you can never offer too much story idea content in your press centre. The over-arching guideline here is to clearly state that all or as much as possible of the content you post can be directly quoted by editors and reporters. The importance of this practice cannot be overstated. Essentially, granting permission can save the press days of 'telephone tag' with your company, and mean the difference between getting covered, and being skipped over.
Specific content ideal for launching press coverage includes company White Papers, as well as executive quotes on recent industry news, legislation or studies. The press also loves transcripts of executive speeches they can quote (always include a name and title), transcripts of recent company webcasts, company case studies, industry survey results, and customer/client testimonials. (Always include a name, title and company for the testimonial.) If you're lucky enough to have already been covered, offer links to these news stories as well.
Become a media authority
You'll get even more coverage if you establish one or more executives at your company as a media authority. Blogs are one of the quickest ways for an exec to loom large before the press but only if the blog is interesting and insightful. One of the easiest ways to guarantee this is to simply hire a good ghost blogger for your exec.
Meanwhile, you can enhance the credibility of your media authority execs by publicising them on the various "expert stables" on the web places where experts gather to be quoted by the media. Some of the more prominent include Profnet, Yearbook.com and About.com.
Add dimension with rich media
One thing YouTube has taught us all is that web users, including the press, love their sound and pictures.
Besides posting your company video on YouTube for free like thousands of other firms, you can also embed a YouTube video player on your own web site for free as well. For a how-to video on how to add the YouTube player to your web site (takes a few minutes), check out www.youtube.com/youtubeonyoursite. There's also a separate how-to video on how to customise your player at www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTWWEtVtu58.
One caveat: have your legal department look at YouTube's fine print before you get too aggressive using the player or the YouTube site strictly for advertising your company. As with many things web, this area is still very grey. Daiichi Sankyo, for example, with offices in Germany, recently issued a press release linking to a videocast focusing on its osteoporosis drug.
Other multimedia you can add to your site are high resolution digital images, podcasts (check out Podcast Directory for lowdown on those), and virtual reality, or 3D-like moving images. MDS Nordion, with offices in Belgium, offers a healthy selection of downloadable images in its press centre, as does Sweden's Beactica AB.
Most companies understand that offering a name, voice and email contact info for all key public relations personnel in your press centre is a good start. But the same contact info for key executives who are open to being interviewed is even better. A promise and practice to turnaround all press requests within 24 hours will go even further towards winning you instant friendships in the press. A stated openness to quickly respond to a media "email interview" will most likely inspire reporters to wonder if they've died and gone to heaven.
Tweak under the hood
During the past few years, Google has released a number of free tools designed to help your press centre appears as high as possible on Google search engine returns. Sign up for a free Google webmaster's account and these tools are all yours to use for free.
While you're at it, also be sure to ensure your press centre downloads like quicksilver. For speed optimisation tips, check out Andrew B. King's book, Speed Up Your Site. Founder of website Optimization, LLC, King also offers a free tool that will check to see if your press centre is optimised for speed.
"It is astounding how negatively users react to slow sites" says Jakob Nielson, a principal in the Nielsen Norman Group, a web design consultancy. "If a site is slow, it communicates contempt for customers and their time. Users assume that additional pages will be slow as well, and that it will be painful to navigate the site."
One of the great equalisers of the web is that a tiny, nimble company can leap ahead of the largest goliath with the right press centre promotion. Offering press releases and a company e-newsletter gets this process started. But you can also offer the same information RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds for reporters who like their news delivered that way. (IceRocket will make your page RSS-friendly for free.) The Netherlands Amsterdam Molecular Therapeutics, for example, offers reporters' RSS feeds of its press releases.
Other promotional tactics that work: circulate your news through a professional press release distribution services, or via free services (use keywords "free press release distribution" to find these on the search engines). Post a "send this page to a friend" button on every page of your press centre, and web site. Establish an industry links directory on your site.
Measure your success
The quickest way to an increased press centre budget, as we all know, is quantifiable results. Document how press traffic has increased on your press centre with Google Analytics, another free programme.
You can get a critical review of even more robust analytics with CMS Watch's most recent report, The Web Analytics Report 2008. It runs to 340 pages, and thoroughly evaluates virtually every major web analytics solution on the market today.
Safeguard your reputation
Once people start talking about your company on the web — including editors, reporters, bloggers and others make sure they're not engaging in libel, slander of other image-tarnishing talk.
There are a number service providers who will help you out with this reputation monitoring. Put 'reputation management' into Google for specific firms to evaluate.