You've spent thousands of dollars to launch your Web site. It's
a major component of your current communications strategy. But does
it help or hinder one of your most important audiences - the media?
Unless you are a media relations specialist, it's easy to overlook
what reporters, editors, researchers and broadcast producers require
to gather news and information. Deadlines are brutal but the needs
are pretty basic. Since they must work efficiently and expediently
and mostly by telephone, what media people need first and foremost
is a contact name and a telephone number.
When tackling a new story, journalists will start with its principal
players and who they already know relevant to the story. Masters
at networking, they have learned that people lead you to other people
who can help tell the story. When additional research is required
or facts need checking, then staff writers can turn to research
assistants or librarians to assist in the search. Freelancers are
left to do their own research. In each case the search begins in
the same basic ways: checking out the Sources directory
(in print or at www.sources.com),
the phone book, the Internet.
Who in your organization is designated and trained to handle media
inquiries and where can they be reached? While the Internet can
be a very expensive medium for providing such information, if it
is not readily available from your Web site chances are you'll risk
missing the call. When the media is seeking your comment or opinion
relative to their story and they can't reach you when they need
to, they will call someone else equally equipped to comment, likely
To create a media friendly Web site, here's what you need to consider:
- I'll restate the obvious. Include the names and telephone numbers
of key personnel, particularly those assigned to handle media
inquiries. And don't be sending anyone into voice-mail hell. If
you depend upon voice mail to manage incoming calls, be sure to
check messages regularly and return calls promptly, particularly
those from the media. A journalist on deadline always needs to
speak to humans, so be available.
- Publish E-mail addresses but only if you are willing to check
messages regularly and reply expediently. Remember, media people
need you urgently. They telephone first, resort to E-mail or the
- If you provide a press room or media centre on your Web site,
be certain the information is timely and up-to-date. While archival
information about your organization can be helpful in some cases,
it has limited value to a news story. A journalist's job is to
find out what's happening today, not yesterday.
- If you have information on your Web site accessible only by
accredited journalists then here's a really valuable piece of
advice. Let journalists choose their own password. Or if you must
assign them a password, then provide them the opportunity to change
it to something convenient for them. This way, you are making
it easier for journalists to use the same password(s) for access
to different databases rather than have to work with and remember
several different passwords, each of which works only with one
Media relations must be an integral part of any effective communications
strategy. Don't try to hide from the media. More reporters are doing
more of their own research as their story is being written. Be available.
Be helpful. Return their calls. Don't rely on your Web site to try
and hide an inability or unwillingness to handle media inquiries.
You really do want the media to call you and consider your personnel
important contacts and resource people, particularly in times of
crisis. With proper training and experience, your personnel can
work with the media to provide clear images of what your organization
is all about - in good times and in bad. As Michael Levine so aptly
points out in the first paragraph of his book Guerilla P.R.,
"our civilization is utterly dominated by the force of media.
After our own families, no influence holds greater sway in shaping
the text of our being than do the media that cloak us like an electronic
membrane". So stay media friendly, particularly on the Internet
where more and more influence is taking place.
Lynn Fenske is a freelance writer specializing in communications
and media relations.
“putting your ideas in writing”
Sources magnifies your Internet visibility
the Internet working for you
the most out of Sources Select Online
Common World Wide Web Site Failings
Sources Select Online Story
Sources, and Getting the Most Out of the Internet