Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why Your Website is Still Important & Three Ways to Keep it That Way

The Social Media world buzzed last week with results of a survey of print and Web journalists done by the media relations software firm Cision and Don Bates of George Washington University. What got people's attention was the finding that 89% of journalists use blogs for their online research. Nearly 75% of those surveyed say they use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter in researching stories.

Social Media is important. Got it. Everyone is joining the party. Don't be afraid to get your Tweet on.

But blogs were the second most popular resource for journalists researching stories. What was first? Corporate Websites.

Ninety-six percent (96%) of journalists will go to your Website when doing online research for a story about your company. This is very good news.

It's good news because it means you still can have a big impact on the impression journalists get about your company. How do you take maximum advantage of this?

1. Make sure your site is current
Journalists assume that the information on your site is accurate and will quote from it without asking you if it's current. A crisis is the wrong time to realize that you should have updated your Website. Many companies do a lot of buying and selling of assets. The plant your company sold in Asia last year might still be yours on the Web.

2. Include clear connections to your company's Social Media accounts
We know that journalists monitor Social Media like it's a police scanner, and they can pick up even a small hint of a story. If they see you use Social Media, they are likely to follow or monitor activity there. They'll get information from your Website to be sure; and the links to Social Media accounts can help them get greater perspective and context on a story from sources inside and outside of the company. Yes, this means they might find opposing views on your Social Media sites. But, they'll find that information anyway, and you get points for openness and transparency.

3. Have as much high-quality imagery about your company as possible

Technology has made people hungry for all kinds of images about the stories they see. Media trainers will tell their students to paint a picture with their words. If those words can be supported with great pictures and video, that's a powerful combination. These days of shrinking budgets for journalists and news organizations mean that if you don't provide imagery, the journalists won't come and get it.

A company that does a good job of providing imagery is BP (disclosure: BP is a client, although I don't advise them on their company Website). They have a whole section of their Website for images and graphics. This is important since many of BP's projects are located in inaccessible places. Without these images, journalists would have a harder time telling the story.

Social Media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others can bring real value to your company. But while you explore what value they can bring, don't ignore the proven value and power of your company's online home.

Bill Salvin

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