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Online PR Page Tour Better Second Time Around

Last week, I stumbled upon the website of Kaydon Corp., a maker of ball bearings and industrial shock absorbers. The company is not very well-known, but it has a market capitalization of about $1.5 billion and it churns out more than $400 million in sales annually. Kaydon’s website, on the other hand, looks like it took all of ten minutes and $5 to create.

My visit to the Kaydon site reminded me of a tour of online public relations areas that I took two years ago. I looked at the PR areas at the Five Horsemen of the Internet Apocalypse — Amazon.com, Yahoo!, Google, eBay and InterActiveCorp.

I decided to make a return trip this week to see if anything had changed. I was pleasantly surprised to find that four of the five companies had improved or maintained their pages, while one still has a long way to go.

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Amazon.com: Two years ago I said that Amazon.com’s public relations area was “quite possibly one of the worst I’ve ever seen produced by a public company.” Perhaps someone was listening, because the company now has a very solid public relations area.

Pros: Easy to navigate and find information. Searchable and sortable (by country) press release archive dating back to 1995. Robust media kit including company overview, fact sheet and timeline/history. High-resolution logos, graphics and photos presented for media use. Special content and media tools including an archive of letters from Founder/CEO Jeff Bezos to customers and links to lists of best-selling products. Email alert sign-up and link to investor relations area. Well-organized and usable, the PR area is templated to the main site. Fairly easy to find as the media room is linked at the bottom of every page on the Amazon.com website.

Cons: No names or contact information for public relations people. Media inquiries area includes only a form to fill out. Link to area is called “Press Releases” instead of something more suitable like “Media Relations.” Executive bios included in the investor relations but not the public relations section.
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Yahoo!: The last time I looked at Yahoo’s public relations area, I complained about press releases that were not searchable and the lack of direct PR personnel contact information. Has anything changed? Yes, it has.

Pros: Easy to navigate and find information. Searchable press release archive dating back to 1996, and releases are broken up into Financial and General areas. An abundance of information, including a great FAQ, background information on key executives and timeline/history. Excerpts from recent news stories concerning the company. High-resolution and media-ready logos and pictures of executives. A form to submit for those interested in getting Yahoo representatives to speak at events. Links to all of the company’s products and its corporate blogs. Names and email addresses for dozens of in-house and agency PR contacts. Email and RSS alerts available.

Cons: The only phone number available is a media hotline. Company lists five different media contacts (four in-house and one agency) for one of its business areas. Link slightly difficult to find because of busy homepage and positioning way at the bottom.

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Google: Google is good, Google is great, but did Google finally add the capability to search press releases?

Pros: Easy to find and navigate. Searchable press release archive dating back to 1999. Press releases also include product announcements that were not made via a press release. Archive of presentations (video, audio, slideshows and transcripts) and speeches made by company executives. High-resolution and media-ready photos, logos and graphics. Excellent company timeline/history. Executive bios. Email and RSS alerts available.

Cons: The only media contact information is a hotline number. Some good information (founders letters to shareholders) not available through the press area (only the Investor Relations area).

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eBay: While Amazon.com’s PR area was bad two years ago, eBay’s was awful. Unfortunately, not much has changed.

Pros: Press release archive dating back to 2000. Company overview and executive bios. Press releases also offered as PDFs so readers can save them.

Cons: The only way to find media contact information is look at the bottom of a press release. Press releases are not searchable on the PR page, but they are on the Investor Relations page. No company timeline/history. An unexciting PR area that makes it appear that the company does not care about media relations.

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IAC: Otherwise known as InterActiveCorp, the company had the advantage of being a holding company for a number of companies. As a result, its entire website is basically a corporate overview, investor relations and public relations hub.

Pros: Easy to navigate. Searchable press release archive dating back a number of years. Great company overview and links to its 60+ businesses. Pretty much a great example of giving the media, shareholders and consumers all they could want and need.

Cons: Media contact info. is in the Fact Sheet area and a little difficult to find.

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Not all online PR areas are created equal, and some companies have it easier than others. Because of how it’s set up, IAC can use its website as nothing more than an informational portal, while eBay has millions of pages to deal with. Nonetheless, the eBay PR people only have a few pages to keep an eye on, and they’re not doing a very good job.

The most important things to remember when you’re creating and managing your website’s PR area are to ensure that contact and corporate information is easy to find, and that you present as much information as possible in a usable format. Your online PR area is one of the last places where you can actually control the message, so you might as well use it to your advantage.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.

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