As a reporter, I had a recurring nightmare that I was on deadline and working on a huge story, frantically trying to find the public relations person for the company I was writing about. I looked high and low on the company’s web site and could only locate the company’s main office number. I dug up old press releases online, but there was no public relations contact listed. This nightmare has been reality more than once for me. The internet is a standard business tool now, but many public relations departments, large and small, still ignore one of its main purposes: the distribution of information. These are some simple tips that can help companies not only utilize the web effectively, but also help garner some easy publicity.
1. Corporate Contact Information
It doesn’t matter if you’re Microsoft or if you’re Joe’s Lamp Emporium: Every company’s web site should have a public relations page that details corporate contact information. The page should include a mailing address, phone number, and email address. Retail outfits should always include directions, for both drivers and customers using mass transit, to locations. If you have more than one store or facility, include information for each location.
2. Background Information
Consumers and members of the media like to know who they are doing business with. Including a company history, whether it be a biography of your business or a timeline of important events, is useful. For small businesses, it’s always nice to know who started the company and why. Personalize your business by putting information about your founder or head honcho online. You’d be surprised at the publicity when word gets around that a University of Wisconsin graduate has opened a boutique in Atlanta. Give consumers and members of the media every reason to identify with your company and the personalities behind it.
3. The Public Relations Page
It is imperative that journalists have the contact information for your company’s public relations department. The public relations page should include names, phone numbers, and email addresses for all of your public relations contacts — even that happens to be you, the owner. Some companies have numerous public relations contacts who serve various purposes. Let it be known that if someone is seeking information on corporate issues they should contact Jane Doe. But if someone is seeking information about community issues they should contact John Doe (no relation to Jane, just a happy coincidence). This page should include links to any press releases your company has put out. Make sure to keep it updated. I’ve been to web sites that are wildly out-of-date and there is no excuse for that. Be sure to include recent press clippings and if you’re a small business, considering mentioning what media outlets have given you a little recent (and positive) publicity.
4. More on the Public Relations Page
Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce? A member of a regional tech organization or a lobbying group? Let the media know. If JunkTech’s web site tells me that the company is a member of the Greater Kenosha Regional Technological Society, I’m more likely to contact JunkTech and give them some publicity instead of waiting to make contacts with the Society itself. Promoting your alliances will pay off. Also be sure to include information about any charities that you work with or any events that you sponsor.
5. Promoting Your Workforce
Every business has its experts. I’m considered an “expert” on a number of subjects and that’s how I’ve gotten some very good publicity for various employers. I make it known on my web site that I’m willing to speak to members of the media on a variety of subjects, and it’s paid off with quotes in articles by the Associated Press, Investor’s Business Daily, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among others. Currently I’m helping producers at two television networks with Wall Street related stories; in exchange for my help, they’ve agreed to feature me on camera. Even if it’s just for five seconds, the work I’m doing will pay off. Let the media know that your employees are available to speak to them about a variety of issues. Something as simple as “Joe Smith, our VP of Marketing, runs an antique restoration business on the side” could you get your business a positive press mention.
6. Be Clear
I am by no means a technology expert, but I do cover the technology sector. Sometimes I’ll be researching a company and after an hour I still don’t understand what they do. There’s nothing wrong with giving a layman’s explanation of what products or services your company offers. Someone may need your services but not understand how to tell someone what they’re looking for. Catchphrases, technical jargon, and buzz words went out with the dotcom bubble. Be simple, be clear. Tell the customer and the media what your company does.
The public relations information you provide online has two linked purposes when it comes to the media: Give journalists access to information they need and give them the information that may lead them to write about your company. The more information, the better. And the more information, the more likely it is you’ll get the good publicity you crave.
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/.