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Aug 21, 2001

Do Journalists Hate Your Online Press Room? Take the Online Quiz

SUMMARY: According to study results released today by The Maloney Group, chances are most journalists are unhappy with your company's online press center. The Group examined 125 online newsrooms of Fortune 500 companies for more than 80 Best Practices criteria. The results were dismal.

Even newsrooms in the best performing industry -- aerospace -- only got an average 66% score out of a possible 100%.To see the complete results list for 12 industries; learn the top 5 ways you can improve your online pressroom; and, get a hotlink to an online quiz to see how good your room is now.
We contacted Gail Wasserman, Maloney's Managing Partner, to learn what you need to do to make sure journalists love your Web site -- and consequently give you more ink and more favorable (and informed) coverage.

1. Site Loading Speed
Journalists spend an astonishing 400% more time online than the average office worker, but many of them work with just a 56K modem, (and sometimes an even slower connection.) That's because many journalists work virtually or as freelancers from home offices.

So even if your site's main audience are businesspeople and techies with fast connections, the journalists who influence their buying decisions often have lousy connections. If your site doesn't load quickly, many journalists will get fed up, and maybe surf over to cover a competitor instead.

2. Ease of Navigation from Home Page
Just like the regular public, most journalists enter your site from your home page. And, just like the regular public, they get fed up if they can't find exactly what they are looking for within two-to-three clicks. However, many companies' home pages don't have an obvious link to a press, media or journalist center.

(No, a link to your online investor center doesn't count. Investor relations and media relations are not the same thing.)

Plus, 48% of companies don't take advantage of journalist traffic to their home page by displaying current company news. If there's a hot story or news angle you want the press to cover about you, why not add it to your home page where they can't miss it?

3. Hard-to-Find Media Relations Contacts
Wasserman says, "Journalists want to use your Web site like a phone book." However, many online newsrooms make it difficult -- or just plain impossible -- to find any contact information for media relations staff.

Take five minutes right now to surf your site while pretending you're a journalist on deadline who desperately needs a media contact. Can you find it? Is the contact information complete, including media relations phone number, email and location (so they know your time zone)?

Wasserman cautions that journalists find anonymous contact emails such as "", and online forms that don't specify how long it will take to get a response, particularly irritating. They are working on tight deadlines and just don't trust a human being to get back to them on time.

Also, journalists are annoyed when you strip the contact information from each press release you add to your Web site. If they've printed something out, there is no contact information. If they want to reach the right media relations staffer for that particular release, there is no information.

Wasserman explains that many companies deliberately strip these contacts out, and leave contact information off their press center because they are afraid the general public may get a hold of it and bother staffers with unrelated communications. However the fact is the journalists even more important than the average customer because their influence is wider. Why make it harder for a journalist to reach you than it is for a customer to?

4. The ability to request news
According to Wassermen, only 30% of online press centers surveyed allow journalists to subscribe to emailed press alerts.

She advises that many journalists who cover your industry will join a list if offered one. However, most are overwhelmed with incoming information and often have strong preferences about how they like to receive it. Never require that journalists fill out a complete form to be added to your list. Instead, offer them their choice of communication style -- email, postal mail, fax, phone, etc.

If you have several different product lines or company divisions, you should also offer journalists the opportunity to select which they are most interested in. Chances are their beat may be narrower than your offerings. You don't want to inundate them with unrelated news and risk losing their attention.

5. More educational information
Many online newsrooms are nothing more than a collection of press releases, a few C-level bios and perhaps a media contact name. Wasserman advises you to remember that you can reach thousands or even millions of potential customers through press coverage. So make sure your press center includes all the information those
journalists might need to inform your marketplace about you. Such as:

- Educational materials on your technology, your product and its place in the marketplace.

- Brand information, including why your products or services are different from competitors. (Note: Be sure to write this in a very factual, non-marketing, tone or journalists won't trust it.)

- Dated information on your company history, launches, sales figures, even executives' birth years so journalists can determine how accurate figures currently are.

- Ideas for articles, trend stories and other news pieces. If a journalist is cruising your pressroom, it's a great time to make a pitch for your latest story ideas. Yet, less than 15% of surveyed online press centers currently do this.

- Offer experts to interview. Do you have any clients, industry analysts or expert staffers, such as product engineers, who would make great interviews? Be sure to propose them on your pressroom, and include a bio. (BTW: No, many journalists don't want to talk to your CEO. They'd rather get quotes from a more directly involved expert.)

- Embargoed information -- for example details of an upcoming product launch -- that's password protected so only journalists you trust have access to it so they can write their stories in a timely fashion.

FIGURES: Here are The Maloney Group's Rankings for 12 major industries. Scores are determined by 80 Best Practices factors out of a total potential score of 100%:

1. Aerospace --> 66%
2. Computer hardware & software --> 56%
3. Pharmaceuticals --> 55%
4. Telecommunications --> 53%
5. Chemical/Oil --> 50%
6. Raw Materials (e.g. steel, paper) --> 48%
7. Entertainment and media --> 47%
8. Business services (e.g. consulting) --> 46%
9. Consumer products --> 43%
10. Utilities --> 42%
11. Financial services --> 40%
12. Automotive --> 39%
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