Is your Web site media-friendly?

There are countless books, blogs, and magazine articles dedicated to Web site usability. Companies both large and small hire consultants who are specially trained to help attract consumers, keep them on the site, and ultimately convert them into customers.

But what if a writer came to your site looking for something that could be made into a publicity-generating story? This happens more often than you would think. When faced with a story assignment, reporters may troll the Internet looking for companies that may be able to provide sources on their topic. Editors looking for new and fresh sources in a particular industry will routinely perform searches. You may even be driving them there through press releases and email blasts.

All too often, however, when I look for new contacts or sources on company Web sites, I’m faced with frustration. Sometimes, that frustration is so great that I turn away in a huff. If your site frustrates me, your company doesn’t get written about, your CEO never gets interviewed, and fewer people know about you.

Here, then, are 6 tips for making your Web site media-friendly.

1. Give us a media contact. If you have somebody who handles your PR, say so. If you don’t have a dedicated person at your company who handles PR, that’s fine, too. If you are the person to call for interview requests and other information, please let us know this.

2. Don’t hide. Put the name of your media contact under the heading of “media contact,” “PR contact,” “media requests,” “press inquiries,” or some such language. This should reside on your “contact us” page, because when I want to contact you, that’s the first place I’ll look. I will only do a certain amount of hunting around on “about us” pages or site maps before giving up. If you own your own company and are also the media contact, list your name again anyway, or at least indicate that we should contact you. Otherwise, we have no way of knowing you don’t have some secret PR person somewhere you’re just not listing (this is not uncommon), but we won’t want to waste our time figuring it out.

3. Give us all your contact information. Some writers/editors/bloggers prefer to contact potential sources via email. Some like the telephone. All of them want to know who they’re contacting. I hate addressing an email “To whom it may concern” or calling a company bumbling about a “media… contact?” So give us your PR rep’s first and last name, email address, and phone number. A fax number is always nice, but not at all necessary. This also makes it easier for us to follow up with you.

4. Start a little source list for us. This is especially helpful if you have a company with several executives who have expertise in individual areas. That way, when I contact your media person, I can say, “I’m writing a story about retirement planning for people in their 20s, and I noticed that David Smith, your senior vice president of sales, is your in-house expert on retirement planning. I’d love to highlight your company. Would David be available for an interview in the next couple of weeks?” So basically, 5 minutes of work on your part (compiling the list) has saved you a bunch of time (asking around, finding the right person) because you’ve enabled me to do your homework for you.

5. Post news about your company. It’s not difficult to make yourself a nice little “about us” page. Include some news there. This can be self-generated press releases or stories other outlets have written about you. Or both. This is not just self-serving – it helps us figure out what’s unique about you. Plus, it gets you higher up in the search engines. Which means more visibility.

6. Don’t hide behind a “contact us” form. Too often, companies use “contact us” forms for everything under the sun, from sales inquiries to resume submissions. If I’m looking to profile your company, I’m not going to fill out your form and wait 2-4 weeks to hear back from you. I’m going to find another company.

Of course, none of this is to sound difficult or demanding. It’s in your best interest to be as visible as possible to the press. Most of us just want to highlight your achievements or the knowledge of your experts. And that type of exposure is so worth the extra hour it will take you to build a sensible, thorough, and clear media page – and to make it easy to find!