Hosting a virtual press centre on a site is a great way to get coverage; Here is how to provide one

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Websites are the fundamental building blocks of any communications strategy, but they’re also not that easy to get right. Here’s how to improve performance of a website and more importantly, how to get a virtual press office up and running on a website so that if the media are interested in what a company is doing, they can find out all the information, releases, and images quickly.

The website is the cornerstone of any marketing program, but the challenge is that websites often get built and then left to its own devices. It’s important to know a website’s metrics, because when people have read about a company or seen them on TV or heard them on the radio, the first thing they do is go to a search engine to look for that company, and then the next thing is they’ll click on the link to go to the website. 

The metrics you should be monitoring

Page views are one of the more common metrics, but how many people actually look at the average time spent on a website? This gives us a clue as to how interesting the website is to others and also gives a sense of which pieces of content are most valuable to those visiting the website. One of the issues with a website is the speed that it takes to download it first. Looking at the total time on the website divided by the total number of visitors to the website gives a time on-site. The speed to download can be checked by a tool called GTmetrix, and that gives an analysis of how long it takes to load a website. If a website takes a long time to load, then it’s not going to be very productive and people are going to get off it quite quickly. If they only look at one page on the website regardless of how long they’re there, that’s going to give the bounce rate, but the goal is to get people to click through to more than one page. There is no right or wrong amount to what the bounce rate should or should not be. Rather, what people should look out for is a trend over time to see whether the bounce rate is getting higher or lower. It is possible to see some industry average benchmark by looking on Google Analytics.

By using GTmetrix, it provides the website’s page speed, suggestions on how to make it load faster, and the YSlow score or how optimised the website is to render as fast as possible. It’s possible to see these same metrics on Google Analytics as well. They can give the average time spent on the website and the user behavior. It can tell you how many people are coming to the homepage and how many are going to different pages. Once someone visits the website, the next step is taking them through the funnel. There’s another tool called the Yandex.Metrica which is free along with Google Analytics. One would simply input the code into the website host pages to extract data, and the results can be segregated based on geography, pages, device, software, etc. 

Website optimisation and press centre options

Some useful tips to optimise a website would be that each web page should have at least three internal links pointing to it to increase the interconnectivity of the web pages. This decreases the bounce rate, and it also makes it easier for Google to understand what the page is about, because they reference to other pages. Anchor text or the text that describes what the website or the page is offering is also important. For headings, three to seven categories are sufficient, and one needs to make sure that the URLs or the names of the pages can be read by humans. If it’s possible to have a search bar at the top of each page, that’s great. Alt text can also be placed in images or videos and again, this helps Google understand what the graphics are about.

Photo from ReliableSoft

For website speed, there is a 15-second rule. Research has shown that a site with a page load time of six seconds has a 106% higher bounce rate than a site that loads with just one second. Basically, the slower the page is, the more people will leave right away. If the page can load in one second, that would be amazing. The paradox seems to be that you’re supposed to create more valuable content, but that content must be light in terms of size, it must be linked, and it must be easy to search. This becomes the challenge, to have more content in order to be easy to be found. But the more content one has, the harder it is to manage it. 

Powerful headlines are a must, because 80% of viewers only read the headlines. If people visit the website, 80% of what they read could be the headline, so they must be provided with accurate information and an index, and this is where the media press centre comes in. In the past, virtual press office were created. In fact, back then, there was a company who had a website called Virtual Press Office started by a couple of young Englishmen who lived in New York. Today, there are many options. One is called Vuelio which has full press centres which allow the publishing of press releases, images, and collateral of all kinds. They can be sent press releases which they will optimise, customise, and integrate into a press centre on the website, which means that when the media wants to come and find it, they give their details and it’s easy to track who they are. This could be very useful when sending out a press release, because when images are attached, they’re sometimes blocked, filtered, or result in the press release going to spam. So, links to a press centre are a nice way around that. Vuelio has a number of online tools as well. Much like Cision, one can publish press releases and send them to media lists, manage inquiries, and build calendars and reports as well. Another one is called PressArea, and they have a sister site called PRshots. They’ve been providing online media centres and what are called digital asset management solutions to businesses for over 20 years. Their clients include companies like Marks and Spencer. 

There are a number of things to consider when looking at a press centre, such as is it a fully branded press room? Is it standalone and is the domain name going to be the same as the company one? No one wants the media to go to a third party press domain name. Also, consider how much digital assets the company will need in terms of storage. With PressArea, youcan have up to 500 GB on the Base package, or up to unlimited if you go for their Unlimited package. You can also look at integrations into social media and automatic distribution. PressArea has a £395 monthly plan, and their next plan is £750 a month. For their unlimited package, they need to be contacted for the pricing. 

Websites are good for public relations, and there is already the initial attraction for general attention to the company that might be potential staff, partners, or customers, but the media have their own special area. They have their own special needs that are more in depth and more in detail, and they’re more likely to go through to, in effect, a funnel for relationship building with that media. Websites form a fundamental part of anybody’s marketing communications. They have to be ready for the big screen, but they also have to be ready for mobile as well. Some things to consider are the website’s speed, the depth of content, and the accessibility. With that, think about what you’ve got and how to make assets available to the media through the website. If you get that right, it saves you a lot of time and can get you extra coverage, because it makes the work for the journalists much easier as well.


This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo from Conroe Lake Conroe Chamber

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