Tourism, Bowen Island and other stuff that comes to mind

VCM Weekly E-News
February 28, 2007, 4:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Quoted from

VCM Weekly E-News

Here is a fabulous article we have discovered, written for Museum Marketing Tips, but certainly relevant to all kinds of tourism businesses! Enjoy…

Is Your Website Journalist-Friendly?
How to Make Sure Your Site Meets Journalists’ Needs
by Katherine Khalife

When journalists visit your website and look for information they would need in order to write about you, can they find it? The answer — whether yours is a million-dollar site or one designed by your board president’s 14-year-old nephew — is a resounding “Probably not.” And as a result, your organization may be missing out on valuable media opportunities.

As I surf the Web doing research for articles I’m writing, I’m constantly amazed at how many sites bury necessary press information or omit it entirely. PR contacts, basic facts about the organization, press releases — even phone numbers — are sometimes impossible to find. And particularly when I’m on a deadline, my decision of whether to include an organization in a story is often influenced by the information available on its website.

Lest you think I’m the only one who feels this way, studies conducted in the past year by both Vocus and the Nielsen Norman Group confirm that I’m not alone. According to the Vocus survey, more than 90 percent of print journalists feel they waste half their time sifting through a website’s contents trying to find what they need. And 60 percent say that not finding it can cause them to pass over a company they might otherwise write about.

With nine out of ten journalists now using the Internet to gather material for stories they’re writing or to do follow-up research on pitches and releases they’ve received, it’s imperative that your website help, not hinder, your organization’s PR efforts.

Lisa Bousquet, director of marketing and public relations at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island, knows this first-hand. The zoo recently revamped all the press information on its website because, Lisa says, “I had many a journalist complain that he/she couldn’t find what they needed. The overhaul has definitely paid off for us.”

It’s also lightened the load on the zoo’s small PR staff. Journalists can now choose photos online and flesh out leads received in news releases. “The press room has also made fact checking much easier,” Lisa adds. “I’ve had reporters tell me they’ve used the site after covering a story to double-check admission prices, dates of events, animal facts, etc. — something they used to have to do with a phone call.”

To make sure that your organization’s website is meeting writers’ and editors’ needs, follow these important tips:

Include a Press Section
Whether you call it Press, Press Room, Press Releases, Media, Media Information, News or News Room, a clearly labeled section of your site should be earmarked for journalists. Ideally, a direct link to that section should be available from your home page and from every other page of your site as well. If that’s not possible, then at least be sure to provide a link to it from your Information or About Us page.

And yes, even small organizations should provide a press section on their sites. With so many reporters and writers out there in cyberspace writing on so many different topics, the chances of one happening upon your website at some point are a lot better than you might expect. And you need to be ready for them when they do.

Put the Emphasis on Information and Navigation
Journalists judge your press room by the quality of the information it contains, not by how many bells and whistles it has. In fact, state-of-the-art technology can actually work against you here. Many writers are freelancers who, like me, use older computers with older browsers and dial-up modems. Huge graphic files and multimedia presentations are the bane of our Internet existence, taking forever to load or crashing our computers in the process. If you don’t want to frustrate us, keep it simple.

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, and the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge are two examples of institutions that “get it” in this regard. And once journalists land in these press rooms, they’re not left stranded there. (Believe me, it happens!) Links are provided back to the home page and to other parts of the site for further information.

What Your Online Press Room Should Contain:

Complete PR Contact Information
Include your PR contacts’ names, phone and fax numbers, e-mail addresses, pager numbers if available, and your organization’s street and mailing addresses. This seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? But the number of websites that neglect to include important contact information is astounding. The Nielsen Norman Group study found that although one of reporters’ main reasons for visiting websites is to get a PR contact’s phone number, 45 percent of the time they can’t find one. Many sites, in fact, include nothing but a generic PR e-mail address such as To a journalist on a deadline, that’s shorthand for “Somebody here might get around to checking this mailbox in the next week or two, and if you’re lucky we may get back to you.” In other words, it’s useless. You must provide a phone number. I recommend putting full PR contact information right at the top of your press section’s main page. Why make journalists hunt for it? If you have a large PR department and need a separate contact page in order to list everyone, then put a prominent link to that page on the main page. Including contact information for other organizations in your area can also be helpful. Monterey Bay Aquarium’s contact page, for example, lists the local Convention and Visitors Bureau and other marine science resources.

Press Releases
In the Vocus survey, respondents ranked press releases as the most important resource to include in an online news room. When you post yours to your site, here are some important things to keep in mind:

Post them in HTML, not as PDF files or Word documents that have to be downloaded in order to be read. Journalists don’t care about fancy formatting. They do care about finding information and finding it fast. And they’ll often want to browse through a number of releases, especially if they’re gathering background information or trying to get a feel for your organization. Don’t hinder that process by expecting them to take the time to download each release they want to look at. They won’t do it.

Make the title of the release a link to the full text, which should be located on a page of its own. And be sure to include the original date of the release next to the title.

The most recent releases should appear at the top of the list.

If you issue a lot of releases on different topics, consider grouping them in categories. The Chicago Botanic Garden and the National Gallery of Art are two organizations that take this approach. When determining which categories to use, keep in mind that reporters cover different beats. Lifestyle editors and travel writers are looking for different information than business reporters are. And if you’re planning a major new exhibition or a building expansion, it makes sense to group all the related releases together.
If you distribute a release through a wire service, be sure you’ve posted it — and any supporting information — to your own site before the release goes out. That ensures that interested reporters won’t read the release, go to your site to do follow-up research and feel like they’ve walked into an empty bakery.

Don’t remove your old releases. Press release archives are a wonderful resource for anyone researching an organization’s growth and evolution. That’s one of the reasons why every release you post to your site needs to have a date on it.

Backgrounders and Fact Sheets
In order to write about you, journalists first need to understand who you are, what you do, and how you do it. Backgrounders and fact sheets are the best way to relay that information.

Provide basic facts about your institution such as number of employees, members and volunteers; annual attendance figures; number of objects in your collections; and total operating budget. Also include a brief overview of your collections, programs, facility and community, a short history of your organization, and interesting bits of trivia about your operation. All of this helps writers and editors put your organization into context and identify the things that make you unique and newsworthy.

You need to present this information in quickly scannable chunks, not as an essay. Subheads, bullet lists and liberal use of white space are good solutions. Journalists just want the facts, so keep flowery brochure-talk to a minimum. And since they may not be fluent in museum-speak, use laymen’s terms. Here are a few good examples of different types of pages you might want to include in your press room:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Fact Sheet
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza: FAQ
Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village: Did You Know?
Sometimes, of course, using technical language and terms that may be unfamiliar to reporters is unavoidable. The Canadian Museum of Nature does a great job of addressing this with its palaeo-speak page, Tips for Science Journalists.

Image Availability
In the years 1995-1998, the annual Middleberg/Ross Media in Cyberspace study found that fewer than 30 percent of journalists used the Internet to find images. By 1999 that number had climbed to 52 percent, and it’s still rising. In fact, last year’s Nielsen Norman Group study found that downloading images to use in stories is now one of the top five reasons journalists visit company websites. So it’s important that your online press room contain information about image availability.

Lisa Bousquet’s recent experience confirms this. “Perhaps the most used feature of our press room so far is the photo menagerie. Tis the season for summer travel guide requests — a time when many publications contact us asking for general “zoo” photos. We’ve been referring them to the menagerie — they choose what they like from the low-res versions, then I send along high-res versions.”

The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge handles the image availablity issue in this same way — providing photo sample sheets in the press kit resources section of its press room. Monterey Bay Aquarium’s photo library carries it a bit further. A sophisticated online catalog of 60 images available in various resolutions and formats is provided, with clear instructions for ordering by e-mail.

What else should your press room contain?
Contact information, press releases, backgrounders and fact sheets, and information about image availability are the basics of a good online press room, but there are many additional things you can include as well:

Press Kits for New Exhibitions
Turn a sub-section of your online press room into a press kit for a new exhibition. Include press releases, a backgrounder and fact sheet, biographies of the artists or subjects, a photo sample sheet, and links to any articles available online that have been written about the exhibition.

Tip Sheets
The Middleberg/Ross studies have found that more than 50 percent of journalists now use the Internet to find story ideas. Roger Williams Park Zoo posts a tip sheet outlining upcoming photo opportunities and ideas for news features and live broadcast remotes.

Posting consumer-oriented tip sheets is also a good idea. Things like How to Turn Your Next Beach Walk Into a Treasure Hunt, 6 Tips for Preserving Your Grandmother’s Quilts, or 7 Ways to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden are great to include, for a couple of reasons: They’re articles that can be picked up and run verbatim, and they also help journalists realize that your organization is a good resource for all kinds of different stories.

Expert Sources
Reporters and writers visiting the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village press room can find experts on everything from Christmas carols to croquet. And the Canadian Museum of Nature’s Need an Expert? page offers a whole alphabet’s worth of natural science experts. From algae to zebra mussels, they’ve got it covered. The Middleberg/Ross 2000 study found that 76 percent of journalists now use the Internet to find expert sources, so why not highlight your staff’s expertise?

An important tip: Your experts page needs to have good search engine rankings so that journalists searching for experts can easily find it. Using the word “experts” and the phrase “expert sources” in the page title and again several times in the body copy will facilitate this. The Canadian Museum of Nature, for example, could title its page Expert Sources – Natural Science Experts at the Canadian Museum of Nature. On the page itself, it could add “expert sources” to each subject listing, ie. Expert Sources – Algae, Expert Sources – Birds.

Press Clippings
Devote a sub-section of your press room to What the Press is Saying About Us. Include links to any articles written about your organization that are available online.

Advance Exhibition Schedule
Give the media a head start like the National Gallery of Art does. Post an outline of your upcoming exhibitions.

Location Filming and Photography Guidelines
Include your photography and filming policies. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum lists theirs on a page in the press kits section of their press room. Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a PDF download spelling out procedures and fees for using the facility for location shoots of commercials, magazine ads, movies and TV shows.

Other Important Tips to Make Your Site Journalist-Friendly
Having an online press room is only part of what’s required. Here are other important things to keep in mind:

Don’t Require Press Registration
You wouldn’t believe how many museum press rooms I visit that require completion of an online registration form in order to gain access. The thinking behind it, I suppose, is that registration will keep the general public out and help build a media database at the same time. But trust me on this: If you want to keep journalists from writing about you, infuriating them with a required registration form is absolutely the best way I know of to do it. Besides, your press room should be available to everyone. Students, museum professionals, members and potential donors may find the information contained there helpful as well.

If you do want to include a form members of the media can submit to be added to your distribution list, that’s fine. Just make it optional, like the registration form used by The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. And don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a lot of sign-ups. At least you’ll know that the journalists who do register are truly interested.

Keep Your Press Room Up to Date
There’s no point in having an online press room if it contains out-of-date information. And no journalist visiting your site in 2002 is going to trust the credibility of any of your information if they’re greeted with “Coming March 1, 2001 — A Major New Exhibition: Highlights from the Highlands!” Keep your press room up to date.

Respond to All E-mail Inquiries
Don’t let any e-mail press inquiries go unanswered. Answer every single one you receive in a timely manner. If you’re not able to accommodate a journalist’s request or you’re unable to respond before their press deadline, don’t just ignore the e-mail. Send an apology. And don’t ever not respond just because you don’t recognize the name of the publication or you don’t think it’s “important enough.” You never know who else that journalist might write for, or what major publication he or she might end up at in the future. Journalists have long memories. Make their memory of your organization a good one.


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