Impress the Press
Use these 9 tips to create a top-notch online media center.
When you pick up an industry publication or log onto your favorite commercial real estate news site, chances are you read articles that quote commercial real estate experts. Have you ever wondered how these industry pros find such great opportunities to share their knowledge and raise their professional profile at the same time? It’s likely that these experts have one thing in common — highly functional media centers on their companies’ Web sites.
The days of simply posting transaction and new-hire press releases along with some downloadable property photos and headshots are over. One of the best ways to raise your company’s profile — and generate new business opportunities both locally and nationally — is to create a first-rate online media center.
“News publicity costs you nothing,” says Thomas Wong, author of 101 Ways to Boost Your Web Traffic. Yet it often produces better results than advertising because people trust news articles more than sales ads, Wong says. “Press releases often lead to personal interviews on the phone or TV or radio appearances, which can make you and your Web site very popular,” he adds.
While there are hundreds of tactics and Web-based technologies available, building a well-crafted online media center doesn’t have to be a laborious process. The following nine steps can help your company maximize its online exposure, raise your company’s profile, and hopefully generate some future business opportunities in the process.
1. Provide Web-Friendly Press Releases. While a page of text, some meaningful quotes, and complete contact information provide a solid foundation for press releases, you’ll get better exposure if you optimize your press releases for the Web. This means embedding relevant keywords in press release headlines as well as in the text, so they are easily and quickly retrieved by Web search engines.
Another strategy is to add distribution options to your Web site. For example, adding a bookmarking and distribution tool such as AddThis or ShareThis makes it easier for visitors to pass along your press releases. PR Leap is another distribution service that electronically disseminates press releases, even those that include embedded images and video. (See sidebar for contact information for all services mentioned in this article.)
Cut-and-paste portability is another good practice to keep in mind when preparing and posting press releases. Press releases posted online in html text format are easy for reporters and other media professionals to cut, paste, and use accordingly. While PDF files are a great way to present permanent, official press releases online, providing a text-based version in addition to PDFs can be advantageous.
2. Trigger Coverage With Content. Writers and reporters are always hungry for ideas, so you can never offer too much content in your online media center. To gain the most exposure, state clearly online that your media center content can be quoted directly by writers and reporters. This upfront permission can save a media professional a great deal of time and may be the difference between being quoted in a leading industry publication and being passed over.
Specific content that is likely to draw media interest includes company-produced white papers, research or industry data, executive quotes on recent market news, legislation, and research findings. The media also may find value in quotable transcripts of executive speeches and recent company Webcasts, case studies, survey results, and customer or client testimonials. When placing quotes and testimonials online, always attribute the information to an individual and include his or her title and contact information.
3. Become a Media Authority. Establish one or more of your company’s executives as media authorities. Exactly how can you accomplish this? Creating a blog allows company executives to loom large before the press, but only if the blog is interesting and insightful. One of the easiest ways to create a winning blog is to hire a good ghost blogger. This may require a small time and financial commitment, but it will help to position your company’s executives as industry thought leaders.
You can gain additional notoriety with the media by publicizing your industry pros in various online expert stables, or online sites that facilitate media interactions. Some of the more prominent resources include ProfNet, ExpertClick, and About.com.
4. Add Dimension With Rich Media. One thing YouTube has taught us is that Web users, including members of the media, love sound and pictures. Commercial real estate companies can use this to their advantage. For instance, NAI Cummins Commercial has found success utilizing YouTube for its property marketing videos.
Commercial real estate companies also can embed a YouTube or other free shareware-based video players into their sites. These customizable video players can be dropped in beside press releases in your online media center, next to your expert blog, on your company’s social network page, or on virtually any other sector of your company’s Web site. Customization can include a company logo as well as a look and feel that’s consistent with a company’s brand. On the YouTube site, you can download a video on how to add the YouTube player to your Web site as well as a separate video on how to customize your video player.
As with many things related to the Web, it is essential to review YouTube’s user requirements before utilizing the site for your business. It may be wise to ask your legal counsel to review the fine print before you incorporate a YouTube player into your site or utilize YouTube to market your company.
In addition to videos, commercial real estate companies can add podcasts to their media centers for downloadable, audio-based content. Podcast Directory provides a good overview of how to create and post podcasts on your site. Industry expert Kenneth P. Riggs, CCIM, chief executive officer of Real Estate Research Corp., uses podcasts to explore different aspects of the RERC/CCIM Investment Trends Quarterly research findings.
A third rich media area to explore is virtual reality presentations, which can be created through programs such as Quicktime VR and IPIX.
5. Be Available. Make certain the names, titles, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses for your company’s key marketing and public relations personnel are highly visible and easy to find in your online media center. If possible, also provide contact information for your company’s key executives who are open to being interviewed. It’s helpful and increases your exposure opportunities if you turn around media requests within 24 hours. In addition, consider offering the option of e-mail interviews. E-mail interviews offer many hidden advantages: They allow you time to think through your responses and position your message favorably. In addition, providing your responses in writing reduces the likelihood that you’ll be misquoted.
6. Tweak Under the Hood. During the past few years, Google has released a number of free tools designed to help optimize content in search engines. Register for a free Google Webmaster’s account to obtain tools, tips, and tricks to optimize your media center’s domain for the Google search engine. Once your media center is search friendly on Google, it will automatically be optimized for most other major search engines.
It’s also extremely important to ensure your Web site’s media center downloads quickly. The easiest way to lose a writer or reporter who’s searching the Web for commercial real estate experts is to serve up a site that takes too long to download. The book, Speed Up Your Site, by Andrew B. King, founder of Web Site Optimization LLC, provides a number of tips for optimizing your site’s download time. Visit the Web site for a free analysis of your media center’s download efficiency. (See link in “Quick Guide.”)
7. Promote Relentlessly. One of the great aspects of the Web is that a small but nimble commercial real estate company can leap ahead of the most lumbering of industry goliaths with the right promotion tools. Start by offering a sign-up service for media professionals to receive your press releases and electronic communications. In addition, offering Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, is a seamless way to push your new content out to members of the media. Visit IceRocket for free tips on how to make your media center RSS friendly.
Free distribution services such as PRNewswire also can help to circulate your press releases to the media. Adding a “send this page to a friend” button to your media center also improves visitors’ abilities to pass along your content. Establishing an industry links directory with FocalMedia’s PowerSeek SQL or similar software or adding a chat room to your media center via a chat program such as LivePerson are other ways to expand your company’s online profile.
8. Measure Your Success. The quickest way to secure an increased media center budget for next year is to produce quantifiable results this year. Utilizing Web traffic analysis programs such as Google Analytics is a good way to monitor the amount of traffic on your media center. This free online service is easy to implement and allows you to analyze a variety of online activity and produce easy-to-understand reports. Other services, including Coremetrics, WebTrends, and Omniture provide more-sophisticated, fee-based analytic programs.
9. Safeguard Your Reputation. Once people start talking about your company on the Web, including writers, reporters, and bloggers, you’ll want to keep an eye on what they’re saying. The importance of such reputation monitoring cannot be underestimated, says Bruce Arnold, founder of Caslon Analytics, a Web marketing firm that counsels clients on managing company reputations online.
“Financial analysts have attributed falling share prices to particular [online] campaigns, noting that some domains claim a regular audience of 20,000 to 50,000 visitors and that information on those sites has been accepted and echoed by the mainstream media,” Arnold says.
Reputation monitoring services such as Factiva Insight: Reputation Intelligence, Nielsen BuzzMetrics, BlogSquirrel, and WebClipping.com are resources to consider implementing to ensure your company’s image remains intact.