ANALYSIS: Weekly Web Watch - Advice to Internet sites: don't get stuck in 'web' of confusion

January is a time for New Year's resolutions. We here at PRWeek put our heads together and surfed the Web to make some suggestions for how PR executives can improve their sites in the coming year.

January is a time for New Year's resolutions. We here at PRWeek put our heads together and surfed the Web to make some suggestions for how PR executives can improve their sites in the coming year.

January is a time for New Year's resolutions. We here at PRWeek put our heads together and surfed the Web to make some suggestions for how PR executives can improve their sites in the coming year.

First and foremost, we want phone numbers, preferably on the home page.

There is not much that makes our hearts sink further than to click on the 'Contact Us' button and find an e-mail file or time consuming form to fill in.

Up-to-date press releases are a dream. If you've just released a survey and it's in all the papers, but the details are not on your site - shame on you. Why not bring people to your site by getting your own news online, just after it breaks, pretty much like AOL and Time Warner did.

If you're in the communications business and there are no contact names and phone numbers on your press releases, then we have to ask, 'Are you in a witness protection program or just worried about stalkers?'

If it isn't too much to ask, we'd also appreciate a searchable archive and a list of who's who and their biographies. If you think that's possible, then how about a diagram about how your company fits into a parent group? Journalists love that kind of thing, as might your investors.

On behalf of production desks across the country, we'd like to request that downloadable images of your executives be available on your site. If that isn't done because you want control of who uses your artwork, then fair enough, but can we at least have basic color head shots available in GIF, TIFF and JPEG formats?

In terms of content, we're not that interested in valueless marketing blurb. However, we think it's only fair that, if you're an agency, you make it obvious which clients are past and which are present. If a potential new client is trying to evaluate what you're about, then it's in your best interests for them to know what other major contracts you have.

While we recognize there's a real fear of client poaching, pretending you have a healthcare practice when you don't have any current clients in that area is really false advertising.

We took a look around and found that there were more sites under construction than you might find on a South American vacation complex. Take Magnet Communications, located at cdbpr.com, as an example. They deserve commendations for making clear who they worked for in 2000. However click on the results button or the big hits option for what they did for those clients and you'll find there's nothing to read (still under construction).

Gavinanderson.com relaunched a few weeks ago, making a so-called 'solutions matrix' the centerpiece of the site. The idea is that clients input their problem - crisis management or raising finance - and the firm will come up with a solution. So far there's not too much more than details of the firm's experience at handling such matters, but people details and phone numbers are easy to find.

We also checked out some holding companies to see what we could find out. Cordiant Communications Group's site, at ccg.com, was a striking color, but we couldn't find a magnifying glass to read the typeface and we couldn't install a plug-in to peruse their press releases.

So when you're hiring a futuristic design firm to help come up with some ideas - we most humbly ask you to keep our suggestions in mind.



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