Companies' revamped press sites extend audience appeal

A year ago, Hilton Hotels was receiving a few consumer queries a week through its press site.

A year ago, Hilton Hotels was receiving a few consumer queries a week through its press site. Following the launch of its new global media site in January, PR director John Forrest Ales says he's getting close to 50 a week through the site alone.

"The growth was dramatic and it was immediate," he says.

The change has provided Hilton with an opportunity to share news with consumers in a real-time fashion. It also gives the PR team a better avenue to respond to questions left on the site's comment field.

"Before this launch, our team was dealing with consumers in a more traditional way, i.e., over the phone, through correspondence," Ales says. "Now, we're able to handle a large body of requests and problems, and we can respond quickly. It lets that consumer know we hear them and are working to meet their need." The relaunch follows a corporate trend of redesigned press sites focused on spreading information to not only journalists, but to the general public as well. With more consumers taking on the role of journalist - sharing news about their favorite brands through Twitter, Facebook, and blogs - demand for readable press releases and easily embedded images and videos has led several big-name corporations to create press sites that are customer friendly.

Other entities on board
Both Microsoft and General Motors have also created more mainstream news sites in the past year. GM reports that Web traffic doubled in the first month of operation alone. Microsoft is also seeing increased numbers after its January launch, a result that Ales shares.

"We saw at least a 35% increase in traffic in the first week," he reports. "The global reach is significant. This site is reaching countries that we previously weren't."

That reach is due to several factors specifically used in these sites to achieve greater audience appeal. While many news sites require press credentials for access, these sites are left open to all visitors, with photos and videos that are easy to download and news content that reads more like editorial than a press release.

For Microsoft's January launch of a remodeled news site, VP of corporate communications Frank Shaw says making sure the content was usable by both consumers and journalists from around the world was one major challenge.

"We worked with our teams in each country to make sure the content was readable for that region, and we use both in-house and freelance journalists to write content that is engaging and interesting for consumers," he notes. "The old model was, you put out a press release for a journalist to take and disseminate. Now, we're sharing that information straight to the consumer. The goal is to make a site that embraces consumers without losing journalists."

One-stop news source
When General Motors began considering remodeling its press site a year ago, VP of communications Chris Preuss wanted the site to offer an integrated experience by incorporating news, video, and social media tags with company and brand information.

"Our goal was to make a direct-to-consumer site, which also hap- pened to serve journalists," he says.

Preuss says one advantage to streamlining a news site is creating a place where consumers and reporters can receive information on a number of company brands. Previously, GM hosted URLs for each of its models. Now, visitors to receive news on all of the company's brands.

"With the microsites, you had too many portals into the company," explains Preuss, "and you didn't have one easy way to access the content."

Making press sites mainstream

  • Hi-res and easy-to-download graphics and videos make a site engaging and add interest to editorial content
  • Facebook and Twitter tags can help consumers read and spread information in a format with which they are comfortable
  • Employing a staff of writers to generate interesting and original copy will ensure visitors keep coming back

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