Agencies, don't forget your homepages

Brands might be tempted to migrate to a social-only strategy, but for PR agencies there's still value in running a fully fledged website.

For some time, conventional wisdom in web design dictated that every page must be a homepage. Yet as social media platforms gobble up more of consumers’ internet hours, it’s becoming more common to see brands reevaluate prioritizing – or even having – their homepage.

Last October, RebelMouse founder and CEO Paul Berry said "social networks have taken the place of the homepage." The same month, Nestlé  consolidated the websites for its Nescafé brand on a single Tumblr account. More than 75% of BuzzFeed’s content views in 2015 came from social media channels.

But consumer-facing brands and publishers target different audiences than agencies, and they have different digital needs. Agency websites act as hubs where prospective clients and talent go to find information they seek. Journalists need a point of contact for specific people and departments within an agency. These resources are difficult to replicate with a social-only web presence.

Your homepage tells a story about your agency. Most social media channels do not allow much customization. Even on personalized platforms such as Tumblr, users are more likely to encounter your content on their dashboard, where post formats are uniform. You have total control over your homepage and the story it tells. Golin leads with mobile-optimized video content. Edelman highlights its research. Ogilvy resembles a text-based RSS feed more than a homepage.

The decision to promote and prioritize things such as video content, talent, job opportunities, contact information, social content, or press coverage is a branding opportunity over which an agency has complete freedom. Until social channels can replicate that freedom, moving away from a dedicated website should be done with caution. Even Nescafé’s highly customized Tumblr offloads vital functions including buying and contact to dedicated Nestlé-owned sites.

Another bonus is visibility. Unless you’re going to kill your entire site a la Nescafé, it’s going to be your best-indexed web content.

But a word of warning: Your site can be a highly visible, personalized, and valuable asset, but it must be executed well.

A quick review of the homepages of the world’s top 10 PR agencies found nothing terribly out of place, but some minor annoyances: broken social buttons, cross-browser performance issues, non-responsive content, no obvious way to find resources that should be prominently featured, such as contact information, staff directories, examples of past work.

If you can’t get your own digital content right, why should clients trust you with theirs?

Byron Kittle is web editor at PRWeek.

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