In an age where digital engagement is possible on multiple channels, there is palpable fear that corporate websites are becoming mere internet anchor points instead of boutique destinations for stakeholders which they are supposed to be. Some practitioners even believe that the need for them will fizzle out in no distant time. But Smart PR professionals are thinking differently. They know that the corporate website is evolving and they have to evolve with it. And that means tapping into features that make them more PR-friendly.
What Defines PR-Friendliness?
Your corporate website may be built with the most captivating design theme, the best photography in your industry and the most fabulous page layout, but if it does not help you establish, build and maintain relationships with your stakeholders, it fails in PR-friendliness.
Generally, your corporate website is a Public Relations tool meant to showcase your organization’s work, interact with its stakeholders, put your corporate brand on the global map, maintain online visibility, manage issues or crisis and give your business legitimacy. But PR-friendliness is defined by what your stakeholders want from it.
Journalists are critical stakeholders of any organization. They remain the channels through which organizations reach out to other stakeholders scattered all over a country or the globe. Several studies have revealed that journalists see a corporate website as friendly when it helps them to:
- Locate a PR contact in an organization
- Find basic facts about a company; for example, spelling of an executive’s name, his or her age, location of company Headquarters etc.
- Discern a company’s spin on an event or its position on an issue.
- Check financial information.
- Download images to use as illustrations in stories.
- Obtain certain information at a certain level of detail about a company’s product or services.
- Learn about philanthropic involvement or social responsibility initiatives. And they want it with facts and supportive evidence.
Journalists will not bother to visit a corporate website that does not provide this information. And that could mean not reporting the stories of such organizations appropriately.
Three Levels of PR-Friendliness
There are three overlapping levels of PR-Friendliness of a corporate website which every PR professional should work to achieve, namely:
technical friendliness, stakeholder friendliness and work-related friendliness.
Technical friendliness is measured by the level of compliance with Worldwide Web (W3C) consortium and Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) standards and guidelines.
W3C Consortium is an international Consortium that develops web standards. It develops protocols and guidelines for long-term stability and scalability for the web. How well HTML code is written and appropriate use of style sheet depends on the level of compliance with the protocols. And when the guidelines are followed, websites will look the same, load and run quicker with all browsers.
Failure to comply has many implications:
- Search engines may not index your website correctly.
- Different browser could produce different versions of your web pages
- Your website may crash the browsers.
- Your website may fail certain DDA guidelines and get penalized.
At the stakeholder level, your website is said to be friendly when it has the capacity to establish, build and maintain relationship easily with all stakeholders. This is defined by:
- Effective navigation: Visitors should be able to locate your navigation menu and the pages they need quickly.
- A clear copy: your copy should be devoid of jargons and conversational tone should be used.
- Effective Call to Actions (CTAs): clear and enticing CTAs are crucial to moving visitors to the pages or the actions you want them to take.
- Mobile compatibility: websites that are not mobile compatible are turn-offs in this age of the Smartphone. Using Google Mobile’s site tester is a good way to find out if yours is doing fine.
- Information Architecture: How you plan the different sections of your corporate website and how you use headings, sub-headings, bullets, paragraphs and lists can either keep or send visitors away from your website. Do these with best practices in mind.
- Load time : whether the load time of your website is fast or slow is a great indicator of stakeholders’ friendliness. Plug-ins, website tracking tools and social media tools are some of the factors that work against speed of the website. Use them carefully, for stakeholders will leave your website once it fails to load quickly, and this has obvious implication: you really cannot get crucial information to them through the medium.
- Browser consistency: when you website does not appear the same on different browser, it sends different messages to your stakeholders and distorts their brand experience.
- Contrasting colours : You can measure the stakeholder friendliness of your corporate website by the level of contrast between the background colour and the content. Black text on a white background makes the content easy to read and is held as a gold standard today.
- Interactivity: the level of interactivity of your website is crucial to establishing and maintaining relationship with your stakeholders. You can achieve this through the use of forms, effective call to actions, live chats, quizzes and polls as well as social sharing features.
When a corporate website can help you do your work effectively and efficiently, as a PR professional, then it is work-friendly. You should be able to carry out research, track stakeholders’ sentiments, inform and receive information and collect data of stakeholders and potential customers. Forms, quizzes and polls can help you capture stakeholder opinions. Gated contents such as newsletters, and special reports or eBooks are good means of tracking stakeholders contact information, and Social sharing features are indispensable for disseminating information, receiving information and tracking stakeholders’ issues and sentiments. Flashy graphics and animations may add colour to a corporate website and may make positive impacts on your stakeholders’ experience. Perhaps, the only way to confirm its PR-friendliness is to check whether it complies with relevant standards and guidelines technically, meets your stakeholders’ tastes and preferences and helps PR professionals do their work effectively and efficiently.