Make Your Releases Easy to Link to (Online Media Outreach, Part 6)

Returning to my series on online media outreach, I’d like to highlight one of the most annoying problems I’ve encountered in online press rooms: Press releases or other informational materials that you can’t link to directly – at least not easily….

WHY WOULD REPORTERS WANT TO LINK TO A RELEASE?

The internet has changed how journalists share information with editors, sources, and audiences. E-mail and links are now integral parts of editorial discourse.

For example, in my journalistic work I regularly pitch story ideas to editors via e-mail. These e-mail messages almost always include links to press releases, articles, or other types of content that support the newsworthiness of my pitch. Editors generally appreciate this, since those links give them the option of seeing more information that would help them evaluate or fine-tune my pitch.

Also, when I contact a source or press office by e-mail (such as to ask questions related to a recent announcement), I always include links to the documents which piqued my curiousity and led me to them. This context helps sources to formulate responses that meet my specific needs. In turn, this reduces the amount of back-and-forth that often occurs when sources and reporters are trying to initially understand each other.

Direct links also are important for reporters who use new information-gathering tools such as Furl.

When I get a story assignment and start doing online research for it, I save relevant web pages in my Furl archive. This is especially useful to me as a journalist because Furl actually saves a private copy for my future reference, in case that page later changes, moves, or disappears. However, to my knowledge Furl can only save pages that appear in a standard web browser window (with menu bar, etc.), not a pop-up window. I’ve often been frustrated by not being able to Furl a press release that’s encased in a pop-up.

OPTIONS FOR CREATING LINKABLE PRESS RELEASES

There are many ways to accomplish this goal. Which one works best for you depends on the kind of content management system (if any) supporting your web site.

  • Put each release on its own web page. From the site visitor’s perspective, this would be a “static page” with a URL that does not change and does not depend on a search query. These can either exist on your web server as separate pages or be created on the fly by weblog-type software. For instance, my weblog software WordPress assigns a unique URL to every CONTENTIOUS item I post. I do not create items as separate pages, but they are presented to readers as such and thus can be linked to easily and directly.
  • Avoid frames and pop-ups. While frames and pop-ups often are convenient solutions from a design standpoint, usually they stink if you want people to be able to link to or Furl your content. Yes, often you can do tricks like right-clicking on a frame to open its content in a new window, from where you may be able to grab a static URL (if you’re lucky). However, most web users are non-geeks who either don’t know or are too rushed/lazy to employ these tricks. This is especially true of journalists, who tend to be especially technophobic and rushed.
  • Don’t post pdf-format releases. In Part 7 I discuss why pdf-format press releases are a bad idea for online press rooms. One of their many disadvantages is that web browsers must rely on plug-ins or separate programs to open and read these documents. Depending on the user’s platform and browser, pdfs may or may not open in a browser window. When pdfs open in a separate application that is not a browser window, non-geeky web users probably will not know how to capture the URL of that pdf document – the crucial information needed for any link.

NEXT: No PDF Press Releases, Please

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