Journalists are increasingly turning to the Web to generate story ideas, gather information and source subject matter experts. If you’ve done a good job building your brand online, that expert could be you.
“The Web, search engines and social media are all important tools in what we do,” Vancouver Sun journalist Gillian Shaw told Webcopyplus, adding that reporters constantly scour the Web when conducting research for stories.
Other journalists back that claim. When 40 journalists participating in a www.useit.com study were asked how they get basic information about a company or organization, they all said they begin by doing some Web research, usually with Google.
And it’s not all about Google. A national Cision and George Washington University study found that a vast majority of reporters and editors also depend on social media sources when researching their stories.
Among the journalists surveyed, 89% said they turn to blogs for story research, 65% to social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and 52% to microblogging services such as Twitter.
Case in Point: Getting Found on Google
Vancouver-based Clear HR Consulting, a Webcopyplus client with just a few employees, is beating several industry giants in online searches, including Mercer, a 73-year-old corporation with more than 19,000 employees in over 180 cities and 40 countries and territories worldwide, and Hewitt, a 70-year-old company that boasts 23,000 employees in more than 30 countries.
Prior to getting their website optimized in 2007, only 3% of clients had found Clear HR Consulting through Web searches. By the end of 2008, 26% of new clients were finding the HR firm via Google, Yahoo and other search engines. In the first half of 2010, 67% of new clients discovered Clear HR Consulting via search with terms such as HR services Vancouver and HR experts Vancouver.
“With more than 50% of our revenue coming from clients who find us through search engines, I have to say search engine optimization is probably the most important marketing investment we’ve ever made,” said Cissy Pau, Principal Consultant at Clear HR Consulting. “The icing on the cake is that we’re getting a lot of media coverage without spending time and money on PR campaigns and PR firms.”
With editors and journalists finding the consultants via Google, the small HR firm has scored dozens of features and mentions on prominent TV and radio shows, magazines, newspapers and websites, such as CBC Radio, CBC TV, Canadian Business, BC Business, The Globe and Mail, and others.
This is an excellent example of a business truly leveraging the power of the Web, which is now used by a record 1.9 billion people (source: Internet World Stats). Most businesses get a website created, launch it, and then let it float aimlessly in cyberspace. By optimizing it for search engines, conveying the right messages to the intended audiences, and leveraging social media, any website can be turned into an active marketing tool that generates very real results, and an excellent return on investment.
Making Life Easier For Reporters
The www.useit.com study concluded most of the PR sections of sites they studied failed to support journalists in their quest for the facts, information, and contacts they can use to write stories about companies and their products.
Here are the top five reasons journalists gave for visiting a company’s website:
- Locate a PR contact (name and telephone number)
- Find basic facts about the company (spelling of an executive’s name, his/her age, headquarters location, and so on)
- Discern the company’s spin on events
- Check financial information
- Download images to use as illustrations in stories
“I appreciate companies that make information easy to access — that covers everything from phone numbers to images — instead of requiring back and forth phone calls, which can end up being too late for our deadlines,” stated Shaw.
As 18th century writer Matthew Arnold put it: “Journalism is literature in a hurry.” When tens of thousands of dollars worth of PR are at stake, helping journalists who “do it at deadline” makes sound business sense.