I'm not a web developer by trade, but I visit web sites all the time, and as journalist I'm looking for a couple of key things. First of all, I want to find your press page and a press contact. Short of that I want to find an email address. Note that I don't want to find a form, which could as far as I know never be seen by a human and rot in the IT dustbin for all time. In short, you want to make it really easy for people to contact you.
Don't Use A Form
Some companies seem to have a real fear of contact, but social media marketing guru Seth Godin writes in his blog this week that having a real email contact is essential to a successful web site. He points out that too many sites use an email form, some of which even limit the number of characters a person can write. What could be more unfriendly than that? You want to make it easy for your customers (and yes, journalists) to find you.
Godin guesses that many companies use the form because they are afraid of Spam. He's probably right, but as he says, you can filter the Spam a lot easier than you can find customers (or journalist s who really want to write about you). He even offers a trick of using a mailto: to link with a built-in subject line to help you identify email from interested parties.
Don't Forget the Press
In the post, All Kinds of People, Visit Your Online Media Room, Not Just Journalists; author David Meerman Scott suggested that the press room isn't just for the press. It often contains lots of great content that you may want other interested parties like customers to see too. You may notice if you scroll down that I was quick to comment and criticize this advice, but I can admit when I'm wrong. I don't think that Scott was suggesting you clog your media page with junk, he just wants you to let others know that there's lots of good stuff there.
However, I still stand by that last part of my comment about including an email address for your press contact where I wrote:
You want to offer some good advice for companies about their media room? How about prominently displaying your contact email and phone number. That's job 1 and you would be surprised how often companies fail to provide this crucial piece of information.
Most companies want publicity. If a journalist like me is writing about you, that's usually a good thing because it gets your name out there. I find it horribly frustrating when I go to a web site and I can't find the press page, or worse I can't find a press contact including both email and a direct phone number (not the central company number). You want to make your press contact information highly visible. Let people know that the given email is for journalists and analysts only and direct the rest of the (unwashed) masses to the main email address, which by now, if you've been paying attention, you've displayed prominently on every page (or at least on an easy-to-find Contact page).
The purpose of the web site is to get the word out about your company, to provide great content and to let people know who you are and what you're about. If you succeed at that and fail to provide easy contact methods, you have thrown all of that good work out the window. The great thing about these tips is that they don't require a huge effort to achieve and they can pay off for you and your organization in big ways.