The "invisible PR team members syndrome" remains a notable example of corporate culture refusing to put real people in front of the public. Some companies do provide contact information for people in sales, customer service and other outward-facing areas. I've had discussions with clients over the years explaining why a real person needs to be listed on company Web sites and announcements. Some get it; some have a policy established in the Dark Ages that refuses to allow it.
Is this policy outdated and backward? You bet. In today's realm of social media engagement, it’s utterly nuts.
A way of fighting this syndrome might be showing management a dozen companies of all sizes—and perhaps even some of their competitors—that have PR contacts showing. A lot depends on the company's perspective on PR and what level of value it has held. If they get that a company is just that, a group of engaged people, not a faceless entity, then there's a chance. Having a newsroom area on your site, rather than just lists of press releases and media coverage, is only a good start.
There's so much more valuable content that can be made accessible, including PR team members and their areas of responsibility. Agency PR contacts can also be posted as well as the in-house people. This isn't radical thinking. How about a list of topics your company experts are willing and able to speak on or write about? Awards, industry recognition, upcoming events and trade show attendance plans are also no-brainers for the PR area.
Putting a Face on the Company
There are more people who should show up on your Web site than just top management team members. They don't need lofty titles to deserve online visibility. They need to be the people who can help customers. How about the team or person in charge of customer relations or service? Does your company have a customer or user training capability? Let them shine online, too. They're valuable to your prospects and existing customers. If you're an international brand, disclose the names and contact info for all the geographies served, including agency team contacts for each locale.
If your brand is already engaging in various forms of social media, not providing contacts makes no sense. Who are the company bloggers? Put up their bios and link to their blogs. White papers, press kit materials, company and product background information, photography and infographics are all items that you can fill your newsroom with and keep current. If the company is public, investor relations information and financial announcements should be included there as well. Don't be a two-headed company just because IR reports to the CFO. Don't make it hard for media and others to research your business. Make sure the information is current and consistent with your communications strategy—if there is one. If not, that's a whole other article.
Merchandize Media Coverage
Recent and archived news announcements should be supplemented in the newsroom with links to current coverage in your target media. “XYZ Corporation In The News” demonstrates what's being said and projects powerful brand credibility to anyone reading it. The "In The News" area can include articles by your executive authors and articles others have written about your brand, even if your competitors are named. Complete reuse rights must be requested and often purchased, but listing where your stories have appeared is a must. You never really finish publicizing your brand—unless your company goes out of business. Then you really will be invisible.
Ford Kanzler is principal of Marketing/PR Savvy in Redwood City, Calif., and author of Connecting the Mind and Voice of Business (available from Amazon and B&N). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.