In a world where first impressions count I have been shocked by the poor and downright confusing range of websites belonging to PR agencies. At best they are bewildering and at worst they represent all that is bad about online PR. If it is a shop window then they don’t have the right goods on show.
The PR industry aims to champion what is best and most effective in communication including in the online arena. But it appears many agencies are not taking their own advice. I uncovered this anomaly when I was doing some random googling for local PR agencies. As I clicked on site after site, I became more and more frustrated with what I found. Some were slightly better than others but all appeared to fall into one of a number of groups.
I decided these PR agency websites split into four main categories:
1. Aren’t we clever
2. It’s strictly business
3. More money than sense
4. All my own work
Aren’t we clever…
This group is trying so hard to demonstrate good communication techniques that they throw everything possible at the website. They try to be modern, slick and ‘arty’ and in doing this they make it so difficult to navigate that you click off almost instantly. The sites usually have some theme that is linked to the name of the PR agency and they stick to the theme and associated design at all costs. They do this even if it makes the website impossible to use.
It’s strictly business
For these agencies it is all about the services they can offer. They need to tell you about this quickly with the least fuss possible. The sites often resemble technology companies with plenty of text and few images or graphics. Don’t expect any colours other than blue, grey and black. These agencies have an organised approach that means everything can be found on their site but you might fall asleep as you try to find it. Some of them could definitely become a cure for insomnia.
More money than sense
The motto here is if we can buy it then we should add it to the site. These agencies are not afraid to show how wealthy they are by making the website large and sprawling. They will think nothing of adding more and more pages featuring links nationally and if they can really manage it internationally. These agencies will put video, audio and in fact anything else they can onto the site. But they do it all in such a haphazard fashion that it has no clear direction.
All my own work
Unlike the third group, for these agencies they are reluctant to spend anything on their website choosing instead to get friends to help or even doing it themselves. The sites really are basic and if you are lucky will include an outline of services and details of how to contact them. Often the site appears to be an afterthought for the agency concerned. In some of the worst cases the links don’t work and you can’t even find an email address.
These agencies should reassess why they have a website and what they want to achieve out of it. It should be to encourage new business, and to do this by starting to engage with key groups and individuals. It is not just about being on the web, and having links to Facebook and Twitter. One look at some of the hyperlocal sites that are being developed would assist.
PR professionals really need to start to understand what the web and social media can bring to their own business plans. You wouldn’t expect to see a department store shop window with some rotten fruit and random merchandise so why should PR agencies do the equivalent on the Internet.