Just a few minutes ago, yet another PR entity annoyed me for the same reason. They don’t get web writing, or bloggers. They still think web coverage is lesser than print coverage. That’s mildly hilarious, what with this being the year 2008 and much of the planet using the web as a primary information source.

I was working on a couple of articles mentioning or focused on Disney theme parks. I wrote this article about Halloween events and included mention of some very cool sounding festivities over at Disneyland and Disney World. I was hoping to get a picture, so I went onto the Disneyland media site. I completed the registration to get access to media images and even just press releases (since when are those a secret?).

I was annoyed to have to wait 24 hours for approval to access the media site, but Disney certainly isn’t the only organization to make someone wait to access materials, although that, too, is stupid in my opinion. Many members of the media, both online and *gasp* print journalists, need this information immediately. But I digress.

I sit on the articles and wait. This evening I was pleased to see an email saying my login was approved. I skimmed it just enough to see I was approved and logged in. Then I clicked photos. Then I got this message:

This area is reserved for members of the news media. If you qualify, please update your user profile. Please include any notes in the “Supporting information for media credentials” box. We will notify you of your status via e-mail of your account status.

I checked, and I had filled out that portion of my profile. Confused, I went back to the “approval” email. That’s when I noticed this part:

Your current credentials do not provide access to editorial photography and videography section of this website. This is reserved for members of approved media outlets only, and subject to review on a case-by-case basis.

One of the sites I write for is owned by the New York Times, but whatev. Regardless, there is obviously some list of approved news agencies and I didn’t name one that triggered it. This is what I can only refer to as PR web bigotry. It isn’t the first time I’ve encountered it. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to justify my existence as a web writer or blogger ten times over. The funny thing is I never got that kind of grilling when I wrote for print.

The good news is I emailed a nasty reply, and I cc’ed the person with Disney World’s PR department who assisted me when we visited. Then I got an autoreply and it included the information for logging in to the Disney World media page, which is far better. They also have a cool social media site, the Disney World Moms Panel.

Shoot, they even have a Twitter profile (although they might consider, like, following a couple people back). Still, impressive considering their west coast cohorts don’t even allow web writers to access images for, essentially, free advertising for Disneyland without jumping through hoops and getting reviewed on a “case by case basis.” Shudder. Methinks it’s time to write about Universal Studios instead.

It’s not like Disney is the only organization that doesn’t get it.

Just recently, we went to Carowinds outside Charlotte to do some coverage of Charlotte for Kids. I went through all the normal channels to arrange media passes to Carowinds beforehand. Then I arrived where I was told to pick up the passes only to get grilled by the front line person there. She was very confused about my media outlet. Her exact words were, “I’ve never handled one of these for web before.”

Really? The web? You’ve heard of it before, right lady? Extremely popular with, well, almost everyone? Yeah.

So I will give the PR people a freebie here, a no-fee consultation. I will save you an awful lot of time, money and hassle. Next time you think about blowing off a web writer, blogger or someone who does their writing through the internet, consult this list. In fact, why don’t you just print it and paste it next to your computer (you do have internet access, right? Thought so.) Take it to your next board meeting. Because it’s important.

Here are just some of the reasons why web coverage is the best PR coverage.

  • You can often track the results of PR coverage. If the writer links to your site, you can see a direct impact in hard numbers being looking at your own stats to see how many people that coverage sent your way. You will know that those people read that specific article, not the circulation for a specific print edition. And, of course that doesn’t even include the many people who will read the coverage and you will never know it (or, you know, something like the stats you get for coverage in print media).
  • Print coverage has a shelf life, literally. Getting in even a major magazine will only get something read for maybe a month or so. Web coverage has staying power, and it will be found potentially for years to come. Yes, you can argue that it means that bad coverage also stays for years to come. Rest assured. Bad coverage on the web is not to be avoided by annoying web writers and bloggers. Engaging and respecting them is the only way to have some influence on that.
  • The reach is almost limitless with web coverage. Now yes, it is true, there are blogs that only have a few readers. But there are also blogs and web sites that literally reach millions monthly. Many popular web sites have monthly traffic that dramatically surpasses even A-list magazines and newspapers. But the reach goes far beyond that. Bloggers link to other bloggers and web sites. People socially bookmark articles. People tweet about cool articles. Then web writers read that and write about it. And here. Pay close attention now, because you will love this one: PRINT WRITERS read blogs and web sites. That’s where they get lots of story ideas.
  • You get real feedback that you never will from print or broadcast coverage. If someone writes about how great an attraction is, and 20 people comment that they had the same type of bad experience, you can address it. If 20 people comment that the place is amazing, you have people saying great things about you for free. Shoot, contact them!
  • Readers respect what bloggers write, and they take it seriously. Blog readers have a much more intimate and trusting relationship with their favorite bloggers than they do with typical inaccessible print writers.
  • Coverage is instant, or can be. You don’t have to anticipate what to pitch several months out like you do for mags, or even several days or sometimes weeks out for newspapers.
  • A blogger or web writer reaches, typically, a very targeted audience. Print publications are, by nature, typically broad and general in reach. Even special interest publications can never be as niche as a web site or a blog can. So say one day you look at your numbers and realize you’d really love to covet a certain demographic. You can by pitching blogs and web sites who also target that very specific group. And I mean specific… on my Type-A Mom site, for example, you can target a mom editor to write about subjects as specific as bed rest, green parenting, 40-something moms or moms of college-aged kids.
  • Here’s my personal favorite as an SEO maniac. Every time someone writes about your site online and links to it, be it a blogger or a web news site or whatever, that is a gift of Google juice. What that means is, essentially, Google looks at which web sites like YOUR web site. If it’s a lot, then that is a major factor in how often you show up in searches. If it’s not too many, you might even get beat out by an SEO-savvy blogger who writes about your company instead. I’m thinking you don’t want that. Print coverage does nothing to boost your Google PageRank, or how cool Google thinks your site is.

If you don’t believe me, read this amazing post that asks Are Bloggers Media? Here’s an excerpt:

“…the question of whether bloggers are media is moot. Bloggers are DIFFERENT from the mainstream media.  They are smart, expert, passionate, independent, talented, and cantankerous.  They have their own agenda, whereas journalists (while they share many of the traits listed above) are beholden to a publisher’s agenda. More to the point: whatever else ya call them, bloggers are influential.”

And believe me, the last thing you want is the wrath of an influential blogger. So when you blow off or snub a web writer, you are rolling the dice that you could be  the subject of a major PR disaster.

Photo of web writing, © Ginny Austin