Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Newspapers do not have hyperlinks

Credit: Imgur

Having utilized both print and online media to generate publicity for groups that I am involved with, I believe it essential for a public relations officer to understand the characteristics of each medium and to create publicity that is compatible with each of these medium’s constraints.

The Record-Bee newsroom receives a substantial amount of publicity via its e-mail accounts; newsroom staffers appreciate the convenience of not having to retype a press release. We also like the quick turn-around time of being able to copy and paste an announcement in our e-mail in-box directly onto a page as it is built on our computer screen.

But more and more often, the person sending the press release will instruct potential readers to “click here” for more information, “RSVP here” or a variant thereof.

This is a fairly recent development and not limited to a single individual. I encounter the situation frequently enough that I believe it worth writing about.

I wonder if people don’t think about the difference between static and interactive media. I can sum up the difference in one brief sentence: “Newspapers do not have hyperlinks.”

Please be aware that I do not intend to insult anyone’s intelligence. I am frequently proven wrong when I make assumptions about what should or should not be obvious. So I prefer to err on the side of stating information instead of leaving it unsaid.

I understand that a PRO who relies heavily upon web-based marketing may not think about the medium’s limitations when translated for print media. This person may not want to have to create publicity tailored separately for print and online.

But it is actually easy to create a  press release with dynamic, interactive qualities for people who will view it online but that, as written, will still be meaningful when it is read in newsprint.

An interactive link has two key components. There is the highlighted text of the link, which the viewer can click, and there is the destination, the web address or URL, which it directs the viewer to.

(There are, in addition, other refining touches that the programmer may choose to incorporate; I prefer it when an “external link” to a completely different site will open in a new browser window so the viewer is not “trapped” on the new site with no idea how to get back. The viewer should, of course, be able to hit the “back” navigation key but I’ve  encountered sites that just keep reloading when the viewer attempts to go “back.”)

The simple solution when composing a press release that uses a dynamic link is to word the sentence so that the destination’s URL is identified in the text. Let the URL be the interactive link instead of the instructions to “Click here.”

It is far more productive to create a press release that is suitable for static media and add the interactive elements, since any reference to a URL can be made into a hyperlink, than it is to compose your announcement primarily for the web and send it to print media as an afterthought.

When we receive publicity within the latter category, we must determine how to provide readers with a meaningful alternative to the instructions to “Click here.”

Published March 8, 2011 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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