A case of Style over Substance? Can an agency website do both?

The inspiration for this post comes from Steve Earl at Rainier PR (who looks like he could do some damage with a bottle of champagne) where he asks an interesting question..

Why are most PR agency websites a pile of turd?

Definitely recommend a read at the link above, brings up some great ideas for further debate.. eg whether the PR industry has when it comes to web design, learnt anything in recent years.. or whether an industry at the sharp edge of comms should be doing better.

What’s my favourite agency site? It’s a toss up between Mischief and Frank. Check them out for yourself, it’s definitely a wow moment when you visit for the first time, and every subsequent visit for that matter. Other notable agency sites I admire include Bray Leino, Cow, Diffusion, Freud, Hotwire, Kazoo and Nelson Bostock.

I believe an agency’s website should be attention grabbing and captivating from the off (see above for a few agencies who I think do that) along with pushing the envelope and getting a whole lot of positive press (like this perhaps) on the back of trying something different and separating themselves out from the rest. Their website is their promotional tool. In recent times the agency that most comes to mind is Lisa P Maxwell (whether it’s seen an uplift in client interest as much as it’s seen an uplift in hits from curious types like me is a question that remains unanswered though) More noise about them here and here.

From a tech point of view I think it’s a fantastic site which allows them to be more transparent in their business practices whilst also successfully breaking down the barriers of communication in such a way which positively encourages you to engage with everyone on the homepage, from top to bottom. I don’t know whether I should admit it but I’ve been checking back at ungodly hours just to see whether there’s anyone still in the office, not for any other reason than because I could! As Lisa P Maxwell’s site goes, some critics could argue that it is perhaps a bit of a win for style over breadth of content but this begs the question..

Should an agencies homepage be a championing of quality over quantity? Stripping down to the very bare basics, LPM still answers the same questions (About, Contact and Jobs) but in a unique and more personal way (WTF, Connect and Jobs) Have LPM shown the way in which all agencies will be heading in the near future or is it merely a short term ‘gimmick’ before resuming with something more ‘conventional’ ?

It’s been introduced most similarly yet not on such a scale by 10 Yeti’s and their YetiCam (which is pretty cool and I did also just have a look on a Sunday afternoon whether there was anything going on!) It’s quite well hidden though in comparison, almost as if they think it’s a great idea but are not sure where it should go. Something like that should be a showcase piece to be proud about on the homepage, it’s a USP when asking the question, Why 10 Yeti’s? (We have nothing to hide, you can see us doing our work, that’s why!)

However, and there’s always a however isn’t there?

Let’s contrast LMP above with an agency like Weber Shandwick (left) of which I’m a great fan of due to the monstrous breadth of content on site that is all readily accessible from the homepage. Interestingly, a recent article under their ‘What We Think’ section of the site is entitled ‘Less Flash, More Substance’ Maybe I’m on to something here!

Which agency websites do you admire the most and who do you think is achieving the best balance of Style Vs Substance?

[update] UK ‘Preeple’ on Twitter

UPDATE – The below is now outdated.. I’ve created a landing page of sorts for it here but to go straight to the Wiki Wiki Wikid then click here

Stephen Davies of Prblogger is a list machine. Following on from his brilliant list of ‘Jeeple’ (Journalists) where he categorised all known UK journalists on Twitter, he brings another list flavoured installment to the Twittersphere this time following up with ‘Preeple’ (PR People)

It’s been a rampant success thus far with it surely being hard to keep up with the deluge of comments, 36 to date, from users who have been missed off the list to be added. For the purpose of the new category page and the need for it to be abbreviated I’ve now added Tweeple to the mix!

Depending on which way you look at it, there is the possibility of a negative viewpoint being attributed to lists like this, so there’s two sides to the story. For example, case in point, it’s merely providing people with a prospective list of influential journo’s / PROs to use for their own advantage or commercial gain. It has caused Stephen problems before, for example, have a look here.

However, It depends how cynical you are but for me it’s a fantastic resource of the who’s who of the PR & Journalism world’s on Twitter. It’s great to think that these lists might become a bit of a competition for agencies to establish more of a presence online, proving the power of their own internal community.

Building on the brilliant usage of the list I thought it would be just as useful to get an instant snapshot of a listed agencies presence on Twitter in numerical order complimenting Stephen’s alphabetically ordered list.. So here goes!

At the time of writing (approx 12am 11th Nov having lost the entire post and redone!) :- I’ve created a bit of a league table of ‘Preeple’ below..

1. Hotwire (16)

2. Axicom (12)

3. Rainier (11)

4. Edelman (9)

5. Lewis (9)

6. Ruder Finn (9)

7. Cow (8)

8. Berkeley (6)

9. Freelance (6)

10. Wolfstar (6)

11. Hill & Knowlton (5)

12. Porter Novelli (5)

13. Six Degrees (5)

14. Text 100 (5)

15. ITV (4)

16. Liberate Media (4)

17. Mantra (4)

18. Microsoft (4)

19. Waggener Edstrom (4)

20. Weber Shandwick (4)

21. Diffusion (3)

22. Kaizo (3)

23. O2 (3)

24. Shiny Red (3)

25. Wildfire PR (3)

26. Fishburn Hedges (2)

27. Nelson Bostock (2)

28. Punch Communications (2)

29. Racepoint Group (2)

30. Splendid Communications (2)

31. Staniforth (2)

32. University of Warwick (2)

The greatest number being in the ‘Other’ section, either unaffiliated or possibly being their company’s Twitter champion.

Something to think about, perhaps Stephen’s list and this subsequent league table will encourage them to join their colleagues in making their company more visible in the Tworld (yeah, I just made that up..)

More about that thing called Social Media..

The results of a new survey have been released recently on media relations practices, specifically how journalists use social media to stay on top of the game. Original Source.

A few key messages to take home..

YOY more blogs are being read, only 25% of journalists don’t read one or more.. what are they doing, living in a cave with no access to the world wide web?

Who said blogging was dead?! It would appear it’s only just beginning!

Over half are using tools like Twitter to seek out new business opportunities, story leads and to connect with peers in similar work.

Similarly, over half scan Google News to follow world events, a sign that there’s much more to Google than just search.. How to monetize news stories though? (New fan of Google reader here by the way) Speaking of which 1/5th have 5 more or RSS feeds delivered to their readers each work.

The users surveyed and indeed the general public alike appear to becoming more tech savvy, where the online world is more intertwined with their every day working life. As a result they’re better connected.. social media you could say has played a part in all of the above.

Let’s take Twitter as an example of a tool at the very heart of the social media world. So much so that I’ve been noticing a few job specifications for social media related roles noting within the requirements ‘If you don’t know what Twitter is, don’t bother applying’

I have connected with extraordinary individuals whom I’d never have had any contact with in every day life nor would possibly be able to, without jumping through a few hundred hoops. Twitter itself single handedly breaks down the barriers of communication and allows me to communicate and engage with CEOs, Directors, and inspirational visionaries whom I can learn greatly from.

What are your thoughts on the explosion in interest in Social Media over the last few months and years. Do you use Twitter? Is it something you have integrated in to your daily life or is it something you just don’t ‘get’ ?

Results in full below.

  • 75% of journalists read one blog or more (compared to 70% last year) and 29% read 5 or more blogs to keep up with their beat (compared to 25% a year ago).
  • More than three-fourths of journalists surveyed use social media to research stories (compared to 67% last year).
  • More than half (56%) use NewsStreams and micro-blogs like Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku to identify new leads.
  • Almost 38% of journalists now say they visit a social media site at least once a week as part of their reporting, compared to only 28% last year.
  • More than half (53%) of journalists say they visit Facebook, YouTube and Social Bookmarks at least once as month as part of their research – up from 44% last year.
  • Nearly 19% receive five or more RSS feeds of news services, blogs, podcasts or videocasts every week, compared with only 16% a year ago and 44% receive at least one regular RSS feed.
  • The majority (76.4%) of journalists said that they use local newspapers to follow news, while 63% check the New York Times, 51% scan Google News and 32% visit Yahoo! News to stay informed.
  • 34% of journalists use Wikis as a living media kit for the companies and beats they cover.