Worldwide Media Relations

Writing for the Internet

Dishing Up Web Delicacies
by Steven R. Van Hook

You want a throng of eager visitors to your Web site?
Then hand them a menu of delights.

(Published in Tri-Mix Magazine)

When you're hungry for a hardy meal you pile on the toppings, carve up the beef, spoon the legumes, slice the whole grain bread. You'll pass, thank you, on that fluffy Jell-O mold. You want meat and potatoes, not puff.

So it is with serious visitors to your PR pages. They yearn for more than just eye candy. They want texture, taste, substance. Of course they came to learn more about your company. But they'll come back for seconds if you can top it off with a little extra.

Large companies spend big bucks profiling who all is on the Web and what it is they're looking for. Take a free ride on their research. The L.L Bean site provides useful travel information on national parks. Black & Decker proffers handy home-improvement tips. The Tampax site shares secrets on health and looking good.

The most enticing Web pages are timely and useful. Even the best content becomes stale after a few servings. Keep your offerings fresh and toss in a few surprises. That'll keep 'em coming back, even if only for a quick nibble.

And it's worth taking the extra time to word it just right, or paying a professional for well-crafted copy. Michael Kinsley, editor for Microsoft's Slate, says, "When I go to a restaurant, I want the chef to prepare my meal, not the guy at the table next to me."

Information should be spooned in appealing bite-sized bits if you want them to swallow. I've found the writing voice best suited for the Web is a short, snappy broadcast style; fewer words per sentence, fewer thoughts per subject. Long blocks of boring black text will be clicked behind in a flick of the mouse whiskers. And even the best writing is just so much Spam if it's without something worthwhile to say. 

Construct your PR pages on a foundation of substance. Give, give, give, to your valued visitors. Share your company’s passion and interests. Serve it with a flourish, ring the dinner bell, and they'll come running.

- Steven R. Van Hook