Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Shocked in Paris - take control of your web presence

By Jon Paget

A weekend away from London (and an insight into how a large business approaches its online activities) identified some interesting, if bizarre, practices that I'd now like to share with you.

I found it astonishing when I learnt that key individuals (in charge of the company’s web presence) in the department knew nothing about their own website or what the term SEO meant. Even worse was the fact that these key individuals were taking agency recommendations (they outsourced the running of their website to a 'specialist digital agency') without thought or question to the implications or costs.

I then discovered that one of the company’s websites had a content management system (CMS) which the company didn’t have access to. In other words it was only accessible by the agency - therefore guaranteeing the agency's ongoing involvement and complete control of the website.

Irrespective of size, if a business is going to have a CMS and/or employ an agency for help online there are some basic things to consider which will mean you as a business retain an element of control and aren't at the mercy of the 'experts' sitting opposite you.

1) A CMS allows you to make changes to your website's content - and quickly. Even if someone else is to help with new content for the website, having access yourself is a strong recommendation. What would happen if the relationship between you and the agency broke down?

2) Read up a little on key topics. If you're looking for SEO services go into the meeting knowing the basics otherwise you're likely to have little idea of what's going on and the value of what's being suggested.

3) Get a second opinion. There are so many different options available and each agency will have a different way of approaching campaigns. All reputable agencies will be happy to discuss your website with you – offering you their opinion with feedback on your website – with no obligation to work with them. Why not take the time to contact a few and see which one fits best with your business.

Good luck!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Blogging a dead horse - it's all about communication


By Jon Paget

I've spoken to a number of marketing executives and managers recently and I've noticed a common theme throughout.

The conversation would follow along the lines of "we know we need to do better online, we know we need great engaging content but where can we get it or who can we ask to create it".

On one hand this is an improvement. At least online content is now having value attached to it.

However, I've believed for a long time that this kind of content should be generated by the individuals within a company that are undertaking the various tasks (whether it’s the ones talking to clients, delivering the service, making the product, etc), not by an outside source.

Before I go any further I'll draw clear lines about what I'm talking about. Websites, editorial, online brochures or presentations - all of these can (and should) be written by a professional copywriter such as Jon at FullStopNewParagraph.

However, I’m talking about the many blogging and social media platforms available to businesses. For things like Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and company blogs, your in-house employees are often poised to offer greater insight, respond more quickly and with more authority about a given subject than an external writer (such is the immediate nature of the world online).
Having content created by people within an organisation who aren’t professional writers also has a lot of advantages. It'll be genuinely authentic (written by the experts), on-message and may draw out nuggets of information that would otherwise remain hidden. It might just empower those asked to contribute too.

Couple this with the fact that online channels encourage much less formal communication with your target market (communication that's two way and more like a conversation) and there really aren't many barriers left to overcome.

There's so much knowledge within an organisation that the various online channels open to each business are crying out for genuine, value adding content (in the form of twitter feeds, blogs, articles, emails - even video) – it’s just a question of making time to create it.

The conclusion?

What really needs to take place is a change of mindset from traditional-thinking marketing departments. Creating quality online content for their online audiences should become an in-house priority.

At Art Division we can advise you on how best to do this, but genuinely engaging online social content has to come direct from the horse’s mouth. Otherwise you could be flogging a dead one.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

How England’s World Cup failure could help your business

By Jon Ryder

It’s the World Cup semi-finals tonight, and England aren’t there because they’re too tired.

That’s not to say they’re missing it because they fancy an early night.

The reason they won’t be playing is that, according to their manager, they didn’t have the legs for international football.

After being hammered by Germany a couple of weeks ago, Fabio Capello must have been asked a hundred times: “Why have England crashed out of the World Cup?”

For the first 60 or 70 times, he would have said the reason was that the players weren’t good enough.

A valid answer, but that’s not going to wash with the dirty newspapers. The reporters probably kept asking over and over, hoping for a quote they could do something with.

So eventually, Capello cracked, and said maybe the players were tired after a long domestic season.

The next day, the papers of course screamed: ‘Fab’s Pathetic Excuse: Rooney Was Tired.’

He was forced into making excuses, then hung out to dry for doing so.

It may actually have been worse.

A journalist could have asked him if he thought the England players were tired because they play longer seasons than other nations. He said yes, because that’s the only answer he could give, and the headline wrote itself.

This isn’t a football blog, so it doesn’t matter if Fab was a flop.

But it’s interesting, because with your business, the way you ask your questions makes a big difference to the answers you get.

And this is particularly true when it comes to web testimonials.

Customers are more likely to buy your stuff if they can read a quote from another happy client on your website.

But most of the time, you’ve got to ask for these testimonials.

So to get the best ones, copy those journalists. Ask recent customers for a sentence or two, but be specific.

If you ask them if they like your Gizmo, you’ll get:

“I liked the Gizmo, so I bought one.” Hopeless.

But ask them why their new Gizmo makes them feel safer on horseback, and you could get:

“I’ve tried lots of other things, but the Gizmo is by far the best, and makes me feel safer on Peaches than ever before.” Much better.

Be careful though, because the way people tend to repeat your question in their answer can backfire.

Don’t ask them if the Gizmo provides them with an unrivalled ergonomic-equestrian delivery system, boosting their past-time satisfaction quota immeasurably.

They may just parrot all that back, and nobody’s going to believe that’s a genuine quote from a real customer.

People will think you’ve written it yourself, because, well, you have.

So don’t copy journalists exactly and force words into people’s mouths, but remember that if you don’t ask specific questions, you don’t get.

*************************************************************************************

Jon Ryder of FullStopNewParagraph is a freelance copywriter who has spent the last 12 years crafting words for a living.

He has worked for the public, private and third sectors, both online and on paper. His clients include the NHS, government, and design agencies, as well as individuals who don’t have a big business to promote, but do have something important to say.

Today is the second of his guest posts for Mission Imbloggable.

See his site at: newparagraph.co.uk

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