What kind of content should be on a website? How much content is enough? How do you engage your audience through your website content? These are important questions to ask when developing website content and how it can work for or against your brand. In this month’s eTip, we interviewed Judy Roland of Roland Communications, on the topic of developing effective content for your website.
BMC: What is your experience in corporate communications and how did you get started?
Roland: My first job in corporate communications was with an Israeli government investment organization, promoting U.S. investment in Israel – not an easy task! It was a real challenge and I was an instant expert on everything by virtue of being the only American. I have had my own firm, Roland Communications, for a number of years, having worked previously as an account executive at a PR agency and as head of communications for a global headhunting firm.
BMC: How can a company use their website to demonstrate that they are the experts in their service/product offerings?
Roland: The most important thing a company can do to drive home their expertise is to tell the story about their product or service, including how they work with clients, if applicable, in as concrete terms as possible. People naturally connect with stories that are told in a straightforward fashion – case studies, success stories, testimonials – especially when told from the point of view of the client. Because I have worked with a lot of professional services firms, my approach is usually to focus on the real challenges clients are facing and then present my client as a solution-provider – in the most specific terms possible. Sometimes that means sharing a few trade secrets in the belief that people will hire the expert rather than expending time and resources to tackle the problem themselves.
BMC: In your experience, how can this impact a company’s marketing efforts?
Roland: Taking a story-telling approach on your website enables you to to make a stronger and more immediate connection with your audience, whoever they may be. When people understand the need filled by your product or service, it is a small jump to establishing that they should seek you out should they have that need.
BMC: What are the most common mistakes you have seen companies make when it comes to content on their website?
Roland: Particularly in conservative industries, companies often believe that they have to look like everyone else. What they need to understand is that they can distinguish themselves in a crowded and competitive field, and they can do it tastefully. That starts with capturing the unique personality of their own firm or company before launching into copywriting or web design. This is a crucial exercise I do with all my clients, which enables us to capture who they are, why they are different, and what differentiates their product or service. Then they have a real foundation on which to build the content and design.
Another mistake companies make when creating content for their websites is to talk about themselves first and the client second. It’s a nuance, but in my mind a critical one: Discuss your capabilities – whether products or services – within a larger context. Go from the general to the specific by first addressing the business context, followed by specific challenges your clients or customers are facing, then complete your case by stating how your product or service solves a problem or helps clients and customers. By making it clear that you understand the larger issues and challenges of your audience, you can better establish a rapport that leads to business.
BMC: Last words of wisdom in regard to using a website to better communicate.
Roland: Do the required work to capture what makes your organization different, and be particularly wary of anyone offering quick and easy solutions. Don’t be generic or a clone of another company’s website. Dig deep and do some soul-searching before you start to create your website. The goal is a site that looks and sounds like your organization. If you cover up your identifying information and it could be any one of your competitors, you need to re-think your site.
My final bit of advice would be to keep you website fresh, give people a reason to come back. There is nothing sadder or more useless to me than a blog or current events section of a website that hasn’t been updated in three years.
Judy Roland is President of Roland Communications (www.rolandcomms.com), working with clients on a wide range of communication initiatives, including: communication strategy and planning; leadership communications; web-based communications; and internal and external marketing communications. Previously, Judy was a Principal at Mercer Delta Consulting, LLC. Earlier in her career, she served as Communication Director for global executive search firm Egon Zehnder International and prior to that, as an Account Executive with a research-based public relations firm. Judy holds a BA from Drew University and an MA from The University of Chicago.