This proposal will address the need for rejuvenation of our company’s communication materials, namely, our website. The current website, launched in 2009, contains outdated content, a user panel that confuses site visitors, and as of yet has added relatively little value to the organization as a whole.
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It is also text heavy and contains images which do not relate directly to the goals of the company, nor do they foster the mission of the company. The company’s “key offering” is not clearly apparent to the site visitor with no prior knowledge of our organization and its products (Tice-Wallner, 2010: p. 1; Brand, 2009; Burson, 1987). Site visitors must comprehend our organization’s key offerings within the first few seconds of arriving at our web portal, and at the present time, this is not the case (Tice-Wallner, 2010: p. 1).
The current site does not leverage the organization’s assets and gifts, and as a result, potential high profile, highly desirable web traffic from prospective customers remains down. More troubling is the fact that our site has developed a reputation amongst other public relations professionals and communication specialists of being disorganized, bewildering, and difficult, which spreads through the network of desirable customers and potential clients and affects our bottom line.
The fact that peers view our website as unprofessional and ineffective reflects badly on our whole organization, namely, because it feeds two negative assumptions: first, that our company is technologically backward, and secondly, that our company does not respect the changed landscape the internet brings to public relations at large. (Johnston and Zawawi, 2009: p. 21). The importance of a website as a communications tool has long been understood (Hill and White, 2000: p. 32).
A decade ago, public relations theorists recognized that “web sites are used to keep stakeholders up-to-date, provide information to the media, gather information about publics, strengthen corporate identity, and a host of other public relations functions. Most Fortune 500 companies use Web sites for external communication, focusing on promoting the company image and enhancing public relations rather than for direct sales or other revenue generating activities” (Hill and White, 2000: p. 32).
However since that time the web has evolved to become the front line of public relations, and how a company looks online now significantly affects its appeal to potential clients, and hence its revenue generating capabilities. As Kent and Taylor (2003) state, “web sites, for better or worse, are the windows through which organizations are viewed” (p. 14).
As public relations professionals it is our job to communicate the face of the organization to the world. Increasingly, the first line of intersection between the face of our company and the public occurs online. Public relations professionals must present a technologically sound face; failure to do so actually results in lost traffic, and the inadequacy of our current communication tools spreads virally through the network of peers and customers alike.
Senior management has given us the mandate to rebuild and relaunch the website and has asked us to focus on income generation, profile building, and to provide a forum for senior management to communicate with the world. Under the authority of the CEO, the public relations department henceforth contributes not only to the company’s bottom line but will help set and implement our company’s mission, goals, and sales targets via the rejuvenated website (Dozier, 1995: p. 88).
As Dozier (1995) logically deduced, the power of any public relations department “is seen in their contributions to strategic planning. Communicators cannot influence the strategic decisions of dominant coalitions unless the membership of that coalition values and supports communication. Influence, then, is circular. (Dozier, 1995: p. 88).
Public relations professionals in general now understand how vital a functional website is to the positive reflection of the company overall. “Practitioners believe a Web site symbolizes an organization’s competitiveness, enhances an organization’s image, and increases the practitioner’s personal sense of professionalism” (Hill and White, 2000: p. 31).
It is imperative that our organization present an attractive user friendly and inviting site that highlights our corporate philosophy and corporate responsibility. The bulk of our potential customer base is technology literate and as such, we need to become “technologically savvy in monitoring as well as using such media” (Johnston and Zawawi, 2009: p. 21).
Senior management understands that the internet cultivates a “participatory culture,” wherein potential clients are members of the “wide consume classes around the world…which pursue vast selections of content that race from one media system to another all over the world in different media economies – content that is available in nearly endless combinations and permutations of media channels and sources…Not only can consumers obtain information, they can reshape content created by organizations and they can create their own intellectual property….they are able to respond to subtle shifts in culture” (Johnston and Zawawi, 2009: p. 21; Jenkins, 2006).
These shifts occur quickly and turn on a dime, and create “dramatic shifts in consumer tastes and trends that are hard to monitor, let alone shape, by large organizations” such as ours (Johnston and Zawawi, 2009: p. 21; Jenkins, 2006).
According to Botan and Hazelton (2006) “businesses are expanding their marketing and sales strategies to the Internet [and] companies world wide are moving from a physical presence location to a virtual presence location. All together, this means that the interaction between an organization and its audience will increasingly be carried out through the use of Web sites” (p. 422). Competition is fierce and the pace of change is blistering, therefore we must move now lest the company be left behind.
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The plan to develop the new website’s content and structure will involve several steps, as outlined here. Firstly, the public relations department will liaise with a group of technologically minded stakeholders within the company from the IT department, senior management, and sales. Our goal will be to develop a practical website relaunch plan for the company.
The public relations manager will take on the responsibility of content manager, under the auspices and direction set forth by the CEO and senior management. Our group will work to illustrate the company’s major offerings as well as highlight our product strengths and mission visually with the larger goal of raising the online presence of the company and becoming more attractive to potential customers.
Top of the agenda is to create a site that generates buzz while promoting our company’s corporate philosophy, highlighting the strengths of our senior management team, especially the CEO, and promoting “two way communication” between our company and our consumer web audience (Mackey, 2009: p. 51).
Our website partnering strategy group will collect the necessary information from the company’s leaders to allow us to competently convey information about the company, its senior management, its professional expertise, and its formal strategic marketing directives.
The website partnering strategy group will also conduct an informal survey of competitor websites to ascertain the level of strategic transparency that our competitors convey in their online presence.
The website partnering strategy group will assess what content needs to be developed to champion the company’s marketing proposals. Emphasis will be on coalescing content on the website with other strategic corporate communications and external public relations tools.
The website partnering strategy group will liaise with the IT department for input on the any existing security concerns. The IT department will be on board to consult with the viability of the projected website rejuvenation plan and to help structure our implementation plan. The website rejuvenation plan will cover an 18 month window, unless otherwise directed by senior management and the CEO.
Once the proper content has been identified, the website partnering strategy group will formally compose the website rejuvenation plan document, with goals, growth projections, sales targets, and profile raising objectives in place.
The website partnering strategy group will seek input from external parties such as trusted vendors to garner feedback on the website rejuvenation plan document and polish the plan if need be. At this time the website partnering strategy group will also delineate the time frames for the conclusion and launch, as well as and establish projected costs.
The website partnering strategy group will then formally meet once again with senior management to gain approval on the direction and strategy of the website rejuvenation and establish a set calendar of completion dates. The company’s senior leadership and the CEO have expressed a sense of urgency and their backing of the plan is expected to “grease the wheels”.
As Tice-Wallner (2010) states “website overhauls can cost up to a $100,000 in technical, graphic design and marketing support, [therefore] any disconnect between the work of the group and the direction set by firm leadership can be costly and scuttle success (p. 2).
Once senior management has approved budget and strategy, the website partnering strategy group will then officially kick off the website rejuvenation plan.
The website partnering strategy group will create information collection protocols to facilitate easy tracking of the success of the website rejuvenation plan. This entail sustained communications between all stakeholders – senior management, the CEO, sales, marketing, and the IT department.
Along the way the plan will be continually assessed in relation to senior management goals and priorities, and the website partnering strategy group will produce all required alterations to the plan as they occur. Senior management and the CEO will be kept aware of the plan’s advancement through weekly meetings with the public relations manager.
The website partnering strategy group promotional plan involves primarily working to make the site attractive to media, who will indirectly promote the site through viral networking. Once a prototype of the new site has been created, the website partnering strategy group’s first priority will be to ensure that the site is technically sound. As Kent and Taylor (2003) state:
The speed at which your site loads, and the quality of the homepage are also important. How long does your Web site take to load? From a networked computer, most Web sites load in a matter of seconds. However, more than half of all Americans access the Web from home. And a majority of those connections will still be through slow modems.
Given this dynamic, organizations that want to attract media professionals and encourage them to devote some time to exploring their site need to employ a few simple principles. First, put all important information (or links to this information) on the first page (links to how to contact the organization, how to order products, how to invest, etc.) Second, create lean pages that load fast and are easy to navigate (p. 15).
As intimated at the outset of this document, the public relations department has received feedback that our visitors to our present site do not immediately understand what our company markets or what or offering is. We require an immediately recognizable “saleable message” that site visitors can absorb within the first few seconds of arriving at our site (Tice-Wallner, 2010: p. 2).
A major focus of the website partnering strategy group’s promotional plan will be to include a specific section of the first page for the media, one that contains clear directives for media visitors, given that a successful relaunch depends heavily on a positive response from journalists who cover the business beat (Kent and Taylor, 2003: p. 16).
The public relations department’s existing relations with the members of the business media provide us with insight that some media find our existing site overly complex – “byzantine” in the words of one journalist – and that some have essentially stopped visiting our site as a result.
Others have admitted that they are not immediately aware of the media relations link when they arrive at the present site. As Kent and Taylor (2003) have shown, “one of the first icons to load on your site should be the link that tells the media folks where to go for information specific to their needs; don’t hide media links behind other links or in tiny text at the bottom of the page.
You should create a specific section of your Web site for the media. Some organizations call this space the “Press Room,” or “Journalists.” It is important that this link be prominent, perhaps on the upper left side of the homepage…so that media representatives do not have to hunt around to find it” (p. 16).
The website partnering strategy group also will place special attention on maintaining the freshness and viability of the site. As Tice-Wallner (2010) points out, companies often “make big investments in their websites, and then fail to update them or utilize the many enhancements created by the developer to ensure that messages get out to clients and potential clients on a timely basis” (p. 2). This was the mistake we made in our earlier site when we did not craft an action to suit our message.
Also, the website partnering strategy group will pay extra mind to base all of our decisions on our marketing strategy, less so than on the ideas put forth by the web developer. As public relations professionals, it is our job to tell the world about our company and ensure that our key messages are received. The website partnering strategy group remains confident that with the help of senior management and our many talented stakeholders we will be able to launch a website that does our company proud.
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