Online brand deserves same attention as offline business

It is nearly impossible to meet with an agency in 2007 without hearing effusive excitement for that firm's upcoming Web site relaunch (or "refresh," the common parlance for image masters who wish to convey something as wholly new, while not admitting that something was wrong in the first place).

It is nearly impossible to meet with an agency in 2007 without hearing effusive excitement for that firm's upcoming Web site relaunch (or "refresh," the common parlance for image masters who wish to convey something as wholly new, while not admitting that something was wrong in the first place).

This is obviously a good thing on its own - some agency Web sites, candidly, are terrible. Some do not even have RSS feeds, a matter of great ignominy for any entity that deals in message dissemination (and a source of great consternation for a publication that covers the industry and is accustomed to receiving updates through RSS feeds). But even better is the attitude agencies take that the Web site is now something that needs to be constantly refreshed, not casually appraised every five years.

This is a concept that PRWeek knows well, as today we announce our second Web site relaunch in three years. In addition to smartening up the look of the site, we've released much more customization, dynamic tagging, more RSS feeds, a new blog, a bulk of new biweekly features, and extended topic sections, including a place to get all of your 2008 election and green news.

Smart companies know that in a digital world, their first line of defense - and offense - is their Web site. Not only is it intended to be a wealth of information, but it also positions the brand in the light the company intended. In some instances, a company can do both: Witness Coca-Cola's "fun" consumer-focused Web site at www.coca-cola.com and its more serious corporate site at www.thecoca-colacompany.com.

The technologies now available - and attainable for small costs - afford all organizations with this opportunity. The common meme you hear from digital strategists is that all companies - be they of brick-and-mortar-type industries like energy and beverages, or Web 2.0 startups - are also now content producers. And while some companies take that to mean uploading some podcasts to iTunes or creating a bland-looking Typepad blog, the smart ones get inventive and take seemingly as much care with their online content offerings as they do with the products that bring in the revenue.

Traditionally, smaller companies are the ones who have been more willing to make radical changes to their Web sites. And, certainly, publicly traded companies are somewhat restricted by their interpretations of disclosure laws. But to be sated with an organization's existing Web site, when new opportunities to create, display, and categorize content arise monthly, is to embrace stagnancy.

Of course, no patron wants to stumble upon a new version of a Web site every week, so alterations should be tackled judiciously. But a Web site is the digital equivalent of a storefront, and while more goods might be sold offline, information and brand impressions are being purchased online at a hastening pace.

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