Nice car, does it drive?

When trying to persuade a manager that his website: 1) is not user-friendly, 2) gets about one fifth of the hits it should get, 3) is almost invisibile on Google, 4) generates virtually no sales or income and, 5) that having a webmaster type in all the HTML code for each blog posting is not having a blog, I usually get one of the following responses:
1) we paid £30,000 (nearly $60,000) for it.
2) the guys that did this were short-listed/won an award.
3) I have no problem: I email my Word document and it appears on the website within two hours, usually.
4) Blogs are for obsessives.
5) Blogs are ugly.

The problem is that all of the manager’s complaints are at least partially true.

1) The firm/think-tank did pay a lot of money and it is inexpedient to say the money was wasted. Simply put, the efficiency gain from starting again would have to be considerable to justify all the office politics, the recriminations, the negotiations for new budgets “but we gave you £30,000 last year!” and the fact that the boss is on record as saying this website is wonderful. The fact that the website may actually be considered “cutting edge” by other firms/think-tanks makes it seem harder to change.

Perhaps the best response is to put it in terms of continuous improvement. No one seriously sujests that a soccer manager who wins the world cup should keep the same team and tactics for the next four years, regardless of what the rest of the world does, or the emergence of new players and the decline of the old. One of the most frightening sights for the teams that come second and lower in a tournament is when they are thrashed by the champions, who then announce a massive upgrade to ensure an even bigger lead.

So the message could be: “Most people think we’ve got a great website. We know we could do a lot better. By making changes now, we are giving notice that we won’t fall behind our competitors, or miss out on changing opportunites, and we think we should generate more revenue and buzz online with blogging tools than with a relatively static corporate website.”

2) the web administrators and designers were cutting edge and a lot of people may still think they are “with it,” especially themselves.

Seriously, if a manager asks a webmaster to set up a blog with RSS feeds in under one hour and it can’t be done or he didn’t understand the specificiations, then purely on the basis that the webmaster has failed to keep himself current with the basic tools of his profession, he should be retrained or fired.

BTW, if your communcation department has people working in it that don’t have some form of RSS aggregator and specialist news alerts (such as Technorati), show them what you did with the webmaster and give them a week to work it out. Fire your IT manager if he is preventing staff from accessing news aggregators.

3) the fact that the manager can email a Word document, which the webmaster laboriously turns into a blog posting may be true.

However, that’s like saying that a manager can get his assistant to type his emails, dial his home telephone number and wipe his ass. At best this is a pretty lame use of corporate resources. At worse the manager is cutting himself off from the rest of his organization, losing touch with what they have to put up with. I’ve never heard of such a thing being a long-term winner.

4) A lot of blogs are for pets, baby photos, rants about the state of world.

But that’s like saying that because most telephone conservations are inane or just boring, we shouldn’t use them.

5) Some blogs are ugly. But so too is a BMW M5 when it is painted half shocking pink and half greenish-brown, or a rally car that has just completed a drive across swamps and deserts.

Consider what’s under the bonnet. Does your corporate website get updated several hundred times a day (including comments)? Do people talk about it and link to it? Do people use your coprate web site as a portal: check the newsroll and rely on your recommended sites? Does your website come top when someone does a search for the generic name of your main activities?

In short: nice car, does it just sit there looking pretty, or does it drive?

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