Nearly every organization I’ve worked with over the last few years has been in the midst of a communications culture change. These organization had mastered the art of print-based communications and marketing. However, it was time to dive in to a new, integrated approach to online and print communications and marketing.
By necessity, print-based approaches require tons of checks to ensure accuracy and consistent style. Once a project goes to print, there’s no going back — it’s done. Moving print projects through several layers of editing, copy editing, proofreading and approvals helps ensure accuracy. The upside, the opportunity for extremely consistent branding and style from project to project, often contributed to a downside: slow project timelines.
Today, web communications and marketing requires a new approach. Because the web is essentially a series of living documents, web projects shouldn’t follow exactly the same processes as print projects. Sure, it’s a good idea for a few layers of editing and approvals to remain in place, but the first version you post online doesn’t have to be the last version. For example, the web is great for real-time communications. When an emergency arises, it’s okay to post something quickly and then adapt and refine your response as more information becomes available. Similarly, now that we have web analytics at our disposal, publishing a new page is usually the starting point for optimizing the content to the audience’s needs.
On the flip side, once you publish something online, it can live on in cyberspace forever. But for most routine web communications projects, so what? Yes, someone could see that you changed the location for an event or corrected a typo. But users today expect up-to-the-minute information, and that includes the expectation that the web changes from day to day.
If you’re in the midst of transitioning from a print-heavy approach to an integrated online/offline approach, take heart. The web is alive, and this isn’t a scary idea — it’s an exciting opportunity to try out a new approach.