There are lots of ways to open up direct lines of communication, we just need to see the opportunities. Google opened the door to a lot of this 'direct line' opportunity.
- Google search makes it easy for regular people to find things, without relying on 'industry sources' that require subscription fees or retainers. (remember those hardback industry reference guides that were so expensive and had outdated info by the time they landed in your office?).
- Google search also makes it easy for regular people & companies to be found. That is great if you are a small-medium business, or offer a specialty, and it just doesn't make sense to do all that expensive trade journal advertising (that we had to do in the past).
- Google AdWords makes it easy for small-medium businesses to advertise on the internet; it's not fancy, but it works and you can control your spend.
- Google AdSense allows small-med businesses to put advertising on their sites, without employing a media agency.
The best part about all of the above is that it was empowering. Regular people at regular companies could do it, and control it and adminster it. That allowed regular people & companies to open up a line of communication that previously was not there.
It seems like whenever there is a situation of closed information, someone will figure out how to open it up. That is what Google did.
There are other equally important examples of opening communication. Blogs are one of the most powerful.
Through blogs, regular people at regular companies can communicate information real-time and can control how they do it and how they publicize it. That contrasts sharply with the very recent situation in which we were reliant on webmasters to manage our sites. I'm sure I am not the only one who felt the frustration of having information to update and not getting it up there in a timely fashion, or even at all.
Another great thing about blogs is that they are not just empowering for regular people and regular companies - but they are also empowering for BIG companies and important people with lots of sophisticated advertising and PR knowledge. Blogs can be scaled up and down, and integrated with corporate web-sites and include forums and customer communities and are a very viable tool for the big guys.
At the recent WOMMA conference, a big guy, Taylor Made Adidas presented about how they use a company blog and participate in forums to better connect with their audience. They take this direct communication very seriously. (info on portfolio shown)
I have mentioned a few times that I am working with an organization called Communities in Schools. My goal is to help them open up a direct communication to their audience. Their situation is like many of ours.
- they have many audiences; donors, board members, volunteers, consituents (those served), schools systems (adminstrators and teachers)
- they have limited funds and people (who doesn't? I mean beside google and Microsoft..)
- they have a website that is hosted and controlled by an outside source; they cannot afford an inhouse webmaster
- they have lots to say and lots of advocates; but have difficulty reaching them
One of the main projects we are working on is to create a CIS Houston blog that is integrated into the brochure site such that the real-time information like news releases and success stories and events is updated and easy to access.
I saw a discussion on just this objective in Soflow today - here are some excerpts.
From Craig Peters -
Does anyone have good examples of URLs where a company has thrown out the notion of doing a traditional brochureware website and embraced the blog format as a platform for not just blog-style commentary of that industry, but also the conventional "corporate information | jobs | about us | etc." information?
From Adriana Cronin-Lukas -
The best example I can think of is The Adam Smith Institute - http://www.adamsmith.org/
EVerything you see (not just the blog) is powered by a blog software and every area of the site's content can be updated by a non-techie as easily as a blog. It took a few months to implement but it was worth it.
The ASI had a blog and a separate site for a while and they discovered that it's the blog that is the sould of their online presence. So they decided to use blogging platform for every aspect of their content.
From David Polinchock -
About a year ago, Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence, etc.) changed over his web site to an all blog format. You can check it out at http://www.tompeters.com/
From Harish Keshwani -
I have created a website for a client ( www.marysladekinsurance.com ) with a business blog seamlessly embeded within the site. I have used Wordpress and PHP to achieve this. I add content in the blog and then activate a link on the main page to point to the blog entry as I go. For example, to explain "life insurance", I create a blog entry and then add a link on home page for Life Insurance.