Imagine this: one day, during conversation with a friend, they tell you that they’re building a printing press at home. You can tell they’re really excited about this printing press. They enthuse over the beauty of its design, its cutting-edge functionality, its technical wizardry.
Your response goes something like this: Oh cool, so you’ve becoming a self-publisher? What are you publishing, and for whom?
They pause. Following an awkward silence, they say: well… I don’t really know. I’ll figure that out once it’s built. But that’s not the point. It’s a really beautiful printing press!
Slightly baffled, you move the conversation on.
That person, building a printing press for seemingly little purpose other than for the aesthetic satisfaction of owning it, is a lot like many organisations’ misguided approach to building a digital presence.
Online, many of us have been doing the equivalent of putting in a painstaking amount of effort into the technical building of a beautiful printing press—complete with all the gadgetry, shiny buttons, and tech wizardry you can shake a stick at—without defining the bigger picture context of what stories that printing press needs to be used to tell the world.
More often than not, websites haven’t been led by communications priorities. They’ve been approached through the techy lens of features and functionality. As a result, content chases up behind. The tail wags the dog. That’s proven a big mistake and huge missed opportunity.
Because building a “digital presence” is meaningless without first understanding the ways in which that presence will communicate meaning, relevance, and value to the people that matter to us. Content is the communication part.
When we start seeing our digital presence as being primarily being about communication, our priority switches from obsessing over features, functionality and design, to figuring out imaginative ways for our website to tell compelling stories that make connections, and build lasting relationships.
The job of our website is to inspire people to connect with and experience our story, online. Our story being the culmination of who we are, our values, our goals, our services and products, our knowledge and expertise, and the difference we make to the world.
Our content is the vehicle through which that story is experienced. Once we’ve understood the purpose of our digital presence in those terms, the tech and design behind it become so much more meaningful.
Photo Credit: Anais via Flickr Creative Commons