Recently I received an exhaustive URL to a great web page about a city’s new project. Then I looked for menu prompts to direct external visitors there but found none. Short of keying in a series of cryptic characters (which would look horrid in print), there was no way to find the page. Likewise, have you ever searched a website for an organization’s specific office or product and given up in frustration?
As communicators, we develop quality content and share it with our audiences, often using it to ignite conversations and engagement. But these efforts are in vain if a large segment of your audience doesn’t find you because the “path” is broken or desperately needs a renovation.
Sure you can fix website menus/links within your organization and use key words effectively but what about sites that others control? Check how relevant third parties are representing your brand, if at all. You may find some surprises. I don’t mean media/blogger stories where editorial integrity has the last word and your organization’s core messages may never be conveyed verbatim. I’m thinking of websites/other digital properties owned by organizations affiliated with yours − so your brand has a legitimate reason to be there and properly represented.
For example, what if…
- You manage communications for a public sector organization and your parent Ministry lists you on its website but with an outdated value proposition.
- You work for a retailer that runs a customer loyalty program with a trusted vendor − but the vendor lists only a few of your participating stores on its promo web page, if at all.
- Your socially responsible employer is actively dedicated to a cause; the recipient not-for-profit features all its corporate supporters on its web page, with links to their sites, but leaves yours off the roster.
Having lived each of these scenarios, I think it’s worth the time to occasionally retrace your audience’s steps to see how aligned stakeholders cite your brand on their sites.
To do a digital audit, run a:
- Manual check of all the relevant affiliate and stakeholder organization websites that should or could mention your brand.
- Google search and dig beyond the first couple of pages to find any gaps.
- Search on Bing/Yahoo or use other online tools to uncover missed opportunities.
If mentions or messages are amiss, you can outreach directly or use your contacts/networks to tactfully request changes.
More importantly, maybe it’s time to take a page from the social media best practice of “listening” to conversations and using what we hear to inform strategy. We can do so by using this audit to find out why a mistake or omission occurred. Maybe your contact list is outdated, there is a major disconnect or a relationship gone amok? With this insight, we can take steps to course correct or adjust our strategy for engaging that stakeholder as we move forward.
Do you do these checks? What works for you and what “surprises” have you uncovered?