It’s not just a website

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Can you just ‘relaunch’ a website? FG thinks not. There has to be a reason for doing it.

I’m in the middle (I hope) of a website relaunch. Where I once was a copywriter, I am now also a web producer and project manager. Part of me thinks this is ok – I have done both in the past, although as my sole occupation at the time – but part of me wonders whether people have a true appreciation for what’s involved.

So, this is what’s involved:

  • Before you do anything work out a brief. This will be very similar to a copy brief and, as I’ve said before, it is at the heart of everything you’ll do. It asks questions about what you’re trying to achieve, who the site’s for, the amount of resource you have to achieve this and the timeframe. You cannot spend too long on the brief. Even if you get the sense that people “Just want it done” rather than “Just want it done properly”, insist on the brief and…
  • The messages.  Whereas your brief outlines the strategy, the messages form the basis for your content. Essentially these are the brand values (if there any – you may have to go right back and figure them out)  written as, say, four or five bullet points that get across key messages that you want to press home at every opportunity. So, if one message is “We provide great customer service” then try and get that element across whether you’re talking about your HR, your operations and your sales team as well as, of course, your service team. Make sure you can back this up too. Your messages are promises.
  • Your messages then form the basis of your copy brief and graphics briefs. As I’ve said, your copy should press these home but so should your images. Try and get your graphic designer to produce one image per message. Then, in the same way your copy constantly refers back to the messages, so do your graphics. Take them as ‘position zero’ every time and you’ll be assured that you won’t wander too far from them.
  • At the same time you obviously need a plan. Make sure everyone knows what the plan is and what’s required and when. This is where the project management comes in. You will necessarily need to keep reminding people of their responsibility. Try and delegate work. I’m convinced that the essence of good leadership is not “All these people depend on me” but “I depend on all these people”. This way you’ll get the best out of them and not drive yourself into the ground.
  • OK, so things might not always go to plan, so update the plan as you along. A plan isn’t something you produce because you feel you should, then forget it. You need to know whether one element has come in late so that you rearrange other dependencies so that you go live on time.
  • I would also recommend keeping a log of things that have caused problems along the way so that you can improve things next time around. If the content management system isn’t up to scratch, then make a note that it should be upgraded or replaced in future. If there is no documentation for processes then get someone to write them up (or do that yourself too).
  • Finally, when this is all completed, take a good hard look within the company and ask whether the values and the messaging that you worked out to begin with are really communicated well internally. If no one knew what they were to begin with then chances are, they’re not. This is a big thing: everyone needs to know how they should be working and what they’re working towards. This is where the brand permeates a company inside and out. This is where a company really starts working in a consistent, effective way.

So you can’t really just launch a site as an independent project. It will necessarily involve talking to lots of people and working out the real reason for the launch. Everything is connected. If it isn’t then it’s your task to connect them.

There is more involved and I’ll probably have more to say on this matter as things develop. When it finally does go live I’m hoping I’ll have time to talk about PR and copywriting again.

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