Who says the web is new, odd and different? I’ve just read a memo from 1999 which outlines recommendations to a chemicals company on how to engage positively so as to improve its standing with the general public and in turn regulators i.e. what actions it should take to try to “shape the debate” within the sector in which it operated.
The cornerstones of the memo were in line with best practice in communications, urging the company to provide better content, and to educate and engage the public. Specifically, the four main points were as follows:
- Showcase scientists and the scientific rationale.
- Try to push for “informed decision” i.e. educate people; let them come to their own conclusions instead of preaching to them.
- Form coalitions and showcase strong centralised action to further outreach and credibility.
- Promote dialogue amongst stakeholders.
So what’s the big deal? Just that when people think “online communications” they often focus on what’s different in communications terms. Social media is different because it gives everyone a voice. Online crisis management is different because it needs to be more immediate. Online advertising is different because pay-per-click is more targeted.
This is all true, but people often lose track of the fact that the web is just a set of tools that can improve, expand or speed up existing communications strategies. Just look at the examples above. I won’t go into detail, but the scope for improving all four elements are immense:
- Showcase scientists? Use multimedia to improve the user experience and hyperlink to show relevant content at source.
- Informed decision? Again, multimedia. Or use aggregation to bring in third party material automatically. Blog to showcase more regular, less formal information. Use search tactics so that people who are looking for information on your subject matter come to you.
- Form coalitions? Adopt the “web as a hub” approach and bring it all together in one online space to ensure better integration of activities and joint action in one place, rather than having it scattered about.
- Dialogue? Duh.
Moral of the story? Don’t look at the web as something far removed from what came before (or as merely technology for that matter.) Instead, view it as a set of tools that makes reaching your communications objectives that little bit easier.