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Friday, October 12, 2007

The Web is a Window

A recent report from the Association of National Advertisers notes that 80% of Americans are now online and spend as much time on the Web as on TV. Pretty amazing, that. But most marketers allocate only 5 - 10% of their budgets to digital media. And many organizations we work with, who are in the business of information and advocacy, likely do less than that.

Which makes this a good time to talk about ways to use the Web to get your message out there.

The Web is more about experiencing than reading. The path to the brain is through the eye and ear. The written word is so last century. (True confessions: I see myself as a writer, so I'm exaggerating to make a point. But Web writing should be sparse -- more about headlines and concepts -- not turgid bureaucratic prose that so many organizations use to conceal rather than enlighten).

I recently had reason to visit the site of a large NGO organization which manages projects around the world. Their annual budget is quite substantial. Yet their Web presence consisted primarily of page upon page filled with long written passages describing their activities and programs. There were almost no visuals whatsoever. No video, no flash. Filled with jargon and memo style language.

How would I describe the Web experience for this particular site? Not so hot.
What could they do to make it work better for them?

Throw out most of the verbiage. Use video to make it all real. Video can show what it's really like when words fall short. Video can make the difference between knowing and understanding. Video can make people laugh, cry or get angry. And those feelings can move people to act. And all of it can be right there on the Web site amplifying the text and serving the mission. Some quick examples of how they could use video include:

** Short video stories about the people they are serving.
** Video profiles of people out in the field doing the work.
** Video reports on how they are making a difference.
** Short video packages describing
the challenges they face
the needs they are meeting
their goals and vision for the organization.
** A short recruiting video to bring in new people
** A fund-raising video
** A history of the organization and its evolving mission
** A short documentary on an issue important to the organization

Of course, some of these can also be placed on other sites like YouTube with links back to their site.

We recently finished two advocacy videos for Defenders of Wildlife. Within just a few short weeks almost 100,000 people have viewed the pieces and heard their message, all because of the Web. Does that mean well-planned and placed video can make an impact? You bet.

The Web is your window. Open it up.

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