Tip Sheet: Take Back Your Web Site From the IT Guys


Content management technology can make or break your company’s online presence. If you can’t easily update the material on your Web site or quickly publish content, your ability to successfully promote your brand and products will be in serious jeopardy.

But for many PR and marketing professionals, the dream of a seamless content management experience is held hostage by the IT team—a group of technology stakeholders who often are more interested in the technical aspects of the CMS platform than ease of use for communicators who need to be able to deliver fresh, relevant content to online audiences on a regular basis.

To ensure the quality of brand content, it’s important for communications teams to regain control over the company’s content management process, starting with the selection of the CMS platform.

THE TECHNOLOGY DILEMMA

In fairness to IT, a robust CMS is a far-reaching solution that has implications for the company’s entire information technology environment. But, over the years, as communicators have taken over the role of webmasters, updating copy and pushing out information online, it has become critical for a company’s CMS to be simple enough for users without a developer background to manage.

Moreover, with a growing number of organizations leveraging content as a way to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, it is critical for PR and marketing to have the ability to quickly update the company Web site with corporate announcements, industry reactions and other types of time-sensitive content.

This is where conflicts arise between IT staff and communicators. IT teams are typically motivated by different factors than PR teams. Rather than introducing new technology into the mix, many IT departments prefer to leverage the company’s existing solutions for content management, despite the fact that these technologies require communicators to contact IT and navigate a cumbersome process to update or publish new content.

So instead of letting IT exercise a monopoly over the decision-making process, PR and marketing stakeholders need to advocate for their role in content management and be more proactive in the CMS technology selection process.

INFLUENCING THE PROCESS

From the outset, it’s important to emphasize that communications teams have a clear stake in the CMS platform the company uses to publish and maintain brand content. Unless they have the ability to manage content independently of the IT team, the quality and timeliness of the brand’s digital content will be compromised.

Although IT stakeholders may not initially welcome PR’s input, there are several things communicators simply can do to exert greater influence in choosing a CMS.

Goal Setting. The process of selecting a CMS should begin with the identification of goals. Before PR can make a case for a specific CMS platform, they first need to articulate what they need the CMS to do.

• Key Features & Functions. IT and communications should work together to select the CMS that makes the most sense for the organization. Since IT and PR teams have competing interests at times, widespread agreement on the features and functions of specific solutions is probably a pipe dream. However, using the CMS goals as a roadmap, stakeholders should be empowered to select the features that impact their area of responsibility.

Other Alternatives. Communications departments need to recognize that many content management goals can be accomplished independently of IT. Limited-scale content management projects, including company blogs, can be easily published using an externally hosted solution like WordPress. This is not an ideal situation, though, because having disparate sites can lead to fragmented messaging, and a difficult end-user experience.

By transferring CMS publishing responsibility to those who are accountable for creating brand messaging, companies have the potential to achieve a more responsive communications program.

But the potential wins come at a cost. In order to accommodate the seamless distribution of digital content, organizations need to recognize that communicators—not IT—must have the loudest voice when it comes to the usability features of the company’s CMS technology. PRN

CONTACT:

John Fairley is the director of digital services at Walker Sands, a PR and marketing agency based in Chicago. He can be reached at john.fairley@walkersands.com.




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  • Strawberry

    Nice post, much truth. The web shop I work for builds CMS web sites that not only facilitate “communicators” publishing, those systems also provide multiple “types” of content that, when published, become reusable elements that can be (and are) distributed in a variety of ways. Non-technical persons are empowered by systems wherein they simply add their content and the back-end programming does everything from Tweet the new material to feature the new information on the corporate facebook offering.

  • Phil

    So true! Content is what makes a website valuable and, unfortunately, many IT types don’t realized that and glom on whitstles and bells that look pretty but do nothing.

  • Dr. High

    Take back the web site from the IT department, eh? And when those techno-peasant marketroids accidentally break the web site with their wonderful new CMS, to whom will they run and ask for help?