At exactly 12 p.m. EST on Jan. 20, 2009, Barack Obama assumed responsibility as the president of the United States of America. Exactly one minute later, at 12:01 p.m. EST, the curtain on the new http://www.whitehouse.gov was lifted, revealing a completely renovated Web site that mirrored Obama's distinct personal brand.
While it is certainly an extreme example of Web site re-branding, the WhiteHouse.gov changeover underscores the fact that an organization's Web properties are critical to reinforcing a coherent brand image. And the comparison isn't so farfetched for many companies that have audiences as broad and diverse as ... well, the U.S. executive branch.
Take WD-40. It's a global innovation, marketing and distribution company that owns a number of cleaning products, from mildew stain removers to hand cleaners, to rug deodorizers. Based on its global reach and long supply chain, the company has many stakeholder groups with whom it must communicate, including distributors, retailers, investors, media, employees and end-users.
That's why, when WD-40 executives decided to plan and executive a total revision of its Web site, making the platform a brand-centric property that targeted all stakeholders was key. Based on their experience, communications professionals looking to relaunch or re-brand a Web site should take the following steps to ensure success.
*See how your Web site measures up. According to Paige Perdue, director of marketing operations for WD-40, the company's executives began the redesign process by focusing on internal alignment, putting together a cross-functional Web site selection team that was responsible for defining business goals and desired functionality.
Then, the team did a deep dive into the existing site's features before shaping the redesign. A Web site audit analyzed WD-40's status as compared to that of its competitors. Perdue says her team's competitive Web site audit focused on six companies that were competitors or similar in size to WD-40, including P&G, Clorox and Reckitt Benckiser. In conducting this audit within your own industry, look at your competitors' use of branding and positioning, as well as how they organize information for specific stakeholders.
*Set standards. Once you've collected this information relative to your own organization, evaluate it in the context of generally accepted Web site standards and best practices to see where you line up. Perdue identifies a few common Web site standards that will help you get started, including:
SEO compatibility; and,
Monthly Web site traffic reports.
*Develop an overall plan. By now you should have a thorough picture of your company's current Web site, those of its competitors and basic standards that you should meet. Now it's time to take it to the next level with the specific revisions that need to be made. Perdue says the WD-40 team defined each component, including:
Digital assets; and,
To tease out every aspect of these strategic components, any team should develop creative briefs, project timelines, analytics requirements and dashboards and SEO strategies.
*Home in on content. Content is one of the key differentiators in any organization's Web site, so this part of the re-branding process is critical. In WD-40's case, the Web site selection team recommending organizing content into a corporate site, which embodied a professional corporate image and served as a launchpad to brand and global sites. These sites, Perdue says, had their own look and feel, were user-centric, interactive and engaging and leveraged cross-selling and linking strategies.
*Focus on emerging practices and continue to refine. With the design and content nailed down, you now need to develop strategies for getting the Web site in front of your target audiences. Perdue says that her team focused on linking strategies and innovative functionality, with special attention being given to leveraging user-generated content.
By now, the new site will be live, but that doesn't mean the work is done. The post-launch phase is defined by revisions, including building better relationships and creating continuity. You may not have an army of Web developers behind you like Obama did, but even a few communications experts, armed with an airtight strategy, can turn a Web site into the brand's most emphatic punctuation. PRN
Paige Perdue, email@example.com