Many years ago, for my sins, I did time on the editorial staff of a major urban “alternative newsweekly.” During that time I overdosed daily on badly conceived and written press releases. They were all hardcopy and they arrived via snail mail – that was the only game in town circa 1989. Every day I would read several such releases that would evoke from me no such response as, “That’s interesting! I think I’ll write about it!” but rather “This collateral is non-information-bearing.”
Then I would crumple up the paper with extreme prejudice and launch it into the circular file with my opinion of the sender similarly trashed.
The problem, of course, was that the writer of the piece had never quite gotten the subject out of his or her own head and down on the paper. You might say that the release was “author-centered.” And that’s why it got thrown away. And why it lowered my opinion of the originating organization.
Not Just Bad Marketing: It’s Anti-Marketing
Fast-forward to the present. We don’t see many old-style press releases anymore. The new fashion is websites, which you might think of as permanent press releases posted in cyberspace. But no amount of high-tech bells and whistles will change the laws of marketing. If your website is blinkered by an “author-centered” or a “developer-centered” or a “manager-centered” paradigm, it’s not going to work very well, because the few visitors it attracts are going to trash it via the “Back” button, and, what’s worse, they go away mad.
Good websites speak to the visitor, making it easy for them to find their way to get the information they want. Good websites actually accomplish promotion.
Bad websites fail to communicate. And they also make frustrated visitors hate your organization.
Now you might point out that “hate” is a strong word. I would simply point out in reply that you’re welcome to split hairs over degrees of animosity or indifference with your dissatisfied website visitors – except you can’t because you already lost them.
You lost them through bad website design and messaging. You lost them because you were talking to yourself.
Donor-Centered Sites Engage and Retain Visitors
Websites should make friends. The moral of the story: If your website is not donor-centered, you’re just talking to yourself – and boring prospects in the process.
By the way, for sterling examples of the right way to do it – see effective donor-centered website design and messaging.