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Brand-building 101 -- website edition

Chances are, if someone’s writing about your brand, they’re going to link to your website. Does the thought excite you, or make you want to chug a few shots of Pepto- Bismol? According to  Vala Ashfar, CMO and chief customer officer at Enterasys, “Your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.” What will they say about your website?

A website does no favors for your brand if it’s not built with your audience in mind. Good brands take the time to research their target demographic and create an online experience for that audience based on their perceived expectations. Great brands will exceed those expectations by keeping everything in mind from design best practices to cultural trends, to search engine optimization, to social media listening as part of their website build.

On the other end of the spectrum, a bad website can turn off existing and potential customers from your otherwise well-crafted brand image. And perhaps worse, a bad site will turn off the third-party opinion leaders whose endorsements will get prospective customers to check out your company’s site before becoming paying customers.

Media outreach can go to waste if you get a reporter or blogger interested in your company’s product or service but then walk away when a website doesn’t live up to expectations. From The Wall Street Journal to the most obscure trade magazine, no journalist worth their salt will write about a company in a positive manner if their website doesn’t support or deserve that level of respect and attention.

If you have different firms, or even different departments within your company working on PR and website management, it’s important to make sure each team communicates clearly with each other and that everyone understands your brand, message, audience and business goals. Beyond media coverage goals or click-through rates, your team must constantly ask themselves, "Does this support our brand identity?"

Using the corporate website as a platform, companies with good stories and the communication skills to support them have started to become their own publishers, and only a few years ago have been able to bypass traditional journalists. Readers, viewers and listeners now find what they want in hundreds, if not thousands, of new outlets beyond the morning paper, evening news and occasional trade rag.

The refinement and proliferation of online search has also changed the game of media relations. Buyers and sellers search for and find each other through the words they share in common. Search engine optimization can help brands connect with their audiences by mapping certain concepts important to the brand or its products, and developing content around those concepts for websites, blog posts, sales literature, news releases and other communications. Public, investor and analyst relations are processes, not projects. Success is achieved by building a mosaic of content: story, news, products, services, user experiences, third party opinion, reviews and recommendations.

Today, the most important form of media for each one of our clients is not only their own websites, but also the millions of other sites and servers that can connect them to their customers through the words they have in common.

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John Metzger and Amy Little

 John Metzger is CEO at Metzger Associates, a public relations and digital communications firm in Boulder. Contact him at john@metzger.com.

Amy Little is digital services manager at Metzger. She can be reached at alittle@metzger.com.

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