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Whither (Wither?) Company Websites

It is common to see social media evangelists suggest the days of the corporate website are numbered. All the features that make Web 2.0 so exciting -- powerful collective intelligence, rapid linking, user-produced content, platforms that create communities of interest, task and vocation -- are declared an ominous signal for the traditional corporate web site. Jeremiah Owyang wrote some time ago that "The corporate website is an unbelievable collection of hyperbole, artificial branding, and pro-corporate content. As a result, trusted decisions are being made on other locations on the Internet." (phrasing which itself demonstrates familiarity with hyperbole).

Most of these commentators are thinking of the corporate website from a marketing perspective; that is, how to involve customers in dialogue about products. Jeremiah's kind of over-the-top evangelism is about marketing and does not take into a account any number of good reasons to use and maintain an energetic, interactive but distinctly company-centred, digital presence. Here are just two:

  1. Websites are a critical tool for effective issues management. Assuming a website has a content management system that allows for relatively fast and easy uploading, then it still has an extremely valuable raison d'etre . . . to tell a truthful and factual story about a company or organization from its perspective. That may seem self-evident. But it is especially valuable when a company is managing an issue or facing a crisis, situations in which truth and fact are not necessarily the province, or concern, of MSM, advocates or politicians.
  2. Information is now miscellaneously regrouped as needed by people as they look to learn about or understand issues. Information-rich websites, which host a point of view, can play an important role in forming opinion. This does involve a shift in thinking. Making something information-rich does mean a company or organization has to consider what receivers want or need to read about or hear not just what they want to tell them (which is where Jeremiah and my ideas overlap.

Of course corporate websites will have to migrate form and function to reflect new communication dynamics and new centres of conversation. But they have a place in the extended conversation that is the heart of the new issues management.

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