In this post I am questioning the rationale behind online marketing or communications initiatives being directed or controlled by technology oriented guidelines.Face it, today technology can do whatever we want or need it to do. And one of its primary roles...

In this post I am questioning the rationale behind online marketing or communications initiatives being directed or controlled by technology oriented guidelines.

Face it, today technology can do whatever we want or need it to do. And one of its primary roles is to act as a facilitator for a message. So why would we first worry about "how we want to say something" before we think about "what we want to say"?

Typically technology and marketing departments are separate entities, with the tech people focused on internal software, security, protocols, databases, all very technical stuff. Then you have the marketing folks worried about the message of the institution, the look and feel of the new brochure, the copywriting and tone in the radio spot, all very non-technical stuff.

And then the issue of the Website comes up (or talk of a microsite, or an email campaign, or an employee portal area) - and suddenly - both groups must work together, because these things involve technology. This is where the first mistake is made. A company's interactive marketing has very little to do with the internal technology or protocols. Sure, there will be some areas that "cross over", where security or the transferring of sensitive data should be monitored, where databases will need to be able to speak the same language, or technical nuances will require some sort of expert IT guidance to move forward. However, if the initiative is oriented towards "marketing", then it should live in the hands of the marketing folks. Yet I can't recount how many times I have found a marketing team struggling with an overly complicated content management system (CMS), or worse, a marketing team dependent on a few skilled coders over on the IT side, who are the gatekeepers of the marketing projects.

Lets face it, when someone encounters your interactive marketing initiative, be it a Website, a HTML email, a microsite, perhaps even an iPhone app - the last thing they will be thinking about is the technology... unless of course, it doesn't work well. I am not simply talking about something being "broken", I am talking about overall "usability", the ease with which an interested viewer can access the content they seek while experiencing the brand of the company. This is one of the most important experiences your audience will have with your brand, and if technology has lead the way, chances are, usability has been delegated to what "works" with the technology - not the other way around. This shift in importance is a critical mistake, and will leave your viewers feeling they experienced something that was more about tech than communicating with them.

So, before you start shopping for software, adding firewalls and overhauling your servers, stop and ask yourself, "Is this an IT project or a marketing project?"

Just because things live on "servers" vs. on paper, doesn't mean they necessarily need to be controlled by IT folks. After all, these days your marketing team probably does much of its work online in places like Twitter, the company blog, Facebook, press release sites like Pitch Engine, etc. Why would the Website be any different?

One common cause for the confusion is due to the "types" of information being shared or distributed through the Website. I often see people confuse Websites with "Intranets", and this is something that is very important to differentiate. How do you find the answer? It's all about the audience! If your Website is primarily geared towards outside audiences, who don't have a need for, or interest in your internal stuff, then don't build an Intranet. If the site is to market to your internal audiences, like a company wide bulletin board, an area to log in and review tax information or payroll, etc., then focus on security - and don't build a public facing Website!

Bottom line - give your audiences what they are looking for, and empower the people who need to constantly craft those messages the tools they need to manage it themselves. Empower your teams with tools that work for their needs, and be very clear about the goals, audiences, and most importantly, who needs to be able to take the wheel and work with the tools you give them.

Share on Twitter or Facebook Published September 2nd 2009