Web communications mixes technical with playful

January 17, 2010

To be good on the web, we’ve got to do everything from php scripts to Facebook posts.

It takes a systems administrator to think all about security and stability, a writer to think about stringing together great combinations of words and a graphic designer to give a site the perfect look and feel. A developer and programmer make the site smart and functional. You need communicators to decide if social media like Twitter or Facebook can be integrated. So a successful effort requires more than success in a single area.

Web professionals don’t just write and design the pages. We also code the site, write custom applications, test the pages, move them into production, and then, if we’re smart, we even do our best to see what, when, and how people are reading our pages and who they are.

So in newspaper terms, we’re the ones who lubricate a squeaky press and dive in when it breaks, meanwhile we’re reporting, writing, editing, laying out, sending to pre-press, press, collating, rubber-banding our papers and taking them to your porch – preferably a porch that uses Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox. In a very figurative sense, we might even use web analytics to peer over your shoulder just to see what captures your interest.

Our tiny team has a designer, a programmer, a developer and me. When we sit down for our weekly coffee-house get together, the programmer might talk about exploring the best ways to migrate a WordPress site or WP plug-ins he’s written. The developer will chat about his ever-flattening learning curve in Drupal, and his progress testing modules and applying security patches. Meanwhile, the designer might talk about custom headers he’s designing, the intricate styling of a site or usability issues he’s tackling.

I’m the non-technical one. I’m the communications guy, the one who wears golf shirts and tries to explain the web to non-web folks. I’m the one who dabbles in Twitter, calls Facebook work, writes stories and edits homegrown video.   And I’m here to tell you, a good web effort takes a great team with a wide variety of skills and abilities.


Storytelling Barney style

November 28, 2008

My grandpa Barney could tell a story about shooting a deer or ditching his Navy plane over the Pacific. He played football in a leather helmet and later wore a leather pilot’s cap in the war. His face looked like a wrinkled old book, which fit perfectly because Barney told gripping stories about both his own life and the lives of his family members. The last hanging in New Mexico? The day his one-armed father shut his lone hand in a car door? The nights he and a buddy guarded the Portales water tower after Pearl Harbor? Now Barney’s kids tell stories just like their dad. Conflict. Tension. Humor. Timing. Barney’d be real proud of the way his daughter, my aunt Mona Robinson, recounts a family legend about Barney himself in this video that my wife, Jamie, took with a point and shoot camera at a family reunion.

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The web’s “c” word: Five better monikers for web content

November 28, 2008

I hate the term web content.  Hate it.  There are TV shows, book chapters, newspaper articles, symphonic movements, poetry verses, stanzas, lines, couplets, and more. On the web, we throw everything together and call it content. And I am fit to be tied. Sure, execs and administrators love to say, “The web is where it’s at,” without funding it. At the very least, they could dignify the collection of words, pictures, video, audio, blogs, vlogs and microblogs with a better name than content.

Might as well call it hodgepodge. Brochure leftovers? Pasted and “re-purposed” from magazines, memos, and brochures, this static web content boasts no rhyme, no reason and no life.

With that, I’ll offer up a little reason if not rhyme with my top 5 alternatives for the dreaded “c” word:

1)      Web Ingredients: This requires a recipe, for example, combine  a dash of exposition, a touch of anecdote,  and a smattering of bullet points, then pour them not into a 13:9 baking dish but a tidy little 4:3 video and a 250-word feature.

2)      Web Packages: Feature story, video, audio and FAQ all boxed together and gift-wrapped just for you.

3)      Multidimensional web presence: Okay, so corporate it makes me wince, but every office has its king of buzzwords. A multidimensional web presence allows you to “leverage” your “position” combining  elements of narrative.  Some words, some  audio, a video or two and a blog? Instead of always telling people how you are, why not let them tell you how they see you? Word of mouth travels fast. Might as well let them describe the good and bad about you – to you on your blog. Might as well make your case via video and teach people using podcasts. Then you’re “leveraging” your “positions” using several “platforms” and reaching a “cross-section” of your  “demographic.”

4)      Web Masterpieces: Look, the web’s about being fast, cool, edgy, even if you’re selling antibiotic ointment. Could archeologists someday be mining caches of servers trying to decipher and restore aging, yellowing html code? Clean code might never land in the Louvre. But your web site is your canvas. Take care and time to be sure the right lighting, the ideal nuance, the perfect brush strokes tell your story. Treat your site like a self portrait. It might not hang in a museum or get translated by archeologists, but success on the web means telling a gripping story today.

5)      Web Storytelling: A narrative has everything life does. Character, conflict, triumph.  Think of your web site as your story, a personal one or that of a company or organization. What stories can you tell to illustrate your favorite themes or your brand? A few pictures, a few words, some talking pictures? What’s the best way to tell your stories? What conflicts have you triumphantly overcome? Tell those stories… Show the world who you are.

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