Under the Hood
While so much of our work is helping our clients with their external communications, increasingly we have been focusing on clients’ internal communications systems as well. Creating sustainable workflows for generating and managing marketing content in-house is critical to making outreach efforts successful – let alone happen at all.
If maintaining a website is a clunky, mystifying process, or if creating documents is so confusing people create their own one-off versions that are inconsistent with the brand, then people get stopped up in their marketing efforts and distracted from the work they do best.
Additionally, many of our clients are comprised of virtual teams spread across various time zones and operating systems that can often make coordinating external communication efforts more challenging.
So what does our focus on internal communication systems look like? We start by looking at what the issues are:
- Where are people getting tripped up in getting information out to their various audiences?
- Are digital assets like logos, templates and images easy to find, easy to access?
- Does the organization have a messaging and visual style guide and do people know how to access it?
- Is there a clear process in place for drafting new content for the website or editing what exists?
Making websites work harder…
We are addressing the issue of clunky or non-existent internal communication workflows through a number of avenues. One is deeper customization of the content management system (CMS) platform upon which we build our websites (we primarily use WordPress). For example, a client of ours has large amounts of sensitive information they collect from their own clients. Before working with us, they were dealing with all this information by pen and paper. It was a bear to keep up with, as it required actually toting large files of papers to and from client meetings. It felt less than professional, and totally inappropriate to the brand since this client actually works in the technology sector.
We designed a special tool as part of their website CMS to help collect and organize all their client records behind the scenes. The website also allows our client to post documents and publish information for their client’s eyes only through a password-protected section of the websites interface. They can access this information anywhere through multiple devices. They have seen significant time savings and this system has increased the robustness of the service they are providing to their customers by getting information to them in a more organized, timely and secured fashion.
…brand management easier…
Online style guides are another way we’re utilizing the website CMS to build efficiencies with internal communications. Normally the brand and messaging style guides we create are formatted into a PDF file. Over time this document can get lost or forgotten or it doesn’t live in the same place as the files it references like logos or brand fonts.
Now we’re developing online versions of brand style guides where all the information in the PDF is presented in a section of the client’s website (accessible only to staff, not the public) and where assets like logos, fonts, images and templates can be downloaded. Having a central location for brand management means everyone can be on the same page, reduces all those hunting trips for logos and images, and minimizes the instances of collateral “one-offs” that dilute brand equity. There is enormous potential to evolve these online style guides into robust digital asset management systems, and we are excited about the opportunity to increase the ease with which clients are able to manage their brand identities and files.
…and increasing self-sufficiency
Finally, having a unified system of branded Microsoft Word and PowerPoint templates has helped a number of clients improve their ability to create marketing materials in-house. Digital templates set up in MS Office is not a new thing; many design firms offer this. But MS Office is not professional design software, and often we find that the average Office user isn’t familiar with style sheets or other customizations that can make Office documents editable branded templates for client use. Without proper orientation, people become frustrated with the inherent quirks of Office and the templates fall into disuse or brand abuse. We provide training and written instructions on how to use these templates properly and make sure people feel comfortable working with them.
As we continue to explore what’s going on behind the scenes with our client's external communication efforts, we’ll expand the ways in which we help to define and streamline the process of reaching out and make it more enjoyable.