Put a Human Face on Your Corporate Image

One of the things that’s lacking on so many corporate web sites is a personal touch that humanizes the site. Many times a founder is associated with the site, and when this is the case, it’s only natural that site visitors want to know a bit about his or her views on topics of relevance. This can help personalize the site, and it goes a long way toward achieving the desired one-to-one marketing effect. In addition, there can also be revenue potential in highlighting a CEO.

The fresh content we read at news sites every day is made possible by providing teams of writers and editors with specialized web-publishing tools. These database-publishing tools have made it easy to publish content on the web without the hassle of manually creating static web pages. These tools have also made it easier for individuals to become publishers, too, in a new type of individual web publishing called “weblogs.”

These personal web sites resemble a daily personal diary, but, in many cases, they contain insightful observations about a particular topic. For example, the weblog produced by journalists Steve Outing and Amy Gahran covers online content, journalism, and publishing.

Another weblog site that I especially like is CamWorld. This site not only has the personal observations of its owner but also has links to many other weblog sites, such as Dan Bricklin’s weblog site.

Many of these personal weblog sites have achieved something that most corporate web sites have been unable to accomplish deliver fresh daily content. In addition, most of these sites give you the feeling they are written by an individual for an individual something else that’s missing from many corporate sites.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think major corporations should turn their sites into personal publishing sites for all of their employees. However, many companies have found it helpful to put a human face on their corporate image. A number of large computer companies are associated with the individual who founded the company.

While the leaders of companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Dell, and AOL come to mind, so do General Electric, Disney, and Wendy’s. In some cases, it’s not the CEO or founder who becomes associated with a company. In the case of IBM, its chief technology officer for Internet activities, John Patrick, has a personal site with his views and insights.

Personal web sites don’t necessarily drive traffic to a site and generate revenue. There is, however, revenue potential in highlighting a CEO. Mail-order-catalog companies have known for years that including a brief personal message from the CEO improves response rates.

These new weblog sites can’t compete with major content sites in terms of traffic or breadth of content, but they can give us ideas on how we can humanize our sites more. Of course, it’s risky for an executive or CEO to express a personal opinion on most topics, but it can be done. Whether it’s a campaign promoting a product or a campaign for president of the United States, it takes a team of professionals to craft an effective personal message.

What’s helped make weblog sites possible are specialized content-management products and services, such as one called Blogger. These products allow an individual writer and/or publisher to enter each day’s article into a web form and publish it instantly. Web-publishing tools that are great for individuals can’t be expected to have the features needed for a large corporate or content site, but the concept is the same make it easy to write, approve, and publish content.

Sites such as CNET and ClickZ create, edit, and publish content daily using content management systems. These tools allow a team of people in multiple locations to manage the entry, editing, and approval of much of the material we read each day. The technology is now available and affordable, allowing corporations to have the same quality publishing tools used by major content sites.

However, technology is not the speed bump in the road to easier and more personal corporate web communications.

What’s needed is for CEOs to work with their public relations professionals to express their views on topics important to them and their companies. As companies learn to use the full publishing potential of the web, we’ll move even closer to achieving one-to-one web marketing.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.