Relinquishing Control-Alt-Delete

Public relations and marketing professionals are control freaks. We try to control the message. Control the use of logos. Control rogue web sites – or at least contain the potential damage they can cause.

We media-train CEOs so they speak and gesture in a way that we find suitable. We even live in a make-believe land in which we think we can manipulate and control the impulses of our customers, or at least create new customers by manipulating the impulses of the general public.

Embarrass Your Company Worldwide

This is possibly one reason why public relations people have been hesitant to embrace the web. It’s mass anarchy out there, which is scary to us. If we are the folks in charge of our corporate web site, more than likely we try to run a tight ship.

The guy in accounting is not allowed to post content to the corporate web site. Neither is the shipping department. Who knows what those guys will post? They aren’t trained communicators like we are!

But the fact is that a corporate web site belongs to the entire organization, not just the public relations or marketing department. Many departments that have traditionally been left out of the “communications” cycle of public relations, marketing and advertising may now have useful information to share on the corporate web site.

But if you’re a public relations department of two people, this can be a nightmare. How will you ever write enough fresh content to keep up with internal demand?

Will Create Content For Food

Enter the distributed authorship model. The accounting guy can actually write content and post it directly to the web site. This makes you shudder, doesn’t it? As a public relations or marketing person, this very notion will keep you up at night.

Enter the database.

Database-driven web sites are not new. Languages such as XML and middleware such as Active Server Pages and Cold Fusion have been in the headlines for years.

Many companies have these systems in place for corporate intranets, allowing employees to be part of the internal dialogue. But when you start talking about dialogue with consumers, investors and other external target audiences, the area is verboten.

Culturally, though, public relations and marketing people will have to give on this if they expect to feed the constant need for content and serve the target audience. Emily will be the first to gripe about people not knowing how to write or communicate clearly. However, over the past year it has become apparent that controlling every word that goes out the door is a serious impediment to maintaining a constant flow of new content to a web site.

The Corporate Content Chain Gang

The solution has been to create a way for multiple authors throughout the organization to contribute to a database of information. The database creates inherent parameters and required fields for management – for example, the name of the author and date of the content.

This is then reviewed and edited according to a pre-defined set of standards (such as Associated Press writing style, for example) by the public relations staff and then forwarded to live server for a daily update of the site.

This way, authors change just what they’re allowed to change, and the site can maintain a cohesive look and feel – thus continuing Emily’s reign of control and intimidation at work.

Let’s face it: These departments are probably creating new content all the time as part of their regular job. However, they probably have no idea they are creating content!

If you’re fortunate enough to have a whole army of public relations and marketing writers who can develop all the original content for a web site – and keep it fresh on a weekly (minimum) basis – count yourself lucky. For the rest of us, who are typically juggling multiple jobs including the web site, distributed authors may be a way to keep the content flowing.

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