When building a public affairs website bear in mind that the guidelines for building an effective website are not the same as when building traditional public relations campaigns. When someone visits a public affairs website they expect to receive information without any spin on it. The best websites dedicated to public affairs allow visitors to quickly locate the information they need without searching for it. A bonus is when there is also the ability to quickly act on the information they receive through the website.
photo credit: andrewasmith
The first thing to consider is what it is that you want to accomplish through your website. Consider the audience for the website and who it is that you hope to reach. Consider for the reasons someone would come to the website and use those to help you design your site.
Also ask: what content will visitors be seeking? When building a public affairs website you want to link the content and the audience. You want the content to be relevant and timely.
Interaction is another key component, and you want make sure that visitors can interact with you. This can occur through blog comments, forums, online opinion polls, live chats, etc. Most people want something to do when they visit a website, even if it is simply just providing their opinion.
An effective website must also be usable. The key to this is to keep it simple. For the most part, visitors want information in bite size pieces. If it takes too long for them to find the information they want, they will leave. Use language that is easy to understand and follow.
Finally, make sure that if you incorporate any innovation in the website that you do it in a manner that is in keeping with the visitor’s needs. Never use something just because it is the latest thing in the online world.
To find out more about communicating with the public consider our Advanced Media Relations Workshop and our Capitol Learning Audio Course with Michael Cornfield, Maximizing the Internet for the Public Affairs Professional.
Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 6.6 Five Building Blocks of Public Affairs Web Sites.
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