Thursday, March 26, 2009

10 Harsh Truths About Corporate Websites

I love sharing. Sharing is great. I love to give donations, presents, compliments, a stick of gum. Whatever. Something else that's really cool is receiving. You know, getting stuff. But what I like best of all is when I get something I really like and I am able to pass it along to someone else. That's sharing. And sharing is great. So please enjoy this article that I found in Smashing Magazine, written by Paul Boag. Paul is the founder of UK Web design agency Headscape, author of the Website Owners Manual and host of award-winning Web design podcast
- Jason Acquisto

Director, MZD Interactive

10 Harsh Truths About Corporate Websites
source - Smashing Magazine, February 10th, 2009

We all make mistakes running our websites. However, the nature of those mistakes varies depending on the size of your company. As your organization grows, the mistakes change. This post addresses common mistakes among large organizations.
Most of the clients I work with are large organizations: universities, large charities, public sector institutions and large companies. Over the last 7 years, I have noticed certain recurring misconceptions among these organizations. This post aims to dispel these illusions and encourage people to face the harsh reality.
The problem is that if you are reading this post, you are probably already aware of these things. But hopefully this article will be helpful to you as you convince others within your organization. In any case, here are our 10 harsh truths about websites of large organizations.
1. You Need A Separate Web Division
In many organizations, the website is managed by either the marketing or IT department. However, this inevitably leads to a turf war, with the website becoming the victim of internal politics.
In reality, pursuing a Web strategy is not particularly suited to either group. IT may be excellent at rolling out complex systems, but it is not suited to developing a friendly user experience or establishing an online brand.

Zeldman urges organisations to create a separate web division.
Marketing, on the other hand, is little better. As Jeffrey Zeldman puts it in his article Let there be Web divisions:
The Web is a conversation. Marketing, by contrast, is a monologue… And then there’s all that messy business with semantic markup, CSS, unobtrusive scripting, card-sorting exercises, HTML run-throughs, involving users in accessibility, and the rest of the skills and experience that don’t fall under Marketing’s purview.
Instead, the website should be managed by a single unified team. Again, Zeldman sums it up when he writes:
Put them in a division that recognizes that your website is not a bastard of your brochures, nor a natural outgrowth of your group calendar. Let there be Web divisions.
2. Managing Your Website Is A Full-Time Job
Not only is the website often split between marketing and IT, it is also usually under-resourced. Instead of there being a dedicated Web team, those responsible for the website are often expected to run it alongside their “day job.”
click here for full story 10 Harsh Truths About Corporate Websites

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Turn on the SyFy Channel?

by Kiley Kellermeyer, MZD Account Executive

Having somehow gone unmonitored by historians and semanticists everywhere, the sometimes-vowel “y” has finally ascended the ranks of letterdom and become infinitely cooler than the letters “c”and “i”. This is bad news if your name is “Chris Irwin” but great news for Dave Howe, president of the Sci Fi Channel, which will evolve on July 7 to the SyFy Channel in attempts to shed its geeky image.

Here’s Howe’s thinking: “When we tested this new name, the thing that we got back from our 18-to-34 techno-savvy crowd, which is quite a lot of our audience, is actually this is how you’d text it,” Howe told TV Guide. “It made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise.”

In the official press release on, Howe said that “the new brand broadens perceptions and embraces a wider and more diverse range of imagination-based entertainment,” but I think what he really meant is best summed up by this statement from TV historian Tim Brooks (who helped launch Sci Fi Channel) when he told TV Guide: “The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular.”

The name Sci Fi, said Brookes, is better than Science Fiction, but still limiting.

Now, I fit right smack dab in the middle of Mr. Howe’s demographic. And –bonus points for me – I’m a geek. I enjoy a great lightsaber battle as much as the next girl, and time travel makes my heart go pitter pat.

But, come on now, Howe! SyFy? I’m certainly no “y-hater,” but it seems to me in order to attract people to your channel you need to air shows that will draw them and keep them coming back for more, not simply swivel a couple of letters around. Not to mention, when a middle-aged man says something is “much more hip,” I’m heading for the hills, and I’ll wager a lot of those 18 to 34 year-olds will be right behind me.

One look at the comments on the TV Guide story suggests that Sci Fi Channel doesn’t have a branding problem, it has a content problem. Apparently, it has strayed so far away from science fiction its core audience feels it shouldn’t actually be called the science fiction channel – which is apparently the direction the executives are heading, as well. Unfortunately, that core audience is also “heading” for the remote control.

The Sci Fi Channel – er, SyFy Channel – is a niche. The beauty of the channel is that it doesn’t have to be NBC, CBS or ABC. Those networks are for the general public, with some viewers who aren’t quite capable of stretching their minds past the mundane. A channel devoted to science fiction shows and movies, then, should not hide behind two little y’s when the real marketing efforts could be made building a fan base for science fiction across the board.

See that guy over there who says he doesn’t like anything that couldn’t happen in real life? Make and market something so good he’ll be captivated. I doubt he’ll turn off “CSI:Miami” in favor of “Warehouse 13” because he’s got a fetish for the second to last letter in the alphabet.

Oh, and Mr. Howe and Mr. Brookes, while you’re at it, you might try not publicly insulting your core audience with the “geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys” comments in the future.

Hey, look – “dysfunctional” has a “y” in it!

Friday, March 13, 2009


By Aaron Whitaker, MZD Senior Copywriter

What is Twitter and why do I want to tweet you?

You’ve probably seen news articles recently regarding breaking news and how it is leaks out through Twitter first and not your typical media routes of TV and radio. And if you’re like many, you’ve probably asked yourself “What in the world is a Twitter?” Twitter is a micro blogging platform that allows people to broadcast short messages of less than 140 characters to friends and strangers.

I will have to admit that I was unfamiliar with Twitter up until about a year ago. And at that time, I was told by an “expert” that it allows people to follow you and see what you’re doing during the day like “I’m going to lunch with friends,” or “I’m going to the grocery store for the second time today.” And my response was why do I want to know what someone else is doing every second of the day. It reminded me about the early days of blogs and how most of the blogs seemed like teenagers talking about themselves and their “totally, awesome friends.”

So at that time, I blew off Twitter and called it “stupid” but recently I started researching on how Twitter can be used as a marketing tool. And it was through this research that I discovered that it seems Twitter has grown up in the last year. There are many great examples of brands using Twitter as a marketing tool like Ford, Jet Blue, H&R Block, Starbucks and the Red Cross. So what do they do and how do they do it? They listen, they share and they help but they don’t advertise. And that is what makes or breaks a brand on Twitter.

Think of Twitter as a bar or a party where you talk with strangers, talk with friends, share interesting stories, tell jokes, debate on issues and so on. And then you go home. Well Twitter is a place to share your knowledge of your brands field and expertise. If it’s healthcare, you share healthy insights or new research about the healthiness of drinking wine. You might even help people out who have questions about their healthcare like what is the difference between an FSA and a HSA. You socialize with people who are interested in what you have to say. In Twitter if someone likes what you are saying or is interested in what you talk about, they “follow” you. That means that whenever you write a short message or “tweet” on Twitter, all of your followers receive that message. If they have a specific question, they can tweet you and ask you.

So how does it payoff for your brand? If you are an expert on healthcare on Twitter, I may follow you because I’m interested in staying healthy but I might run into a friend who is looking for a new healthcare policy and have I got good news for him. I can give my friend your Twitter name or your blog or Web site name and he goes to you because I, as a friend, have validated you as a good source for healthcare information. Word of mouth. Yep, that old way of advertising has suddenly made an appearance alongside one of the modern tools of advertising, Twitter.

So when you think of Twitter and other social media platforms think of it as networking and socializing at a bar. If people are interested in what you are saying, they can follow you home to your company’s Web site or blog. Twitter is just one bar in a sea of online bars, so don’t cut yourself short and just use one social media platform to talk about your expertise and brand, use them all or at least more than one.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Putting Your Best Face Forward

By Angie Gookins, MZD Media Buyer

Two evenings ago, I was hanging at my favorite place, with two of my favorite people: the mall with my 9 month old son and my mother. I am a cliché mall-loving woman. Even when I don’t buy, I just love to peruse the different wings, browse through the beautiful clothes, and dabble at the makeup counters. And despite my husband’s emphatic denial, the truth is my son loves to hang at the mall too.

However, a baby in public always brings with it a small source of stress; the unpredictable, and loud mini-humans that they are. So, when I venture out of the “safe zone”, I always take great care in being prepared to prevent or solve a meltdown of any sort. Because, it’s also important, when out in public, to create an image of confidence – “I know what I’m doing and can handle the situation no matter the occurrence.” I want to put my best face forward. I do not want outsiders giving me an “F” in parenting.

I am my own marketing agency.

Which leads me to tell you about the woman in the bathroom, who obviously did not employ a marketing agency – her own, or any one else’s. The cursing, yelling and berating were serious mistakes of the worst kind. Her child, the one who didn’t wash her hands without being told, was far better behaved than the woman, who held the title “mother”. She definitely gets an “F” in parenting, as well as public relations. I’m not sure she has ever heard of putting your best face forward, or marketing, at that.

If I hadn’t been completely terrified, I might have given her my card.