You gotta love sitting around on a Saturday afternoon watching old movies. Rocky II is on and
Burgess Meredith is making Stallone try to catch a chicken. “If you can catch this thing, you’ll be
greased lightnin’!” Gathering content for your website can be a lot like chasing chickens – pretty
hard to pin down. However, with a good game plan and a little perseverance you should be able
to collect what you need to make a winning website.
What content should we include?
In starting our Web project (see last month’s column here), we mentioned the importance of
understanding what you want your site to accomplish. Knowing what kind of reaction you desire
from your site visitors should help you in determining what kinds of content you want on your site.
Do you want people to feel that they’re being sold something? If so, then you can just post a
brochure. However, if you’d rather have people interact with your site, then think about who will
visit your site and what would they want to see.
Give real world examples of how you’ve helped your clients in the past, set up a Case
Studies Section and created a form defining all the necessary information to develop a standardized
look and feel. E-mail this to your account team and asked them for contributions.
This brings up another point. Content isn’t just articles. In fact, long articles are many times not
read in the fast-skimming Internet age. Bullet-point lists, pictures and graphs, quizzes, and quotes
from supportive customers or donors all make great content. Best of all, they help you start a
conversation with your site’s visitors.
How to gather content.
So, you’re sold on getting interesting content, but how do you get it? This is the trickiest part, as
it takes some buy-in from the higher ups to make the website a priority for the organization, and
not just the Webmaster. With their support, you’ll have a much better chance getting busy people
in other departments to help you.
Here’s something I suggest. First, have the company’s president send out a letter to all the
department heads stating that you’ve begun a new Web project and you need content. Next,
create a folder on your computer’s desktop and place in it a copy of anything you receive that
even remotely looks like it would be good for your site. E-mails, sales presentations, conference
notes – anything. Finally, remembering your objective from above, weed out what you don’t
want. Don’t be afraid to rip apart articles or informational copy. If you need to use a three-word
quote from a two-page letter and dump the rest, then do it. And don’t forget your organization’s
Once you’ve got your working content, catalog them into specific themes. Use a spreadsheet to
list each item and create main subject titles for the groups. Then, look back at what you have and
adjust. If you’ve done it right, you have just created a preliminary site map for your Web!
Because getting content is so tough, and sorting through everything can be arduous, I really
recommend that you start this process as soon as you know you’ll be developing your site.
Schedule sufficient time to put out a couple calls for this – four weeks minimum. If you follow
your plan well, you won’t be stuck running after chickens all day. And the great content you’ll find
will make your website a heavyweight champ!