No, your website does not belong to just the Communications Team. It's much too important for that.
Most government websites are not built for communications.
Seems weird doesn't it? I mean many such websites are actually owned by Communications Departments, so of course they are about communications!
I have created many government sites (local, regional, national). Much of the content they contain is of little interest to their communications teams.
Manuals for information and services
You see, good government websites are manuals for citizens who want to do things - and it’s no criticism to say that communications teams are just not interested in manuals. They're interested in reputation management, image management, launches, interviews, events, campaigns, etc.
The findability of the 'pothole reporting service' simply does not align with their primary concerns.
Apart from 'About Us' pages or 'Director Bios' many communications teams are quite detached from the content and services on the websites they manage. On the rare occasions when their interests do align with web, it is for very specific reasons, e.g. Brexit, Covid.
When those issues pass, things go back to normal. That's why it's so important for those who manage web to make a point of getting close to - and spending time with - the business owners who produce the content that users want. It may not be sexy, but it's what the website is mainly about.
I referred to other aspects of the potential misalignment between web and communications in a previous blog post “Why web teams don't care about web traffic”.
A new home for web?
So where does web belong? There are no easy answers.
It started out in IT, because technology was so important back then. Over time it migrated to Marketing/Communications as tech was commodified and the justifiable need for better online image/message management emerged.
But web has not stood still.
It is much more than a communications channel - it is a service channel. In fact, most of web is now about service delivery ('what do you need?'), not communications ('look at what we are doing').
By way of example, the core skills of web (interaction design, content design, accessibility, etc.) are skills for creating and managing digital products and services - not managing communications.
Yet many communications teams don't know that they don't know how to manage a modern website - partly because they haven't hired the people who could tell them.
That's one reason for the disconnect described above. Such teams continue to manage web as if it was for communications, when in fact the majority of user engagement is for content and services the communications team probably knows nothing about.
Organisations that have tackled this issue seem to have converged on a model that establishes a 'digital support service' at a corporate level. Under this model, relevant services and skills are managed centrally and made available to all business units as needed, including communications.
(Image credit: 'Boring' Chris Murphy on Flickr.)
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