Many marketing and communications professionals find themselves spending too much time filling out nomination forms for various awards during the first few weeks of each year. During the last two weeks, I submitted nine entries for the Greater St. Louis Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, in the National President’s Marketing Awards, a marketing and communications contest held by the National Council of the BSA.
A few years ago, a colleague moved to the Sam Houston Area Council and was responsible for submitting the awards. He asked me to share a few of my submissions, since we won several awards during the previous years.
The Sam Houston Area Council won an award in every category that year.
So, as the Scout Oath states, “…to help other people at all times…” I’d like to share my entries here during the next few days. (Plus, I’ll remember where to look for the 2011 information when filling out the forms for 2012). Plus, the steps of stating objectives, reviewing planning, assessing impact and reflecting on lessons learned is a valuable process when looking back on initiatives and planning future projects.
Here’s our submission for the council’s website.
A member of the council’s marketing committee stated at the start of 2011, “No matter what evolves in social media and other digital channels, an organization’s website must be the core or foundation that all other communications are built on or flow back toward.”
With that as a vision, the council began a collaborative process where volunteers and staff members would work together to create and maintain content on the website. The website is the primary repository for all information on council programs and activities. All other communication channels—printed newsletters, electronic newsletters and social media—provide links to website pages where additional information can be found and where conversions or transactions can take place.
The website was launched in 2010 on the Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 platform. The software allows for multiple authors to create or edit text and images. The content is submitted for an approval process before pages are posted on the site.
The Marketing and Communications Department publishes a monthly Communications Memo to all staff and Communications Chairmen in each of the council’s 15 districts. The memo contains a checklist of programs, events and other information that districts should have on websites.
The memo also contains a listing of council programs, training courses and events with hyperlinks to the website where the information can be found. This helps staff and district volunteers eliminate duplication of effort in creating or updating content.
A “stoplight” chart was developed to track how district information was being created, updated or deleted. (Red boxes indicated there was no information on the site about a particular event; yellow boxes indicated there was some information, but it was incomplete; green boxes indicated the information was complete and accurate.) The chart was distributed to all staff managers so they could help districts improve content on websites.
The council’s geographic territory covers the eastern half of Missouri and 10 counties in southern Illinois. This prohibited face-to-face training on the website for volunteers. Monthly webinars were conducted to train volunteers to be website authors. Additional webinars were scheduled for advanced training.
Analytics showed the website is meeting the demand for information and other content from visitors. It also showed that visitors are able to quickly and efficiently find information they are seeking. They also are spending additional time looking at related pages and information.
Here are the 2011 analytics with 2010 data in parentheses (The last six months of 2010 analytics were analyzed as the new site was launched in June). The analytics show positive trends in the number of visitors, page views and time spent on the site.
Visits: 247,463 (120,094)
Unique Visits: 116,692 (56,117)
Page Views: 1,056,559 (582,013)
Pages per visit: 4.27 (4.85)
Average time on site: 00:03:21 (00:3:49)
Perhaps the most convincing analytic is the site’s bounce rate. (The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who visited a single page or executed a single-click task.) Most website analysts believe that a bounce rate under 60 percent is acceptable and anything under 40 percent is outstanding. The council’s website was 35 percent in 2011, up from 32 percent during the final six months of 2010. (We attribute this to visitors taking more time to experience the new site.)
Staff leadership continues to play an important role in marketing and communications. District executives may be able to delegate more of their communications responsibilities on the website to volunteers. But they must select motivated and competent volunteers to assist them. Then, they must continually collaborate and communicate in order to publish accurate and updated content.
Website analytics reports are being distributed on a quarterly basis to district communications chairmen. We hope this will affirm good efforts and motivate volunteers and staff to promote the website as the council’s primary source for all program information.