You need 360 degree feedback when managing communications projects.

I’ve been a PR flack for three decades.* I know this work inside and out, and I’m even getting up to speed when it comes to some of the newer communications technologies being embraced by our field (because they are being embraced by our stakeholders).

But I have to admit that sometimes I realize during a communications campaign that the most basic communications — that with the internal stakeholders — has been insufficiently nurtured.

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It’s been interesting, as a relative techno-newbie, to work on the Third Sector New England Vlog Project with people like Steve Garfield, Deb Finn and Bethany Ramirez, folks who are in the thick of the Web and Web 2.0 (maybe 3.0!) revolution. It can be intimidating, as a person who cut her teeth in the print, pre-computer design and production days, to help to conceptualize a project that requires me to think through pre-production, “talent” prep, final production and distribution for a completely different mode information sharing.

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CSS and e-Newsletters

August 14, 2008

We recently had some lovely e-Newsletter templates developed for us for our newest mailing lists. Imagine our dismay, then, to learn that Gmail strips CSS from incoming emails, rendering templates near useless.

But how much does this matter? Well… that’s what we’d like to find out. It feels like more and more people are subscribing to professional e-Newsletters with personal addresses rather than work addresses, to avoid having to unsubscribe and resubscribe between jobs. I know of several people who have created secondary personal email accounts just for subscriptions.

Our email client in the office reads the templates just fine. But we don’t know about other office-environment email clients, or how many readers are using personal accounts. Are our readers seeing what we see? Is it worth developing specific templates for our e-Newsletters, especially in the wake of the upcoming redesign?

How do you subscribe to e-Newsletters? What client do you use to read them? Do you think they look good, or that something’s missing?

When the TSNE website was last redesigned, staff looked at other nonprofit websites to get a sense of whether or not they were using smart quotes in web text. The prevailing trend seemed to be that smart quotes were common, and a choice to use smart quotes on the new site was made.

However, it turned out to be more time-consuming than intended. When under deadline, having to go through and change each individual quote and apostrophe on top of everything else was a headache.

But it has been improving over recent months. While no CMS can handle direct pasting of MS Word documents as well as it claims, it does seem to be a focus of improvement for many vendors. Because let’s face it — we all paste from Word whenever we can. Having formatting – including smart quotes – carry over cleanly is highly desirable.

So now we’re putting together thoughts for the next redesign, and it’s time to revisit the topic of smart quotes. Do we still want to use them on our website? Are other sites still using them? Will they become easier to use as CMSes work to integrate MS Word documents more cleanly?

A big question – for one of our web staff, anyway – is whether readers notice smart quotes/lack thereof, and if so, what do they think of them. Without going to look at any websites, what would you say the standard is? After going to look at your favorite websites, did your memory hold up?

Other thoughts?

Help us name this blog!

June 27, 2008

Third Sector New England Strategic Communications Blog, while accurate, is somewhat cumbersome. Do you have any ideas for what we can rename this blog?

Share your suggestions, and if we choose yours, win a prize!1

1. A choice between Bridging the Class Divide by Linda Stout, or a $20 gift certificate to Equal Exchange

Using Google Analytics?

June 26, 2008

Google Analytics now offers benchmarking statistics. Google looks at the data to determine which category it belongs in, and then removes any identifying information so that your data is anonymous when it goes into the benchmarking aggregate.

However, “for sites of a similar size, a category of industry verticals can be chosen when there is a sufficient number of accounts in that category.” Which means in order to compare your statistics to an appropriate category, there have to be enough organizations signed up.

So if you’re already using Google Analytics, sign up! (Especially any nonprofit capacity building organizations out there…) Hopefully they’re not too far off from being able to flesh out a nonprofit vertical – you could be the last organization they need to add a category.

(For now, categories under “Society” hold the most promise.)

We recently learned that there was specific EOE language – in addition to what we already had with our job postings – that we were required to place on our website to remain compliant with a funder’s guidelines. This set us to thinking about what other necessary or important things we might be missing.

This led us to discover that our directions page didn’t mention anything about building accessibility. We are now rewriting our directions to include information for those who have restricted physical abilities.

We also realized that our privacy policy didn’t migrate over in the last website transition, and are working to put it back in.

What other content do you think is necessary for a website, that might be overlooked?