For the next several weeks, we’ll be looking at the various touch points water utilities have to convey the value of water to customers. This week we are focusing on websites. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and studies suggest that even then you only have three seconds. Your website is your first impression and one of the most critical touch points when conveying the value of water to customers. What impression are you making? Looks matter, but above all else, information needs to be readily available and easy to use. Remember who the website is for and organize information in a way that makes sense to your audiences and not necessarily how they align on your organizational chart.
The website should be where all other customer touch points direct customers for more information. We understand that for many water utilities you don’t own your website. In most cases, water utilities own pages on the citywide site. You may not have jurisdiction over the website, but you can control content. Here are a few content strategies to use or share with communication staff to ensure that your site is making an excellent first impression with your customers.
Don’t Set It and Forget It
Your website is a living, breathing entity. Don’t treat it like a static message board. You want your customers to see a vibrant, active water utility when they visit the website. Update it regularly. Water utility communication guru, Melanie Goetz, recommends updating information weekly. This frequency of updates may work if you’re regularly producing content on social media that is relevant to the website. It could also just involve a quick scan of key contact information or the list of upcoming news and events. Be sure to update any minutes, agendas, events, or local news monthly.
While you should be directing customers to your website through all other checkpoints, don’t bog customers down with text-heavy information. Digital media gives you the opportunity to be more creative. Clean Water Services uses an interactive website to teach people about the water cycle. The City of Mansfield, Texas uses an online publishing tool to post publications such as the annual water quality report in a more visually engaging manner. Blogs and news stories on the website are perfect for diving deeper on specific topics. There are a number of opinions out there about the best blog length. SEO and Google searches prefer longer form content with the sweet spot between 1700-2700 words. Regardless of length, use graphics to break up information or infographics to break up information into digestible pieces. The City of Cleveland used an infographic to explain the reasons why drinking tap water is better than drinking bottled water.
What Impression is your Website Making?
Your website is an extension of your department and your staff. It’s available to your customers 24/7/365. Are you happy with the impression you’re making? Audit your website quarterly at a minimum. Ask friends, family, or stakeholders to help you. Do they feel the website is designed with them in mind? Is the information current? Can they find what they’re looking for in three clicks or less? As with most digital content, consistency is key. Social media is rented space. It belongs to someone else, and you’re ultimately at the mercy of the ever-changing algorithms. You own your website, so truly own it. The website is your tool to convey the value of water. Make sure the quality of information, in both presentation and relevance, demonstrates this value.