WEBSITE BASICS -- Obtaining Content for the Site
Information, or the lack thereof . . .
We received the following email:
|I would like to make a suggestion for a non-technical topic: how to effectively get information from the church members for the website. Our site has been up since April and so far nobody, not even the pastor, has given me information to put up on it.
In my best Far Eastern accent, “Well Grasshopper, getting information onto a website is like rolling snow into a snowball.” With all apologies to Kung Fu fans and actors, I wish I had a simple and profound answer that would provide enlightenment, but my analogy isn’t that far from the truth. More on that at the end of this article.
Seriously, I would love to be able to sit at my computer and just get a steady stream of phone calls and emails informing me of current information for the website. Unfortunately, this isn’t reality for most (all?) webmasters. It seems like we pour our hearts into the site as a labor of love (especially for us volunteer types) and then we can’t even get information from the people we are trying to help. It can be very frustrating.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Let’s quickly look at some of them as well as some suggestions for handling the situations.
1. People don’t realize what the website can do for the organization. They see it as something else they have to do, not something that can benefit the organization. Many times they do not realize that the website can be a tool to reach the unchurched as well. It’s just another thing to do; they have to email the webmaster and ask for something to be added to the website. And that goofy webmaster might ask them to do something else, so they’ll just skip the whole thing.
Possible solution: Make submitting information as easy as possible. Make sure people have your email and phone number. Don’t ask for a lot of stuff when they submit information. Say thanks and go with it. Also make sure they can submit information to the church office and have the church secretary forward it to you.
2. It’s hard to create something from nothing. When a church is just establishing a website, the webmaster naturally wants to get information from all the ministry leaders to put on the site. However, it’s kind of difficult to for the ministry leaders to grasp what you are looking for. Lots of details? A brief overview? Or what? So it’s just easier to skip the whole thing.
Possible solution: It’s much easier to edit something than it is to create something. So write up what you think the page should say about their ministry and give it to them for editing. They may make minor changes, they may re-do the whole thing, but it doesn’t really matter, you got what you wanted--information.
3. They mean well, but they forget. We all have a lot to do, and sometimes we just forget.
Possible solution: Gentle, friendly, positive reminders do wonders. It takes a while to get people to start thinking about the website and getting information on it. Part of the process of getting people to think about the website is reminding people about putting information on the website. Don’t remind people that they forgot (that’s too negative), just kindly asking them to send you the information so you can get it out there. Always try to use a positive tense instead of a negative tense (avoid don’t, never, no, etc…). Eventually, the website will be part of the process of getting announcements out.
4. There’s information out there, I just can’t seem to get it. You know there is stuff happening in the church. After all, there are announcements in the bulletin and newsletter, but you can’t seem to get the information on the website.
Possible solution: Part of being a webmaster is being an information hound and finding the info. Tap into other resources (see the second bullet below), take the announcements home from the bulletin, be proactive and call people, etc. Yes, it’s work, but usually that’s what it takes.
Here are some other miscellaneous suggestions that might be helpful.
- Be wary of items that require lots of edits to keep current. Some items on the website are just more hassle than they are worth. If something requires weekly updates and you can’t get the information, then don’t mess with it. Maybe just post the office phone number where they can get more information. One example can be the church bulletin. It can be a major effort to put that online each week (depending on how you are doing it) and if you can’t get the information before you get to church for services, it just might be more hassle than it’s worth. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Develop a good relationship with the secretary and newsletter editor. Try to develop a good working relationship with the church secretary and newsletter editor and get information from them. Remember that they have a lot on their plates, too (see the next bullet), so try not to nag, but help them remember to send appropriate information on to you. Never tell them they are sending you stuff you don’t need (unless it’s lots of work for them); it is better to just hit the delete key and keep the information coming.
- Scratch my back… Maybe you could help the secretary and newsletter editor with something. By offering to help them with something, maybe they will remember you and the website next time something comes across their desk. Certainly, you would like to put the newsletter and appropriate announcements from the bulletin on the website, and if you can get the stuff prior to it being published, it’s that much better for you.
- Develop an email list. Develop an email list for your website (opt-in only!!!!) and use it to send a monthly message about the website. This will start to develop traffic and awareness to your site as well.
Back to our Analogy
Building a website is like rolling snow into a snowball. It starts slowly and you don’t make much progress. It’s easy to get discouraged. But then it starts to grow and grow and pretty soon you’ve got a monster on your hands. Then you will be recruiting for help on the site cause you can’t do it all yourself—and that’s a good thing!