On the Web, communicators must first and foremost help those who want to be helped, rather than trying to reach brand new audiences.
I've seen some powerful ads about drug use on UK television recently. They don't pull any punches. At the end they advise you to go to a website. Do you know what that website is called? No, not "drug-abuse.co.uk". The website is called talktofrank.com. Who is Frank?
90,500 people in the UK used Google to search for "drug abuse" in October 2009. 33,100 searched for "drug testing." 22,200 searched for "drug treatment." 18,100 searched for "drug rehab." 14,800 searched for "drug free." 6,600 searched for "drug awareness."
In October 2009 over 200,000 people searched for help by using "drug" in their search terms. There were also a huge amount of searches for words like "cocaine" (800,000 in October) and "cannabis" (800,000 in October). The "Talk to Frank" phrase was searched for by 60,000 people which, considering the extensive TV advertising, is not very impressive. The talktofrank website does do very well for a lot of the search terms, so at least it has a quality search optimization strategy.
However, the talktofrank website and campaign reflect classic old school communications and marketing. First and foremost it is a campaign. It is about being cool and getting attention. It feels that it would be boring to call a website "cocaine.co.uk".
The whole psychology of old school pre-Web communications and marketing is about telling you something you don't currently know or getting you to do something you don't really want to do. The marketer and the communicator set out with the aim of achieving the organization's objectives, not yours.
Government says that drugs are a problem. Government comes up with a policy. Government hires an advertising agency to promote that policy. Advertising agency creates a campaign and campaign website. Campaign does well. Budget is exhausted. Campaign ends. Project complete. And another website falls into decline.
The Web is where you give attention, not get it. People on the Web are already engaged. Someone who wants to buy a Ford Mondeo does not accidentally type "drug rehab" into a search engine.
There are millions of people out there who need help with a drug problem, and they are actively searching for help. The Web communicator must be absolutely focused on those who want answers. They must ensure that those who want answers actually get them.
This is much more boring work than planning and launching a campaign or redesign. It's about continuous improvement of a website based on the testing of top tasks with real people. It's about grinding it out by testing a link with 10 or 100 variations of a phrase.
Think about it. There are lots of people on our website right now whose attention we already have. Will they leave satisfied? There are many more searching for things that we have. They don't need to be convinced. They are already on a journey to complete a task that we can help them complete. Let's help them be successful. It's a massive opportunity.