Like it or not, your Web presence plays an increasingly key role in your organization. Your members and prospects, board members, employees (current and future), volunteers, bankers, insurers, investors, vendors, and sponsors all look to your site for information, resources, and community. If they don't find it quickly, there are many other online venues for them to defect to.
So, where does your website "live” in your organization, and who should be in charge of it? What skill set is required? I've always joked that if your site resides in the Information Technology department, it runs the risk of having marvelous functionality but no message, and if it's placed in Marketing, it might contain stunning copy, but not work as well.I strongly believe that every business making a serious investment in its Web presence should appoint a Website Ambassador. This person should be part of the management team. They should have a complete understanding of your ongoing strategy, marketing, and customer service plans, etc. so that they can advise on how the Web can support, enhance, and grow those strategies.
Although I don't believe that this role requires direct programming skills, this person should have enough technical knowledge to stay abreast of developments in Web technology from a business perspective and to evaluate potential enhancements to your site recommended by your designer or others.
They should also be able to analyze the traffic information for your site or supervise someone who can (whether internal or external). It's important that they can formulate critical questions about the site's performance based on their knowledge of your strategies and desired outcomes, so that you can evaluate your return on investment at a sophisticated level and make appropriate changes to your content, social media, and marketing tactics.
This person should have regular contact with all of your association's various business areas and be available to listen to colleagues and customer feedback for future enhancements.
I also recommend that you put your website and social media presence on your management meeting agenda at least every quarter. At this time, the Website Ambassador can give an evaluation and suggest improvements, with possible costs, projected benefits, and appropriate priorities for each one.
Ideally, the Website Ambassador should report directly to your CEO or executive director. They should have sufficient authority within the organization to be a respected voice at the table and to be heard during budget and spending decision-making discussions.
Perhaps the Website Ambassador becomes an entirely new position for your association, or perhaps you already have the ideal person. Either way, the strategic importance of your website and social media presence demands that it's more than a junior role.
Philippa Gamse, CMC is a Web strategy expert.