For those of you unfamiliar with our original website and service, the Bang the Table website was a portal that contained numerous community engagement projects being hosted for different organisations. When we set it up we viewed this as a neutral space where our clients could get the views of the community. The banner of each page was ours and out client’s logo showed below.
The pages looked something like this:
This model worked pretty well and I should emphasise that we will continue to allow clients who still want to use our logo in the banner to emphasise the independence of the site, or who want to be at http://bangthetable.com/projects to continue to have that service.
But we are changing things.
About 18 months ago we were asked by a client to rebrand a site with their own web banner and their own URL. The site would still be clearly moderated by our independent moderators and would also be hosted by us. This yielded great results. So much so in fact that rebranded sites became our standard offering with fewer and fewer clients opting to use the old Bang the Table website.
In the last month we have taken 2 more steps. Firstly we have made http://bangthetable.com a corporate site where people can get information about our services as well as accessing all our consultations (rebranded and otherwise) and secondly we have revamped our pricing offer to encourage clients to adopt rebranded sites. In effect we have made rebranding a free service.
We don’t take decisions like this lightly – clearly a wrong call would have serious consequences for our business but let’s look at why we feel rebranded sites are a better and more effective offering.
Firstly, rebranded sites look better. Here is a shot from Logan City’s new rebranded forum:
Secondly, it is immediately clear to the visitor that this is a site for Logan City – any ambiguity about the relationship between the Council and the owner of the website is removed. The fact that the URL is no longer Bangthetable.com but in this case is http://haveyoursaylogancity.com.au is also helpful. The address tells the user exactly what the site is for.
We are transparent about our presence as hosts and moderators of all sites through use of our logo at the bottom of each site and also explicit messages in the sign up process outlining our involvement.
We find that the transition from the user clicking a link on the Client’s own website to this site is also less confusing – the design theme remains consistent and the impression of the user is not one of having left the client’s site.
Rebranded sites have the added advantage of offering clients a permanent presence for their online and offline community engagement projects and not just when forums happen to be live. Have a look at Port Phillip Council’s community engagement hub.
Quantative evidence is less easy. We have run lots of rebranded sites (67 at last count) and even more consultations on the Bang the Table website. Because all projects are different it would be simplistic to simply do an activity comparison. Having said that there is no doubt in my mind that we get a stronger response from the rebranded sites. Whether this is due to community reaction to the site or clients taking more pride in the product and promoting it better is difficult to say but what we can say is that branded sites deliver better engagement outcomes.
I can’t resist providing a simplistic example (simplistic because I have to acknowledge there could be many reasons for the better results other than the site itself).
The Blue Mountains City Council ran 8 projects on the old Bang the Table website yielding 225 comments from the community at an average of 28 per consultation. They moved over to a rebranded site at http://bluemountainshaveyoursay.com.au in April 2010. Since then 5 projects (2 of which are still running) have yielded 281 comments at an average of 56 per project. Double.
I frequently point out that online consultation is not just about comments but that visitor numbers (people attending your online dropin session) are equally important. We are seeing evidence of a corresponding rise in visitors too.
Our thinking is that there is sufficient evidence of an improved community response to rebranded websites for us to want our clients to take this approach. That is why in our new pricing there is no differential between the rebranded and the non rebranded product. Our company mission is getting more people involved in decision making in their communities, this approach fits that mission so for us it is a no-brainer.
Photo credit: Jackie
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