Analysis links website “personality” to follow-up actions

 
Third in a series of three posts looking forward to the 2013 Agency Web Review by reviewing highlights from a prior edition of the study.

As in 2004, the upcoming edition of the Agency Web Review will not only consider the rational elements of a missions website (clarity, functionality, information) but also the emotional side—its “personality”—and how that aligns with visitors’ responses and potentially influences follow-up activity.

From a list of 40 or so descriptive terms, respondents select the ones that they felt best describe each website.  Once data collection is complete, GMI analysts use factor analysis to boil those characteristics down to a smaller set of themes, or personality factors.  Then, they use regression analysis to measure how those themes correlate with the follow-through outcomes that agencies are looking for: revisiting the site, recommending it to peers and pursuing service opportunities.

In 2004 four out of the 10 personality factors correlated strongly with desired actions.  Web designers for the participating agencies learned about these factors and were able to draw on them in adapting their sites to encourage future missionaries to take the next step.  Those four factors are shown in this chart:

The degree of correlation varied depending on the follow-through action being studied.  For Intent to Recommend, the strongest link was to the “Creative” aspect of a site (a factor comprised of “Creative,” “Fresh,” “Visual” and “Non-Traditional”).  For overall website appeal, the same four factors emerged, but with “Energetic” (an absence of characteristics such as “Calm,” “Simple” and “Casual”) at the top of the list.  

How did designers use this information? Here are two ways: 

  1. Striking the right balance between identifying with who your audience is and who it aspires to be.  The presence of Energetic and Creative suggests that an agency should demonstrate that it understands the next generation of workers and is relevant to them.  This is the classic affinity principle—demonstrating that an agency is “for people like me.” Prospects are drawn to organizations that have and welcome high-energy people with a creative spirit.At the same time, the presence of Wise (“Humble,” “Experienced”) and Capable (including “Secure” and “Aware”)  suggests traits that future missionaries do not yet have—especially in terms of cross-cultural effectiveness.  Prospects desire to develop these qualities and hope that an agency will be able to draw them out.  Prospects look for signals that an agency knows what it is doing and can help new people get where they need to be.

    It is easy to miss the mark a bit one way or the other.  Too much creativity can be misinterpreted as an emphasis on style over substance.  Too much emphasis on experience and resources can be misread as close-mindedness or lack of need.  In short, prospects don’t want agencies that aspire to be “like them”—rather, they do want to be understood while being given something to aspire to become.

  2. Designers also need to understand what is not helpful.  In this case, six other website personality factors were not significantly linked to any of the key follow-through behaviors:  intention to revisit, refer or respondto opportunities.  Websites that were viewed as “Courageous,” “Concerned,” “Sharp” (incorporating “Confident” and “Smart”), “Thoughtful” or “Fun” likely did not generate the best possible response from visitors.(Note that positioning does not refer to the inauthentic donning of characteristics that are not part of an agency’s identity, but rather to expressing aspects of one’s true identity that are likely to resonate with candidates.)

Web designers usually know how to help make a website more usable or functional.  Some also have intuitive skills that enable agencies to strike the right notes in messaging and imagery. But for those who don’t—and even for those who do—message modeling can provide a well-defined target to shoot for and criteria to assess whether the messages are hitting their mark.  Such models are a standard feature of the Agency Web Review report.

Eight years after the first review, who knows how the personality characteristics may have changed?  New factors are likely to emerge in association with key outcomes.  To find out, be sure to register for the 2013 Agency Web Review.

 

Four rewards, four challenges in rebranding

 

 

 

 

A few days ago I participated in a panel discussion at the Evangelical Press Association conference here in Colorado.  Moderator Jon Hirst of Generous Mind was the moderator; other panelists included Keith Brock of The CSK Group design firm and Phil O’Day, who is less than two weeks away from the public launch of CAM International’s rebranding to Camino Global.

My fellow panelists offered some great ideas for the audience – and the audience did its share, too, with some great questions and comments.  Here are four rewards and four challenges of the rebranding process I’ll remember from the session:

Reward of Rebranding 1: When everyone buys in.  Keith told a story of working with a hotel chain on its rebranding process.  Several months later, while staying at one of the hotels, he asked a desk clerk about what the brand meant to him.  Keith was delighted to hear the clerk enthusiastically talk about the hotel’s emphasis on making memorable moments for guests – demonstrating a core objective identified in the rebranding process.

Reward of Rebranding 2: Better “elevator conversations.”  Phil mentioned how quickly people – including prospective missionaries – assess their interest in an organization.  Representatives of CAM International typically had to begin discussions by talking about the past (by answering “What does CAM stand for?”) rather than describing the agency’s vision for the future.  With the rebranding, reps can make much better use of their first 30 seconds.

Reward of Rebranding 3: Alignment between internal identity and external image.  Some people feel that emphasizing marketing communications is inappropriate for those doing God’s work.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Effective communication is about people receiving a message in the way that the sender intended.  Rebranding requires a commitment to knowing what your message is – and to understanding (and measuring) how audiences receive that message.  It’s not about flash and cool; rather, it’s about others sharing our understanding of ourselves.

Reward of Rebranding 4: While mission organizations do compete with one another for recruits, in the end they are working toward the same purposes and therefore often cooperate.  Phil mentioned that he spoke to several organizations that shared their experiences about rebranding: Crossworld, WorldVenture, Christar and others.  I also spoke to other organizations when GMI was first considering rebranding, and what they shared was very helpful.

Challenge of Rebranding 1: Considering what to do with valuable elements of the existing brand.  Keith mentioned this, which resonated with me.  A key GMI asset has always been the www.gmi.org website, which has always had strong search engine optimization due to links from many other mission sites.  GMI’s consideration of a name change revolved around options that would enable retention of the acronym.  In the end, we opted not to change the name, but instead to emphasize a new tagline that elevates research alongside mapping – and to feature gmi.org as a secondary logo.

Challenge of Rebranding 2: How – and how long – to engage in dialogue with those who oppose the change.  Phil mentioned that it is important to allow constituents to express their views and to let them know that they are being heard.  You can’t ignore or dismiss them.  (I know of a mission organization that fully reversed its brand change because the field staff refused to use it.)  However, at some point you have to agree to disagree and move on, working to sell the majority on the concept.

Challenge of Rebranding 3: How to address sub-brands.  One question came from someone who manages a sub-brand of a large organization that is phasing in a new brand.  Keith responded by talking about the importance of having an intentional strategy for how – and how much – to tie sub-brands together.  Depending on your needs and objectives, you may want much, little or no unifying elements across sub-brands.  He mentioned his work with Focus on the Family and its spinoff organization CitizenLink (formerly Focus on the Family Action).  Both organizations are tied to the same mission, but the original brand is functionally nurturing and the newer brand is functionally confrontational (my word, not Keith’s).  In Focus’ case, decreasing the perceived association between the two brands was useful for both.

Challenge of Rebranding 4: How to Communicate Effectively, not Extravagantly.  Getting the word out to constituents about the change is important.  However, non-profits, and especially mission organizations, run the risk of overdoing communications.  Most people understand that brands have value, but that value only ties indirectly to mission fulfillment.  I mentioned a conversation this week with a woman who supports a missionary through an organization that recently rebranded.  After receiving multiple letters and glossy brochures from the agency, she began to wonder about how well the administrative portion of her gifts were being spent.

If your mission agency is looking to rebrand, I recommend that you connect with Jon or Phil about their experiences (Jon helped direct HCJB’s rebranding to HCJB Global a few years ago); contact Keith about full-service strategy and creative; or contact GMI for ideas on researching your identity and image.

Meanwhile, let us know: What challenges and rewards have you experienced in rebranding?

 

Back to College – a week @biolau for #bmc2012

I’ve been blessed to assist several student mission conferences with evaluations and planning research.  But until last week, I’d never actually attended one in person.  Not as a student.  Not as an adult.

So, my impressions of the Biola Missions Conference 2012 come unjaded – but also with no basis for comparison.  Take them as you will.

Here’s what stood out to me:

  1. The amazing level of creativity and production values of the young adults.  I have often heard people talk about the sophistication of today’s young people in regard to media.  They have highly developed filters, they are tough to impress, etc.  But that’s about their reaction to content produced by others.  Last week the content that students created themselves was on display.  And I was impressed.
    Dance, drama, visual art, poetry, film, music, oratory, cuisine, fashion – creativity seemed to be everywhere, all the time – and always expressing a passion for God and for mission.It’s one thing to attend a professionally produced plenary session with creative stage lighting, choreographed dance numbers, moving testimonies, etc.  But upon leaving the assembly hall, I walked past sidewalk artists in the process of creating scripture-based chalk drawings, then past elaborately decorated booths to advocate for and educate about peoples in unreached lands.  I caught the aroma of African food in the air as I walked to the end of campus.  There, the line stretched around the building for Global Awareness, a series of interactive role plays where participants might find themselves in the midst of a Somalian hostage crisis or a Chinese house church.

    Now, wowing a guy who barely falls on the fringe of Gen X may be a low bar.  So, check out these examples of their work and tell me what you think.

    Biola is close by Hollywood, and I met at least two students who hope to shine their light in the entertainment industry after college.  That may have had something to do with the emphasis on art and production.  But I’m still amazed that the whole thing was pulled together in the spare time of people taking a full load of classes.

  2. A student-run event has its glitches – but it also has great educational value.  I encountered half a dozen bumps that would never have happened at a professionally run event, but each of them represented a lesson in project management that won’t soon be forgotten.  And the event staff were accessible and eager to address issues when they arose.  They don’t deserve a complaining spirit from me.So, I’ll mention only one incident, and that just to share the smile it brought.  During the Welcome Tea for mission agency reps, a student leader said, “For those of you staying on campus, I hope you remembered to bring bedding.”  Note for next year’s conference: consider including that detail in the pre-event info packet.  As it turned out, my student host (and I think many others) provided sheets and pillows for their missionary guests, generously trading their beds for four nights on the floor.
  3. Staying in the dorms is a bit of an adventure for a 40-something guy, what with students’ odd hours, having to climb over a bookshelf to get into the loft, and sharing a bathroom with 30 people.  Still, I would do it again in a heartbeat – and not just to save money on a hotel room – because several of my best conversations with students took place there.  Definitely a shot-in-the-arm to interact with talented, God-fearing men with big dreams and passion for the Kingdom.

If any Biola students or others considering long-term cross-cultural service are reading this post, I’d be honored if you would be willing to give your opinions a few times a year on mission-related issues.  Sign up for our Mission Research Panel here.

It’s also a great time for college students who want to apply their skills, passion and creativity in mission research for a few months to apply for a GMI internship.  Send your resume to info@gmi.org.

Looking forward to attending and speaking at Biola again next year!