Outreach - Using the Internet
This powerful and rapidly expanding medium of communication has many advantages for transmitting messages:
- Its global reach can be easily tracked.
- Costs per person reached can be very low.
- It offers the possibility of interacting with audiences and learning more about them (through on-line questionnaires, forums and e-mail).
- Messages can be quickly changed and adapted to keep campaigns fresh and interesting.
Content for Effective IP web sites
The Internet's increasing importance for IP communications strategies was highlighted in 1999 when WIPOs Standing Committee on Information Technologies (SCIT), adopted a set of "Recommended Minimum Contents for Intellectual Property Offices' Web Sites". The box below summarizes the main points of these recommendations.
Approximately 45 percent of WIPO Member States have a website for their national IP office(s). Within these websites, there tends to be more information for industrial property services than for copyright. Apart from the SCIT guidelines, the following contents, already employed by many national IP office websites, help to guide users to the information they need:
Glossary of terms
Lists of IP professionals or associations
Information sessions/seminars, competitions, IP-related events)
The Internet is an important point of distribution for outreach material. Placing campaign materials such as publications and posters in downloadable PDF format will increase their reach. Videos and public service announcements can also be streamed from a website where they will reach a wider audience.
To be effective, websites must present information in a clear and attractive way. Internet users tend not to waste time trying to access information in sites that are too slow or confusing to navigate. The simple design tips highlighted below can make site navigation easier and more effective.
Design tips for effective websites:
- Favor simple, clean designs. Remember that the main purpose of the site is to communicate specific information and therefore this information must be easy to read. Try to avoid dark backgrounds and pages that take too long to download (due to heavy images and code).
- Make site navigation simple. Consider that most people will not spend hours searching a website to find what they need. Make it easy for users to navigate the site by using clear menus providing direct access to sections that interest different parties. For example, a Patents section that is separate from a Trademarks section. Some national IP offices have even divided their websites according to the specific needs of their different audiences, providing separate sections for lawyers, SMEs, kids, etc.
- Keep text short and crisp. Avoid burdening people with heavy text which is hard to read on the screen and/or difficult to print. Use some of the writing tips in the Publications and other Print Materials section to keep visitors interested in the content of the website.
- Use "Flash" sparingly. Keep in mind that not everyone has top computer equipment and speedy Internet connections. Consider using Flash only in limited parts of the website and/or provide a simpler HTML option to accommodate visitors without plug-ins and high-speed connections. Also keep in mind that updating Flash content is more difficult than updating HTML content.
Which leads us to a most important point: update, update, update! The more new information there is on a website, the more people will have an incentive to return for another visit. Also, it is important to make sure that all legal information is up-to-date to avoid problems with misinformed clients who relied on information from a poorly updated website.
Having a wonderfully designed website full of useful information will make little difference in a communications strategy unless the web site is properly promoted. The first step in promoting a website is to include its URL address in all promotion materials including publications, posters, press releases, business cards, letterhead, etc.
Another efficient way of promoting a website is to contact other national, regional and international websites dealing with IP to inform them about the new site and request that they include its URL in their list of "related links". If the new site has particularly strong information aimed at a specific group (say, SMEs), it may be wise to consider extending these contacts to websites that also target that group with different, complimentary information.
Creation of Customer Lists
Providing site visitors with the option of disclosing their e-mail address in order to be kept informed on news about the organization, is an easy and efficient way of building a list of contacts of people who are interested in the organization. Such lists can help in the promotion of future IP outreach campaigns to people who will have an interest in them.
Visitors to the site will be more willing to sign up for updates when they know exactly what kind of information to expect these updates to contain. Furthermore, in creating several update lists for specific content, it is possible to divide site visitors according to their different interests in IP. For example, one could decide to establish different lists for people interested in: press releases, changes in legislation, new editions of your periodical publication(s), updates related to a specific subject area (say patents), etc.