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Creating a Project Website (Tip #3 in PI Toolbox)

iStock_000028750754SmallKeeping your stakeholders and the community informed of project status updates can be daunting; especially if you have several means of communicating with them:  i.e. social media, print material, agency website, etc. One great way to ensure consistent messaging while maintaining current real time information about the project to the greater community and stakeholders is to establish a project website.  This website can easily link to your agency site so that it’s easy to find.

In Tip # 3 of our Public Involvement Toolbox, I’m going to walk you through five misconceptions of this underestimated and valuable tool.  

Myth # 1 - Websites Are Expensive to Create. 

Nope - it doesn’t have to be expensive to create or maintain a project website.  There are several free Content Management Systems (CMS) available.  Some notable platforms include WordPress and Creating a project site doesn’t have to eat up your outreach budget.  For example:

  • Domain Name: - $15/year (Tip:  Choose a name that supports your project brand)
  • Hosting:  $10/month
  • CMS (WordPress/Wix):  Free!
  • Maintenance/Design:  TBD - You could utilize a consultant or rely on agency staff.  

Myth #2 - It’s Difficult to Maintain.

Many CMS programs are user-friendly with established templates you can customize to match your agency’s theme/identity.  They have easy-to-use features similar to Microsoft Word that can keep maintenance and updating a breeze. Scheduling one day a week to have a consultant or agency staff member make the necessary updates can also help mitigate costs.   

Myth #3 - Nobody Visits the Website.

Not necessarily! There are Google analytics available for you to track stakeholder engagement on the site.  You can extract data to see what they are looking at and for how long, allowing you to further customize content, see what’s working and what isn’t.  In early communication you generate regarding the project, encourage stakeholders to go to the project website for all information they might need:

  • Project Summary
  • Contact Info.
  • News/Press regarding project
  • Exhibits
  • Inquiries

Anything they would need to know is in one place and it will become standard practice for them to go there for information.

Myth #4 - We Don’t Have Enough Content.  

Yes you do!  Refer to resources such as your project scope or funding applications as content.  Your project manager or project consultant can use this to assist in generating a summary.  Include images of existing infrastructure, images from Google Earth and upload links to press releases or media reports.  By the time a project is funded and approved to move forward, there has already been extensive content created to support a project website.  Review City Council or Commission minutes for insight as well!

Myth #5 - We Can Just Maintain it on our Agency Website.

You can, but this can often be less effective.  Many agencies have limited resources and strict standards for use of their website.  There can be limitations with formatting and sharing the information to the extent that you can on a customized project website.  Information could get buried and lost to other agency initiatives available on the homepage.  A project website generates interest, and supports the project brand which by now is easily recognizable by stakeholders.

An added bonus - when finalizing your project, the project website is a great tool for reporting the successful project execution back to the project team and council members or commissioners.   

For information on our previous PI Tips, click below.

If you have input or other thoughts about this post, feel free to comment here or reach out to me via email, or linkedin.

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Topics: Transportation & Public Works, Public Involvement

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