For anyone in public relations, communications or marketing audience engagement is the lifeblood of your campaigns, the modern-day Holy Grail. Without engaging your audience in a meaningful way the brand or brands you represent will potentially lose profile and market share.
Nowadays audience engagement can take on many forms, but as is increasingly the trend, a large part of that engagement now takes place in a digital and mobile environment. If you are working in PR, marketing and communications, social networking, responsive websites and innovative apps are generally accepted as part of your toolbox. What you need to worry about is whether or not you are using them to best effect.
There are a mind-boggling array of ways to interact with your audience, from traditional news stories and features, online petitions or surveys to Thunder-Clap campaigns, Tweet-ins and securing likes and shares on a brand’s Facebook page. Your audience can and probably will interact with your campaign from a computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet.
Increasingly we are living and working in a mobile connected society. According to Google 62% of us own a smartphone in the UK and 68% of smartphone users go online to research product information. So, if we are talking about audience reach, you need to be confident that your communications campaigns can reach all of the audience, how and wherever they want to access your information.
Why is web accessibility so important?
Your website is your single most important communications and marketing tool and it’s vitally important that it works hard for you. Whether you are in-house at a business-to-business or a business-to-consumer organisation or working in a PR agency, your website needs to be accessible to all your customers, employees and your talent pool.
Did you know that around 12 million people in the UK are considered to have a disability? Or that around 15-20% of the population has dyslexia? On those numbers alone there is strong business case for web accessibility and inclusion, but as few as 14% of websites are actually accessible to diverse audiences and a study of FTSE 100 company websites revealed that only around 75% are accessible.
Most brands invest a lot of time and money into understanding consumer behaviours and preferences; understanding how, where and when they want and need to interact with you in a digital environment must also be considered. If you are keen to reach the widest possible audience with your campaigns (and why wouldn’t you be) you also need to consider overcoming some of the barriers in your website that prevent people from accessing your information – whether it’s a news article, blog, survey or your latest research findings.
What makes a website inaccessible?
There are lots of different things that can impact on the accessibility of your website from the overall site design (colour palette, use of images, media and font styles) to the use of language – the average reading age in the UK is 9 and at least 8% of the UK have English as a second language.
If a website visitor is blind or has a visual impairment and is using a screen reader device to navigate the web they will find that web copy or images that aren’t properly labeled (alt text) difficult to understand, the computer can only read out what it “sees”. Incidentally, the correct labeling of pages, content and images can boost your SEO rankings – Google is ultimately a computer and for all intents and purposes is “blind” and only sees the information that you have labelled.
You may have a selection of videos that do not include captions for deaf people. Or your brand font might not be easy to read – and for many people with dyslexia they prefer to read with the ‘Dyslexie font’ which changes the shape of letters to make them easier to tell apart. Each of us has an optimal colour combination for reading – I prefer black text on a yellow background. If a website does not let me change the colour contrast settings I will probably give up on it fairly quickly. These barriers are what makes a website inaccessible to thousands and thousands of people they could be preventing your audience from engaging with you or your campaigns.
The CIPR recently partnered with Recite Me and has implemented our accessibility software on this website as part of it’s ongoing commitment on diversity and inclusion. Please do take a moment to explore the toolbar, you might just find the perfect combination of settings for navigating your way around this site or having it read out to you via our voiceover tool or translated into one of 52 different languages.
Making your website more accessible to diverse audiences is not only the right thing to do, it widens your reach and takes your campaigns that extra bit further.