How Three EXCEL Award Finalists Use Microsite Hubs to Serve and Bond With Their Audiences

It has been encouraging to see that news hubs—so popular during the pandemic—have continued to take center stage, with many focusing on DEI. The three finalists in the EXCEL Awards for Best Microsite present inspiring examples of hubs that offer information and resources to their audience and should inspire more loyalty and engagement.

During the pandemic, we saw many organizations act quickly to create coronavirus news hubs with free resources and articles. Almost every publisher I interviewed at that time said their hub has brought excellent engagement—and goodwill because most were paywall-free. I wrote at that time that “the success of these news hubs could provide a blueprint for future hubs around socially important and societal-impact topics.”

“When you have those moments, when people are intensely interested in your content for a very specific reason, everything feels changed,” Jeremy Gilbert said at the time. He is currently the Knight Chair for Digital Media Strategy at Northwestern University’s Medill School, but at that time was director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post.

“We need to think how we can make our news and information [continue to be] relevant, but especially how we can make people aware about the width and breadth of coverage we can do… and how can we bridge [new subscribers] from caring about the news in the time of the virus to caring about the news when things are going better.

“You need to think, ‘What is it about the relationship that felt important?’” Gilbert asked.

Here are some of the accomplishments of relationship-building microsites from the American Chemical Society (ACS), American Institute of Physics (AIP) and Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB).

Provide helpful guidelines. The ACS Inclusivity Style Guide “aims to help American Chemical Society staff and members communicate in ways that recognize and respect diversity in all its forms.” General guidelines include how to involve diverse people in the creative process, avoid labeling people by a characteristic, and asking people how they want to be described and respect that language. It also tells you when and how to mention age: Use “adults aged 55 to 60 years,” avoid “the middle-aged”; use “octogenarians, centenarians,” avoid “the elderly, aging dependents.” (I just saw a letter to The Washington Post complaining about their use of elderly for 65 and up.)

Be aware of what you ask for. This came up in our webinar on talent recruitment, when it was noted that some organizations were giving far too many requirements for certain positions, especially internships. The ACS Guide includes a section on Forms. “Ask for only what you need, consider your audience, disclose who has access, allow for multiple responses rather than a single choice, where applicable.” AGB’s site on Board Fundamentals: Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion begins with key questions for your Boards to consider: “How diverse is your board? What perspectives are missing from the table and how can the board be more inclusive? How are potential new board members identified?”

Provide resources. AGB provides an Inclusion Toolkit with multiple resources within that. There are FAQs, a podcast on Strategic Board Leadership, and articles galore such as When an Institution Is Named After a Slave-Owning Founding Father. ACS gives numerous tip sheets, practice exercises, a training video, and topics to come. One “additional topic under consideration” I like is “How to respond when you make a mistake.”

Talk about well-being. AIP’s #BlackInPhysics Week 2021 Essay Series focused on burnout, “a critical topic as Black physicists confront systemic racism both within and outside of academia.” “To strengthen community building, we’ve augmented our social programming, which includes a cooking class led by a Black mental health therapist who is also a chef and a virtual painting class led by the members of a Black-owned art studio.” It adds gravitas to an organization that cares about its audience like this. They commissioned a “collection of articles written by Black physicists that covers burnout from different perspectives… co-published by Physics Today and Physics World.” ACS advises “when and how to mention someone’s health” and “avoid using disability-related terms to describe something negative.”

Be careful with your images. ACS includes a section on diversity and inclusion in images—“stereotypes in images, captions, editing photos, how to choose images.” One of my biggest pet peeves with stock images is that whenever just hands are used in a photo or image, they are usually male and white.

Please also check out our own hub/site titled SIIA’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Comments are closed.