ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
March 10, 2010

Mark Time: Try a Chronological Structure


The work I’m doing on a client’s new Web site has me thinking about navigational structure.
Whether you’re organizing a Web site or a magazine article, a museum exhibit or your family’s letters and memorabilia, there are only five ways to structure information. Richard Saul Wurman, author of Information Architects, uses the acronym LATCH to define them:

  • Location
  • Alphabet
  • Time
  • Category
  • Hierarchy

For your Web site’s structure to work, each navigational component should fit one of these approaches.

Take time.

Years ago, one of my colleagues came up with a great idea for a newsletter for pregnant women based on chronological structure: Distribution would be based on subscribers’ due dates.

Each month, subscribers would get an issue telling them what to expect and do during that month of their own pregnancy. Best of all, as publisher, you’d produce just nine issues of the newsletter, cycling subscribers through the issues instead of issues through subscribers.

Now Parenting.com is going my colleague one better with its week-by-week Pregnancy Planner and daily Babygram e-zine, both tied to exactly what’s going on with your body or fetus based on your due date.

Of course, Parenting.com’s entire Web site is organized chronologically: fertility, pregnancy, baby, toddler, child, mom. (If I were organizing this site, I’d put recipes, activities, gear and community — four categorical buttons — into a separate navigation bar, perhaps on the right side of the page. Because some of these things just don’t belong.)

Does your organization’s business suggest a chronological structure? If so, consider basing your navigation on time.

And if you’re organizing chronologically, why not make your piece a timeline?

Caveat: Make sure you’re not organizing by time when your readers are thinking in categories. Most blog archives are organized chronologically. Are your visitors more interested in your content on, say, organizing information, or do they really want to know what you were thinking on Feb. 23, 2010? If the former, you might want to consider a separate categorical index for your postings.

Ditto newsrooms.

Reach Readers Online
Want more tips for getting the word out on the Web? If so, please join me at PRSA’s March 25 teleseminar, “Writing for Social Media.” You’ll learn how to:

  • Use the 70-20-10 rule for engaging your followers, plus other tips for making sure your status updates are welcome guests, not intrusive pests.
  • Pass the “who cares?” test and four other techniques for becoming a resource, not a bore, on social media.
  • Get retweeted. Five steps for expanding your influence and reach on Twitter.
  • Tweet like the FBI. Write dramatic, compelling status updates that draw followers and get clicks
  • Make your posts personable. There’s a reason they call it “social” media
  • Tweak your tweets. Get your message across in 140 characters or less. Plus, learn how to make140 characters go further — and when you must come in under the character limit

By Ann Wylie, president, Wylie Communications. Ann works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. She travels from Hollywood to Helsinki, presenting writing workshops that help communicators at such organizations as NASA, AT&T and H&R Block polish their skills and find new inspiration for their work. For PRSA, she presents programs like “Writing That Sells — Products, Services and Ideas” in on-site sessions across the country. Ann is the author of more than a dozen learning tools, including RevUpReadership.com, a toolbox for writers. In addition to writing and editing, Ann helps organizations launch or revitalize their Web sites and publications. She has served as a public relations professional in an agency, corporate communicator for Hallmark Cards, editor of an executive magazine and consultant in her own firm. Her work has earned more than 60 communication awards, including two IABC Gold Quills. Get a free subscription to her Writing Tips e-zine.

Join Ann for her teleseminar, “Writing for Social Media: How to Write Blog Postings, Tweets and Other Status Updates.”

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