Monday, August 19, 2013

Valley Forge Convention & Visitors Bureau: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Driving south on the New Jersey Turnpike in early August, we couldn’t help but notice a giant image of George Washington wearing stylish sunglasses: “Not your forefathers’  Valley Forge,” the billboard promised. It was paid for by the Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ltd., which promotes the region around George Washington’s 1777-78 winter headquarters as a destination for vacations and conventions. Established in 1963 by Montgomery County, the Bureau was privatized in 1999 and now has some 300 business members in southeastern Pennsylvania. Its About Us page is here.

The above-the-fold image on the About Us page is not captioned, and doesn’t shout “Valley Forge!” or “George Washington!” or even “Convention!” to us. A well-chosen collage of smaller images with more obvious meanings would convey the Bureau’s purpose more effectively.

Accessibility: B
The Staff Contacts page has a great list of contacts, whether you want to reach the organization’s visitor service liaison, book a hotel, or schedule a convention. We don’t often see Contact pages that are so well organized, easy to read, and thorough: well done!

We would have given Valley Forge an “A” in this section, except that this wondrous wealth of information is virtually hidden in the sidebar, under the uninformative heading “More About / Bureau Staff Contact.” It’s so rare to see a good contact page that many visitors to the site will assume the minimal information at the foot of the About Us page (mailing address, phone, fax, generic email) is all that’s available. Another link to the Staff Contacts page should appear at the foot of the page, in a sentence that explains what’s available there.

Products/Services and Personality: D
Our Commandment 1 of About Us pages is “Know thy audience.” Who is this About Us page aimed at? For visitors to the Valley Forge area or locals who want to support Bureau members, it offers no easy way to find the members of the Bureau -- not even a simple alphabetical list with website links or contact information.

For a local business considering membership, the page doesn’t give concrete information on the benefits of joining. Where, how, and when will it promote our business? Some quotes from past or present leaders and members would be much more enticing than the information that Montgomery County maintains fiduciary oversight through appointment of the agency’s board of directors.

Curiously, the pulldown menu under the Visitors heading on the homepage has a tab for gay-friendly. Now that pays off the promise of “not your forefathers’ Valley Forge.” The site’s About Us pages could benefit from a bit of the liveliness found there.

Business history (including relationships with the government) is important, but always keep in mind your particular audience: tell the story in a way that will make them want to use your product or join your organization.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.