For more than a decade, Brightspot has helped Special Olympics build its online presence. In addition to the organization’s core website, SpecialOlympics.org, Brightspot has provided valuable support to various initiatives aimed at building a more inclusive world. These projects range from powerful digital experiences around Special Olympics World Games to a rich collection of resources and best practices promoting inclusive health to a global campaign aimed at changing perspectives and spreading inclusion.
In 2019, Brightspot and Special Olympics collaborated on a project to rebrand and broaden the R-word initiative for Spread The Word: Inclusion. About a decade ago, a youth group involved with Special Olympics started a grassroots effort called Spread the Word to End the Word, and its purpose was to address the cycle of isolation that people with intellectual disabilities (ID) feel, particularly in schools. After 10 years and over a million pledges to eliminate the use of the R-word, the campaign decided to rebrand and turn its focus towards a positive action—spreading the word and idea of inclusion.
We recently spoke with Crystal Hudson, Director of Digital Fundraising and Strategy at Special Olympics, and she shared a few important lessons that came out of the successful launch of the new Spread The Word: Inclusion site.
1. Define your goals
If you’ve ever worked on launching a website or relaunching an existing website, you know that it takes a lot of time, consideration, and planning. Before you get started, consider the “why” and the goals for a rebrand. The Special Olympics team knew that to continue reaching their younger, primarily high school-aged audience, they needed to update the look and feel of the website and messaging. Their key objective or “why” was to reach this audience and get them to spread the positive message of inclusion to their communities. A website rebrand can be difficult, but centering the project around a main objective aligns everyone in a clear direction to bring the new vision to life.
2. Assemble the right team
Once you’ve determined the reason and the direction for the rebrand, it’s important to get buy-in from all stakeholders before beginning the project. This way, everyone who needs to be aligned on priorities can get on the same page before you start.
The Spread the Word project was a collaborative effort between Special Olympics, Best Buddies, and Brightspot, and the teams needed to work closely together, resulting in a very large team between the organizations. The team was made up of people from leadership teams, content creators, marketers, developers, and designers. Creating a collaborative, communicative team is key to project success.
3. Choose the best partner
Another key is realizing that your internal team may not have the bandwidth or the specific skill sets to get the entire job done. The Special Olympics team partnered with Brightspot for both the underlying CMS technology that powers the site and building out the new site framework.
If you decide you need to work with a technology partner, keep in mind that you’ll be working with this partner for at least a couple of months. Consider the features and benefits the technology provides, but also the people behind that technology that you’ll be communicating with throughout the project. Special Olympics and Brightspot had been working together on many projects prior to this launch, so there were existing established relationships, but it is important to find a vendor you can develop a good working relationship with.
Between Special Olympics, Best Buddies, and Brightspot, we were able to come together quickly to rebrand and launch the new site. The project took only 40 days from ideation to launch. With everyone fully committed and involved, along with the technology to make it possible, the website rebuild went live with astonishing speed.
4. Dive into your analytics
While you’re thinking about content migrations and the new website’s SEO and discoverability, review the existing site analytics. That way, data drives the decisions. Turning to the data will inspire smarter choices about which content to bring over to the new site and what to create from scratch. If you’ve been part of a rebrand, you know it can be an emotional process to remove content that a lot of hard work went into, but relying on the data will make the process easier.
Crystal’s team at Special Olympics felt this too. Most of the team had been with the movement since the beginning, so there was emotional attachment to some of the stories, pledges, and articles on the old site. They were able to look over the data—both collected survey data and Google Analytics—to decide on migrating the few articles that were still relevant and generating traffic while creating most content new and collecting fresh user-generated stories. They were also able to use the qualitative survey data to make decisions about the type of content for the new website.
In Google Analytics, Special Olympics looked towards the following:
- Which pages on your site have the most traffic and page views?
- How long are visitors spending on site?
- How are visitors arriving on the site?
- What pages are visitors converting on?
- What is the overall bounce rate and which pages have the highest bounce rate?
5. Know what KPIs determine success, and track them
We’re right back to analytics... By establishing the baseline data early in the process, you can better measure success after the rebrand. Your new site might look amazing, but the success of the rebrand is in the data. Revisit the baseline metrics and get back into the same analytics tools to measure performance on the new site.
In an ideal world, you’ll see an improvement in user time on site, a decrease in bounce rate, and better discoverability in search, leading to an increase in traffic. Analyze the data and insights regularly post-launch to get a big picture data set you can learn from.
We spoke with Crystal about a year after the launch of the new Spread The Word website, and she was happy to share their success story and what metrics they looked at to show that success. Website traffic from organic search, social media, and direct traffic all increased, which indicated success in the SEO and messaging efforts. Bounce rate decreased while page views and time on site increased.
They also looked at some non-KPI measurements of success, mainly how the functionalities of the site affected staff bandwidth. On the old site, pledges and user-generated stories would all publish at one time, so they spent many chaotic days driving pledges as they reviewed everything that was published, making sure it was appropriate and showing on the site properly. Since the new website is powered by Brightspot, they were able to set up workflows behind the scenes for new user-generated content coming in. The workflows allowed the team to quickly review content as it was submitted and choose what to publish, and the right people could focus on the right things without getting pulled into the process.
While a huge undertaking, a website rebrand doesn’t have to be intimidating for you and your team. Key takeaways from our experience with Special Olympics are: take time to develop your goal and rebranding plan, put together the right team which may include hiring a partner, and dive into the data to make smart decisions pre- and post-rebrand. Approach your project with this knowledge, and you’ll be launching a beautiful, new website in no time.