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I’ll be your archaeologist…

August 22, 2017 by Maria Ford

archaeology: the scientific study of historic or prehistoric peoples and their cultures by analysis of their artifacts, inscriptions, monuments, and other such remains, especially those that have been excavated.

When starting a new-client project, I often feel like an archaeologist. Sometimes it’s overwhelming but mostly, it’s fun. I’m always surprised by how much “lost” knowledge there is in organizations, and how surprising my discoveries are for the client – not just for me!

Very often, when I ask a new client for existing or past material, they think they don’t have any. Perhaps it’s a new team that doesn’t have much history with the organization. Or perhaps, it’s a case of “out of sight, out of mind”!

A couple of current projects got me thinking (and acting) like an archaeologist again. I thought it might be useful to others if I share some of the overlooked places I’ve found “lost” or forgotten company, marketing, and branding information and assets on behalf of these clients.

The Printer of Record

Although organizations often have no centralized depository for “Marketing” or “Branding” assets, the organization’s printer often does. This may include:

  • High-quality and all-important vectored versions of the visual identity (logo)
  • Copies of past and present brochures, flyers, direct mail pieces, stationery, etc.
  • Image assets – stock photos, personnel photos, etc. that have been used in marketing collateral

The Call Centre

As the part of the organization that speaks to customers most often, the call centre is often a treasure trove of useful information. Beyond customer records, they also likely have useful content, such as answers to frequently asked questions, client surveys, and more.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

We marketers love to get our hands on customer feedback! Even if I am going to be conducting my own customer survey or interviews, if data from past surveys exists, I want to dig into it. It provides great insight and helps focus our own efforts. In particular, I am on the hunt for trends and themes that emerge across numerous customers.

Similar to this, online reviews – an increasingly influential medium – can provide similar themes and trends, and help us to focus our work.

Web Logs and Web Analytics

A company’s website analytics are invaluable sources of hard data about the site’s performance, but can also give great insight into the people visiting the site. What keywords are those people searching for? What geographies do they hail from? What content do they look at most? What third-party sites are bringing them to this website? Those are just a few of the details we can gather.

Even sites that don’t have analytics software installed (yes, there are still many of these!) can yield useful information if we can log into the web host server and look around. Things we have found:

  • Lost and forgotten web pages
  • Lost and forgotten content hidden inside PDFs that are no longer linked
  • Forgotten microsites, also chock-full of information and content that can be updated and re-used

The Stacks

Remember how we used to call research libraries and archives “the stacks”? Many organizations have stacks, too. They typically come in the form of bookshelves or large metal filing cabinets in hallways, administration offices, closets, and even lunch rooms. Sometimes, they haven’t been touched in years – but start nosing around and you’ll find some amazing things:

  • Ancient brochures – perhaps some bearing historical photos that can be used in telling the organization’s story
  • Valuable but long-forgotten technical or business content – old user guides, company histories, etc.
  • Old business ledgers

Where else have YOU discovered valuable marketing, content or design assets hidden away in forgotten places?

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