One of the most effective means of promoting mediation is over the internet. Why do I say this? Because on the internet information remains stored over extensive periods of time, whereas by using other means of promotion (newspapers, television, radio) information wears off once it is is aired. The immediate impact of the information aired by these means is greater but it wears off once the information is aired. The effectiveness of promoting mediation over the internet is undoubtable. A well constructed website, promoted and optimized accordingly may bring remarkable results in promoting this new profession. It is for this reason that I consider that each mediation centre must have a presentation website.
Creating a website for displaying relevant materials, though impeccable from a graphic and informational point of view, does not suffice. The information hosted on this website addresses a target audience and this target audience does not have access to the website unless certain procedures and regulations of internet promotion are observed.
The site must have a title that is significant for the field for which it is constructed as well as a number of keywords which characterize at best the target audience of the website. Any mediation website must include keywords such as: “mediation”, “mediator”, “litigation”, “conflict”, “amicable” etc. The title and keywords are essential to the relevance in the search engines.
The search engines(Google, Yahoo etc) are the main source of visitors for the sites. Internet publicity is paid, nevertheless most of the visitors are provided by the search engines. These engines verify the relevance of the websites mainly based on their title, keywords and content.
The manual registering in the web directories and the search engines is a demanding operation which should not be underestimated. The results will appear in time but they will be remarkable.
The mutual link exchanges are also effective in publicity. This exchange represents a partnership between two websites by which each site recommends to its own visitors to visit a related website. This means of promotion is only effective when the site is part of the same interest field as the related site(for example, they are both in the field of mediation or in a similar field). It is not recommended that many link exchanges be made for one site as some search engines downclass the websites which have too many links displayed on the first page. Also it is not recommended that link exchanges be made with websites that are not representative for the search engines as this does not result in any kind of benefits. The banner exchange is guided by the same rules with the observation that a large number of banners may affect the loading speed of the page.
A self respecting website also has a discussion forum. Through it one can get in contact with the visitors of the website and their expectations of the website can be better known. Thus a special relationship with the site visitors is created. The promptness and competence of the answers given within the forum for the problems identified by its members are those which will determine whether the respective forum is appreciated by the target audience. The forum host must be a competent person, constantly up to date with the latest news in the field and sufficiently well informed in order to answer the addressed requests. He/she must possess all the qualities of a true mediator. The forum must be very closely supervised so that no messages which are not related to its content should get posted on it, otherwise its image might be prejudiced.
You will frequently receive information and ideas from the forum members, which deserve to be paid attention to. They will also signal mistakes or errors which appear on the site. The main quality of the host or hosts must be promptness. In this way one shows those on the forum how involved one is.
One must also expect critical messages from the forum members but their presence is inevitable. Sometimes criticism can be constructive. The most disturbing problem of a discussion forum is the “spam” messages. These messages are automatically generated by robots especially designed to promote products or services which are not in any way related to the discussion forum. The only effective solution in fighting them is the manual removal of such messages. There are special programs for protection against unwanted “spam” messages but their effectiveness is questionable. On the forum you will also meet persons who use an offensive language. In their case, if verbal warning does not suffice, banning is the only solution. This can be done either by removing the user or by banning the I.P. from which the messages have been sent if the erased user registers under a different name.
The Page Rank of a website is given by all the previously enumerated criteria as well as by the site “content”. The sites with a more complete content have a higher page rank. Its value is comprised between 0 and 10. The increase of the value is a long term operation and it involves special labor. The higher it is, the more important the relevance of the website in the search engines.
Another indicator of the website relevance is the number of visitors which have accessed the website. They can be counted either by statistics offered by the specialized websites, or by the counter displayed on one’s own site. The sites specialized in statistics are also visitor providers. It is recommended that the site be registered in these counting services, services which also provide tops of sites according to fields. In this way an evaluation is obtained of the representivity of one’s own internet page.
On the first page of the website or on the forum polls can be carried out, relevant to one’s field of interest. With their help one can learn what the visitors wish to find on the website, what it lacks and which problems it does not approach.
Creating the website of an organization is only the first step in promoting its image. The mere launching of the site, uncorroborated with the previously mentioned operations does not produce the intended result. The promotion of the website must be an ongoing activity. Otherwise the awaited result will not be reached. A website which is not promoted is a non-existing website. The purpose of making a website is to provide the public with information about the organization which one represents.
This does not happen unless that particular website gets to be perceived as relevant by the search engines and by the audience for which it has been designed.
A piece of information posted on a website is indexed by the search engines over a period which can vary between a few hours and a few weeks. If I have posted an announcement on this website it is not immediately found by the search engines. It takes patience in order to see the results.
By means of the internet the information on mediation can be specifically directed. The secondary target audience proves in several cases to be extremely important. A piece of information can be circulated over the internet with the specific purpose of transmitting it to the press. Thus, a press release sent by an organization in the field of mediation to a specialized site or to an important press agency can have a major media impact. The main sources of information of newspapers, radio and television stations are the press agencies and those in their turn find much information on the internet by the means of the specialized websites. One will often have the pleasant surprise of finding an article or an item of information posted on one’s own site in the press.
It is recommended that the site have both a Romanian and an English version. Another advantage of promoting by means of the internet is the possibility of also sending information abroad. An item of information which causes interest can capture the attention of major foreign websites and increase the organization quota both nationally and internationally. The better quoted the website which overtakes the information the greater the achievement. Initiating contacts with international organizations in the field of mediation and obtaining appreciations from those is very important for the organization image.
The easiest way to verify the relevance of a website or organization is to enter a keyword important to the organization in the search engines and to follow the obtained results. The first ones in the result list are the highest quoted and best promoted websites. If one fins himself or herself among the first positions it means that the investment in the website is a success.
The costs derived from a website are relatively low compared to the promotion which one will achieve. The graphic will be done by a specialist but it is not very expensive. Other expenditures are caused by hosting the website but those differ based on the complexity of the services offered. It is recommended that the optimization and promotion services be done by an IT specialist but those are more expensive. Nevertheless, given a little interest in the matter, web promotion can also be accomplished by a non-specialist but this can prove more time consuming.
In order to effectively promote mediation it is necessary that the promotion over the internet be supported by other types of promotion. The written press is a propitious means of promotion. The articles and newspapers published in newspapers are an effective means of informing the public. In order to publish an article or to give an interview, it is important to render the information interesting without distorting it. It is also important to contact journalists potentially interested in the subject that one suggests from the specific departments, or, in other words, the persons who write about the subject that one suggests. The interviews given to televisions and radio stations are in their turn effective in promoting mediation. It is vital that the persons designated to represent the organization prove themselves spontaneous and self-contained.
The best promotion of mediation and its benefits will be made by the parties participating in the mediations, if those mediations will be successful. Taking into consideration the fact that mediation is in its pioneer stage in Romania, the involvement and professionalism of the mediators will be determined by this type of promotion. If those who have resorted to mediation are content, they will turn into the most efficient promoters of mediation.