Eagle-eyed watchers among us will know this is the couple’s second website in a matter of months. Last year, they launched sussexofficial.uk, a one-page website announcing their lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday. Rather than removing that statement or including it on the new website, they chose to create a separate standalone website under a new domain name.
Aside from the furore that followed their departure from the Royal Family, launching their own website was a smart communications tactic, enabling them to speak directly to the public and other stakeholders without intermediation. Ultra-high-net-worth individuals and families need to do the same.
Communicating directly with the public
There were tactical reasons for the Sussexes wanting to have their own website. As they make moves to become financially independent, having a website under their control gives them a platform for commercial purposes; they can use the website to sell products or launch a series of events.
Having their own website allows them to take control of their own communications and news announcements.
But more importantly, having their own website allows them to take control of their own communications and news announcements as they step back away from the Royal Family’s apparatus. Rather than relying on the print and broadcast media to cover their news, work and impact, they are now able to do this themselves on their new website.
This direct communication can prove very effective in controlling what and how you want to share with the wider world, a point of interest for the royal couple as they, rightly or wrongly, feel they’ve been at the mercy of the royal press pack for far too long. Similar parallels can be made to politicians on both sides of the Atlantic who are effectively using social media and other control digital platforms to communicate with their voters.
Family websites not about the family
When I speak to many families, they wince at the thought of launching a family website – and understandably so. But a family website doesn’t have to, and nor should it, be a website about you as a family. A family website may be a website for a family’s investment office, a foundation or holding company.
A family website is about ensuring a family’s online profile and positive impact is communicated in a fair, balanced and representative way.
Simply put, a family website is any website under the full control of the family. Launching a family website is not about excessive promotion or publicity, and should never be viewed as that. A family website is about ensuring a family’s online profile and positive impact is communicated in a fair, balanced and representative way for those already searching for them online.
It is to satisfy latent interest, usually pre-generated by being successful and wealthy, not to generate new interest. A family website is an asset and a tool to communicate with the wider world and the digital home of the family.
It should communicate factual information, biographies, possibly company accounts, but it should be also aligned to the family’s professional and personal ambitions.
Practical lessons for families
It doesn’t matter if you’re a member of the royal family or a self-made, high-profile business family, there are multiple benefits to launching a family website:
- A family website is totally controlled and owned by the family – more so than social media platforms. With a website, the family owns the domain name and the hosting. There’s no one above you, and the same can’t be said for social media, where accounts can be taken down if rules are breached. A website sits at the base of the digital communications pyramid;
- Families are the editors of their own content. Unlike in a media interview, families can choose what information they want to share with external audiences, and how they want to say it;
- Controlling perceptions. We already know that when a stakeholder – investor, employee or journalist – wants to find information about a family, Google is their first point of contact. Directing this interest to content you have written, rather than other sources of information which might not be relevant, true or representative, is incredibly powerful for controlling what people think of you.
We know conclusively that what appears online about an individual or family is now the modern-day litmus test for their reputation and how they are perceived by their friends, colleagues, employees, co-investors, banks, lawyers, journalists and of course, members of the public.
The uncomfortable truth is families must start thinking about their online profile more than ever before. Yes, launching a family website is showing more flesh and putting your head above the parapet, but with increasing public and media pressure on successful families to showcase their impact, without a website, they risk letting someone else tell their story for them.