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Grow: Mia Wedgbury

Website must put personality in high gear Add to ...

While vacationing in St. Lucia recently, my family hired a charter fishing boat.

We had a great experience last year, so the decision to go with the same company was a no-brainer.

But if I asked you to search online and pick your own, I bet you wouldn't make the same decision. The company we used – Exodus – has a great reputation in the St. Lucia area. The owner is fantastic and does a great job of making guests feel comfortable. His passion for the fishing and tourism industry knows no bounds. Not surprisingly, the word of mouth around Exodus in the tourist haunts is phenomenal.

But anyone searching the Web thousands of kilometres away wouldn't have any of that information to work on. For them, websites have to make do. And the online version of Exodus is different from the real-life version. It does some things right – especially the photos and videos. By comparison, its biggest competitor, Captain Mikes Charters , takes a different approach. One look at that site and right off the bat I get a sense of his personality, and the family-based nature of the business.

Two different sites, both with multimedia, but two very different experiences. Knowing nothing else, which would you choose?

The lesson for business owners is clear. Is your business best described as the sum of its parts – its products, services, hours and contact information? Or is there a personality that drives your operation – something that makes it not just better than a competitor's offering, but more fun and enjoyable too?

If your business is about delivering an experience – tourism, event management, and professional services – word of mouth and tangible marketing is critical. Make sure your site has the photos, video and overall look and feel that really captures your personality and capabilities. Step back and look at your Web presence like any prospective customer would. You might be better than your rivals, but it may not matter if it doesn't seem that way online.

Sometimes picking a business to solicit is just like deciding who to share a boat ride with. Make sure your boat is the one people want to hop on.

Special to the Globe and Mail

Mia Wedgbury, president and co-founder of High Road Communications, operates Canada's largest public relations agency focused on technology and digital lifestyle. The company, which has been recognized as one of the best workplaces in Canada for two years running, has offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and San Francisco. A seasoned PR expert with more than 18 years of experience, Ms. Wedgbury has directed global brand positioning programs, handled crisis communications, managed international product launches and developed PR strategy for companies across the entire tech and lifestyle spectrum. In 2006, she also helped the agency launch the High Road Connect practice – a social media, Web 2.0 and marketing services group – to help companies transcend conventional communications. Ms. Wedgbury's clients include Microsoft Canada, MSN, Canon Canada, Disney and LG Electronics.

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