BC Tip: Kering – Changing the job search comes at a cost to usability

Kering’s previous job search tool was an example of how to make things easy for jobseekers – but its latest version does not match up

 The updated Kering Job Offers page

The updated Kering Job Offers page

The Feature

Kering, the France-based luxury goods group, has changed its job search and application system, which is linked from a page called ‘Job Offers’ within its Talent section.

A short introduction appears, with a clear ‘Click Here’ button beneath it. This then takes the user to a separate site in a new window, provided by a third party with partial Kering branding. On it jobseekers can search using keywords or by various filters such as job category or location. They can also change the language of the entire job search via a dropdown in the header, although this does not change the language of the jobs returned by the search, which varies.

Previously, the job search and application system appeared to be part of the site (although still provided by a third party), with the job search mechanisms appearing within the Job Offers page. The old system provided more search options and tools than the current one, most notably the ability to filter available jobs by any of Kering’s brands, and posting date.

The language filters also worked differently: changing language not only changed the language of the mechanisms, but also narrowed down the search results to those jobs posted in that language, helping jobseekers to see appropriate positions for their preferred language.

 The previous Job Offers page

The previous Job Offers page

The Takeaway

Kering may have changed its job search and application provider for sound business reasons – such as cost efficiency, integration with other HR systems, or better performance on search engines or other job platforms – but it has harmed the user experience.

The previous version, although also provided by a different third party, was styled to make the user feel that they were still within the Kering site, and provided a more seamless experience. Jobseekers would likely not have felt as if they were being shipped off to an external and more weakly branded site as they are now.

But of course the main practical differences are in the inferior search filters and tools now available. Given that jobseekers are most likely the biggest audience on the site, with over two thirds of those likely to have come just to search for a job, then making their task harder will endanger the company’s brand perception* – and make it more difficult to attract the best talent.

*Data from Bowen Craggs survey data, which indicates that 69% of corporate website jobseekers come specifically to search for a job; and that goal achievement affects brand perception: only 24% of those who failed their task leave with better brand perception.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

Chart of the week

Our web analytics benchmark research shows that visitors come to corporate websites less than twice a year on average

Occasional feature highlighting useful data for corporate digital communication.

Click to enlarge. Source: Bowen Craggs web analytics benchmark 2018

The chart shows the number of sessions divided by unique users for the 29 companies in our analytics benchmark. This gives an average number of sessions per user per year for each site.

Corporate websites average just 1.51 sessions per user per year – or put another way, an ‘average’ corporate visitor sees a site 1 ½ times a year.

  • Not all visitors will see the site with this (in)frequency: this chart cannot take into account cookie clearing or use of multiple devices per user

  • The chart shows the average number of sessions per user per year. There are some visitors who do return to a corporate website multiple times per year, and many more who only visit once

  • So any site needs to serve one-off and also return visitors, as both will be present

  • But this average – and the fact that the highest average of sessions per user per year is 2 - has important implications for user experience on corporate sites: expecting users, many of whom will visit once or twice per year, to understand complex content structures or your agency’s favourite new navigation technique is not going to serve your audience well

  • There is an opportunity for corporate sites to do much more to attract users back more often: as we have written before, corporate websites are like Brussels sprouts: you really have to prepare them well to make them remotely appetizing.

 

*The 2018 benchmark covers 12 months between May 2017 to April 2018, including web analytics data from 29 companies, the largest sample ever. It has data on almost 106 million users and over 153 million sessions, and has been collecting data since 2014 with results from 2013 onwards. The research will be presented at a web meeting for Bowen Craggs Club members on Tuesday 20 November.

To discuss our measurement services, including how we can help with visitor surveys and analytics, please contact Dan Drury ddrury@bowencraggs.com or see our website.

For more information on the Bowen Craggs Club, visit our website, or contact Lisa Hayward, lhayward@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: Salesforce – Serving customers with high-quality videos

Glossy production values combined with a sense of authenticity build credibility

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The feature

Salesforce, the US-based customer software provider, has a number of ‘Customer Stories’ videos on its main global website, which are television-quality and feature contributions from some of the most well-known brands.

An example of the form is the Adidas story, a 2 ½ minute video featuring clips of interviews with the sports apparel maker’s CEO, head of digital and vice president of customer design, on how Salesforce helped the company ‘transition to a hybrid model’ between online and physical stores.

The takeaway

Salesforce’s website is focused, appropriately, on marketing and sales, to an extent many corporate websites are not. However, customers are an important part of the mix of audiences for many corporate web presences; and the Salesforce videos show what is possible in serving them online.

In addition, the videos are located on magazine-style pages with hiqh-quality graphics and strong editing, a benchmark for all kinds of editorial on websites, not just pages that serve customers.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: Vale – Whistleblowing made easy

The Brazilian mining giant has an exceptional ‘make an allegation’ section

Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 17.23.49.png

The feature

Ethics and Conduct Office is a main section in About Vale on the group’s global site (and also its Portuguese language Brazil site), and has a permanent link at the top of every page. ‘Make an allegation’ is one of three sections within it.

This has three tabbed pages: ‘Before making an allegation’, ‘How to make and who can make an allegation’, and ‘How is an allegation investigated?’ Each uses bullet points to lay out the steps needed. ‘How to make …’ links to further pages, including one with a form that includes ‘concern type’ (from sexual harassment to theft), as well as a field where the incident can be described. This and other pages are on a separate secure site, canalconfidencial.com.br, that is run by a specialist third party. This site also has a ‘Follow up on a reported allegation’ page, where the complainant puts in a code to see what is happening.

The takeaway

Vale is clearly keen to distance itself from the corruption allegations that have swept Brazil. The high profile given to the Ethics and Conduct office link is unmatched on any corporate site we know. But the real strength lies in the careful way the allegation pages are laid out - good use of tabs and icons, simple language (with equal prominence to English and Portuguese), and clear instructions on what to do if you want to make a complaint.

Linking to a third party specialist makes sense. It should give potential whistleblowers comfort that their complaints will not be lost in internal bureaucracy, or that it will rebound on them. Usually we suggest that companies should keep everything on one site - this is a logical exception.

http://www.vale.com/EN/aboutvale/ethics-and-conduct-office/make-complaint/Pages/default.aspx

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.









What does digital comms think of chatbots?

Jason Sumner reveals what corporate digital communicators think about this much talked about emerging technology

I don’t have many conversations with chatbots on corporate websites yet, but I’m certainly talking a lot about them at the moment.

Digital corporate communicators, perhaps having just seen a shiny pitch from a software company, are asking us – do they actually work? Is anyone else using them? Should we believe the hype?

Actual chatbots in use on corporate websites are few and far between. They are so unusual, and there is so much interest, that we try to write about them when we see one.

Enel, the Italy-based power company, has a Facebook Messenger news bot on its corporate site, as we noted in this recent piece. It is called ‘Elen’ and helps visitors find news, press releases and stories, and introduces the company’s sustainability activities. The bot shows some promise, but those wanting detailed information are better off sticking with the corporate website.

Tying the bot to Facebook Messenger could be risky too, since not all corporate website users will have it installed. Enel may just be following the path of least resistance, however, by relying on Facebook Messenger, which had 33,000 active chatbots as of January 2018, according to IBM.

We’ve seen other examples, focused on careers: T-Systems, a Deutsche Telekom subsidiary, has a German-language bot called ‘KATY’ on its website careers section. UPS, the US logistics company, has one on its careers site, as does US telecoms giant Verizon. These three are not very helpful and a little cold (the Verizon one keeps answering questions by referring people to the careers website, but at least it does that much); they do not perform nearly as well as a good online FAQ, for example.

That’s what we’ve found, but what are digital communicators saying about them? There are more questions than answers, but our clients see the potential to save money on admin and deflect queries, with the following caveats:

  • Chatbot success depends on the quality of tagging, metadata and taxonomy working in the background. Artificial intelligence should allow systems to ‘learn’ and improve results. Eni’s sophisticated search engine also relies on complex tagging in the background, and indeed, chatbots can be seen as another form of search (It is worth pointing out that sites have had years to get tagging and metadata right for internal search, but it still doesn’t work very well on most sites.)

  • They work best in a limited context, so the possible range of questions and answers are contained; in corporate communications terms, this means interacting with a specific set of stakeholders with easily predicted queries (hence the focus on jobseekers) or telling customers where a petrol station is; rather than an all-purpose ‘ask me anything’ bot.

  • If chatbots become more widespread, the technology will raise new reputation risks. Companies, for example, will need guidelines for appropriate tone of voice, race and gender.

Finally, no one we have spoken to has launched a chatbot, yet. But there are some interesting things happening internally – eg, one has launched chatbots for employees, with a view to rolling them out externally when the technology is proven.

Jason Sumner

The theme of our annual conference on June 18th and 19th 2019 in Berlin will be ‘Online communications, tomorrow and today’. We’ll be doing many more pieces on the future of online communications in the next weeks and months.

BC tip: Lloyds Banking Group – telling CSR stories close to home

An interactive map helps visitors find nearby projects supported by the bank 

Screenshot 2018-10-22 at 12.43.02.png

The Feature

The UK banking group’s corporate website has a ‘Helping Communities’ sub-section of its ‘Our Purpose’ primary section. 

It houses an interactive Google map. Visitors can use a dropdown menu, or click on icons  on the map, to find case studies on how the bank is ‘helping people, businesses and communities across the UK’. 

The case studies include pull-quotes from beneficiaries of the project; large photographs of the people involved; and summary facts and figures relating to Lloyds’ total contributions to similar projects across the UK. 

The Takeaway

Lloyds’ interactive tool is designed to enable visitors to read about projects close to where they live. This is likely to make the bank’s CSR communications more ‘relatable’ to many visitors.Moreover, the map within the tool indicates each CSR project in the form of an icon. This provides even fleeting visitors with a striking visual summary of the breadth of Lloyd’s CSR projects around the UK. 

The execution of this tool has room for improvement. For example, the interactive map is overly obscured by a boxy page layout. But the concept is sound – and could be usefully adapted for use on other corporate sites. 

https://www.lloydsbankinggroup.com/our-purpose/helping-communities/

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: Royal Bank of Scotland – Explaining your company's recent past

A page promoting the UK bank’s ‘turnaround story’ since the 2008 financial crisis is notable but could go much further

 ‘The bank we’re becoming’ page on RBS’s corporate website

‘The bank we’re becoming’ page on RBS’s corporate website

The feature

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), the UK bank bailed out by the government in October 2008, has marked the 10-year anniversary of the financial crisis with a page on its corporate website, ‘The bank we’re becoming’.

Prominently signposted on the home page banner and in the dropdown menu under ‘About us’, the page contains: a link to a speech by its Chairman, a brief introduction, video, infographic timeline and table of then-and-now financial figures. Visitors must scroll to see most of the material, but there are jump links at the top for the introduction, the timeline and the data table.

The takeaway

The 10-year anniversary of the government bailout of RBS – in 2008 it was the world’s largest bank – has received a lot of attention in the UK media, so it would have been hard for the company to ignore the issue completely on its website.

Hard to ignore, but not impossible, since other companies facing similar levels of controversy regularly remain silent on corporate digital channels. So it is still notable that RBS decided to create a page dedicated to explaining how it has learned its lesson.

It is also notable as part of a growing trend for big companies to promote and defend their reputations online.

The effectiveness of the page itself is mixed, with some strengths but falling short of emerging best practice in this area. On the plus side, it strikes an appropriately sober tone; and the video and data table do a good job of bringing in data to support the bank’s claim that it has ‘achieved the biggest corporate turnaround in history, becoming a simpler, safer UK focussed bank doing the right thing for customers’.

However, the infographic timeline scrolls a long way down the page and the data table is full of jargon, which will be inexplicable to general readers. With so much comment swirling around the 10-year anniversary, including a few outside voices supporting RBS’s case (assuming some exist) would make the page more persuasive.

The next Explain Yourself Index will be published in January 2019. See our site for the previous one.

The next global Bowen Craggs Index of Online Excellence will be out in May 2019.

Time to explain yourself again

Bowen Craggs will be publishing a new Explain Yourself Index in the New Year. David Bowen says it will mirror a shift in high profile companies’ approach to reputation management.

 Facebook’s online Newsroom is directly addressing criticism of the company

Facebook’s online Newsroom is directly addressing criticism of the company

Here are alternative approaches to company information on websites. Facebook, which has put up a 10-minute film explaining how it is trying to get to grips with fake news, with employees pondering questions such as ‘what is truth’. Or General Electric, which has recently deleted its About Us and Sustainability sections.

Which one is the future? Well, look at the share prices and read the papers. GE always found it difficult to explain itself, because it is so complicated; now it seems to have given up trying. Facebook is doing more and more to face up to criticism, increasingly using its website and (of course) its social media channels.

Amazon, now a trillion dollar company, is also using the web to explain itself. It didn’t used to at all. There was no ‘About’ section to speak of, and it let its share price do the talking. But, as Ashley Brown, its head of digital comms, told us, ‘these days you need a corporate website to have a social licence to operate: you can’t be a successful company and not talk about the environment and things’. Its ‘About Amazon’ site and ‘Day One’ blogs are busy busy places.

Twenty years ago ExxonMobil defied a growing consensus with vigorous scepticism about climate change, and reportedly did its best to undermine the Kyoto protocol. Now, the corporate home page is headed by a banner saying ‘ExxonMobil joins the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative’. The site is packed with features on its initiatives and views, all saying ‘we are now on the side of the angels’.

Moves by some of the world’s most high-profile companies to explain themselves and come across as the good guys are really significant to communications managers, and so to the channels they use. For several reasons:

  •  Companies are increasingly realizing that they cannot simply sit back and say ‘watch our share price’, which is what they tended to do in the past. Their behaviour, and the reputation that follows it, will sooner or later lead through to sales, and so to the share price.

  • It is of course significant that the companies that are under most attack are also those that are getting most firmly to grips with this message. In Europe, where corporate websites are more developed, much-criticised Nestlé has its well-established Ask Nestlé section to tackle issues as they come up. But it is not just hate magnets that think like this. Unilever puts huge emphasis on its sustainability messaging because it is convinced that good reputation feeds through to good sales.

  • In the US, there is a particular need to communicate with politicians. For example Amazon used its blog to accuse Senator Bernie Sanders of making ‘inaccurate and misleading accusations’, though it also responded more substantively by raising its minimum wage. Sanders used his Twitter feed to praise and then query this move. So much of this happened online: a sign of the times.

  • Handling these messages is the job of corporate comms folk, rather than marketing; and when it is online (as it always is), the digital team will be in charge. They are no longer pushing out marginal ‘aren’t we nice’ messages that do nothing for the bottom line; they are pushing out critical ‘this is what we’re doing’ messages that could make a huge difference in the medium or long term. We have previously suggested that corporate communications could be renamed ‘enterprise level marketing’ (or in non-US terminology ‘group level marketing’). Now surely is the time to push that idea, and get it into the heads of the folk on the top floor.

What of poor old General Electric? Well, we have a concept call ‘web phrenology’. Phrenology was a pseudo-science that claimed you could tell people’s characters by examining the shape of their heads. Web phrenology is much more credible – you really can tell a lot about a company by looking at its website. GE’s website is appallingly incoherent and, as we have said, lacking a basic sense of identity. The company, I fear, may be similar.

I have used the word ‘explain’ a lot, because this column is by way of an introduction to our second Explain Yourself Index.

This Explain Yourself Index (to be published in January 2019) will have an expanded methodology, and will focus on the US - though it will also include non-US companies that are well-known in the States. The aim is to find the companies that explain themselves in four ways: first, defending their reputation; second, saying what they do; third, judging how well they report their ESG (or CSR) data; and finally, how well they explain their political contributions and involvement. The last two are new for this year.

Explain Yourself is a sibling of our flagship Index of Online Excellence, which remains global, and will go out in May 2019.

You could say that the current moves by Facebook and the like are kickstarting ‘Reputation 2.0’. Reputation 1.0 was carried out largely offline, with discreet consultants briefing chairmen on how to talk to the press. Reputation 2.0 is out in the open. Companies need to talk directly to customers, potential employees and the general public. ‘Are we explaining ourselves properly?’ should be a question for every boardroom and C-suite. From that, the step to ‘Are we explaining ourselves properly online?’ is a short and natural one.

The next Explain Yourself Index will be published in January 2019. See our site for the previous one. The next global Bowen Craggs Index of Online Excellence will be out in May 2019.

BC Tip: The Ryder Cup - Keeping up the momentum

The Ryder Cup’s social media accounts kept interest in the golf event alive long after the final putt was sunk

 Ryder Cup - Team Europe’s Instagram

Ryder Cup - Team Europe’s Instagram

The Feature

Golf’s Ryder Cup, the biennial team contest between Europe and the US, concluded recently in France.

There are accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for both the USA and Europe teams. In the week following Europe’s victory, various celebratory posts appeared on the team’s channels. There were Twitter and Facebook votes about successful players, while collages, videos, graphics and cleverly filtered images, including some informal behind-the-scenes posts, filled the Instagram page.

Two posts used across the social channels stood out: a video produced to inspire the European team, which they watched before the event, shared and liked by thousands and viewed over 1.5m times. And a humorous vignette of two of the team’s most successful players, in bed with the Ryder Cup trophy.

Meanwhile the defeated USA team’s accounts, such as Instagram, struck a more muted tone, and looked forward to the next event in two years’ time.

The Takeaway

The mix of material posted to social channels helps to maintain engagement beyond the Ryder Cup competition itself – something that corporate digital managers can replicate in the wake of a significant company announcement, event or milestone.

Internal content can be used to give an insight into the way a company works, while bespoke material, tailored for individual channels, can attract significant audiences on social media.

This can simply be used to keep an organization in the public eye, or to give people a reason to return to the corporate website. Social referrals to corporate websites are often low, as we found in our last Google Analytics benchmark, so this is an area in which companies are frequently missing an opportunity to attract users to their sites.

It is key to keep the tone of posts appropriate though, as the differences between the approaches of the Europe and USA teams demonstrates.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: Walmart – Social media channels serve employees and jobseekers

The US retailing giant’s careers-related social media channels blend material for internal and external audiences

BC tip - Walmart.png

The Feature

The Twitter, Facebook and Instagram presences that Walmart promotes on its careers microsite are labelled ‘Walmart Today’, rather than ‘Walmart Careers’.

Walmart Today, the company’s blog, is intended not only for jobseekers, but also employees, suppliers and other stakeholders.

The social media presences (and the blog) put the focus on stories about Walmart employees, innovation, quirky interviews and inspirational quotes from the company’s founder, Sam Walton. The Instagram channel, whose stated purpose is ‘Sharing big stories and small moments at the world’s largest retailer’ shares images and stories of a wide range of employees, from truck drivers to an investigator in the legal department.

The Takeaway

‘Walmart Today’ is a high-profile example of the current trend for blending retention and recruitment communications; and more widely, for thinking about how ‘internal’ content can and should be used beyond the corporate firewall.

Positive stories about employees helps build morale and engagement, while making the company seem an attractive place to work. Social media has the power to bring jobseekers into the existing ‘community’ of employees. Labelling the channels Walmart Today, rather than ‘Careers’, also makes it less likely that jobseekers will unfollow when they join the company.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC Tip: Total – an investment case with a human face

Illustrated private investor profiles bring the advantages of share ownership to life

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The Feature

French energy group Total has an ‘Individual Shareholders’ area in the Investors section of its corporate website. This includes a page titled ‘Individual shareholders explain why they invested in Total’.

The page includes four testimonials from private investors, each accompanied by an illustrated portrait of the investor, plus their abbreviated name – eg ‘Jacques C’. 

The testimonials emphasise the length of each investor’s shareholding, as well as the advantages of Total as an investment.  

The bottom of the page features an illustrated portrait of Total’s chief financial officer, and a quote from him on the ‘great importance’ of the company’s relationships with both individual and institutional investors. 

The Takeaway

Profiles are widely used in Careers sections of corporate websites to ‘sell’ a company to jobseekers. They’re rarer in investor relations sections.

Total’s investor profiles have two benefits. First, they bring to life the company’s investment case to potential individual shareholders. Second, they send the message to existing shareholders that they are important to Total – and part of a broad and longstanding community.

As we pointed out in a previous BC Tip during 2014, other companies, such as L’Oréal, have produced investor profiles in video format. Total’s magazine-style approach shows how such profiles can be also effective without the need to invest in sophisticated audiovisuals.    

https://www.total.com/en/investors/individual-shareholders/news/individual-shareholders-explain-why-they-invested-total

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC Tip: Enel - Facebook Messenger news bot

Enel offers a news bot through Facebook Messenger which shows some promise for corporate communications

 elen, Enel’s Facebook Messenger bot, introduces itself

elen, Enel’s Facebook Messenger bot, introduces itself

The Feature

Enel, the Italy-based power company, offers a Facebook Messenger news bot which it has named ‘elen’.

 The bot is accessed via a Facebook Messenger icon in Enel.com’s navigation, positioned prominently next to the hamburger menu icon on the right hand side of the header. It can also be reached via the group’s Facebook page.

The bot begins by introducing itself as a news bot and informing the user that they can tell it what topics they are interested in, or use a menu presented in the bot, which is a series of links to areas on the corporate site such as news, press releases, and stories.

It also offers an introduction to the company and its sustainability activities. Users can ask elen questions or type in topics, and the bot automatically produces basic answers or links to the corporate site.

If it gets stuck, as it did on a question about the company’s position on global warming, elen allows the user to request an answer from a human – which we received promptly.

The Takeaway

Elen will be useful to audiences who want basic, general information and news, and the informal tone helps to humanise the company. It also sends a signal about the company’s innovative approach, but those wanting more detailed information are still better off sticking with the corporate website.

Ultimately, the bot works best as a way of funnelling Facebook and mobile users back to the corporate website, and presumably deflecting contact about basic company information (but still needs humans for more complex answers).

It is something of a risk to tie the bot to a particular platform, in this case Facebook Messenger. Not all corporate website users will have installed Facebook Messenger, and may be unwilling to do so or to log in on desktop.

Promotion of elen is weak too: although the Facebook Messenger icon is located in the header, some users may not be aware of what it is. It is not clear, before clicking on it, what exactly the user will get in return.

T-Systems Germany, by contrast, has a careers chat bot offered directly from its website which does not require any third party platform installation, as we wrote earlier this year, and which states clearly what it can be used for.

https://www.messenger.com/t/EnelGroup

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

Thin and anti-social: the state of world leaders' websites

Disappearing social channels, shrinking background information, crumbling navigation and an unhealthy focus on press releases... Scott Payton finds evidence of decline on five G7 leaders' websites.
 

Back in March 2015 we toured the official websites of each of the G7 leaders in search of ideas for corporate digital managers. We found much variety and some useful lessons

There’s been a change at the political top in five G7 countries since then. Has this brought fresh approaches to their online communications? We revisited to find out – and spotted four trends:

  • A marked drop in social media activity on most country leaders’ official websites. Use of social channels by political leaders might have become more prevalent – and has certainly become more contentious – in the last few years. But this has become much less visible on their web presences.

  • A deterioration in navigation: it’s generally harder to find key information and easier to get lost on all five of the sites we revisited.

  • A paring back of ‘About us’ information: students and others researching the roles of political leaders and their offices are more poorly served by these sites today than three years ago. The White House site has the richest policy and process material of the five sites we looked at – with the UK prime minister’s office providing the thinnest. [European readers are invited to insert their own Brexit joke here.]

  • A tightened focus on news: all five of the G7 leaders’ sites we revisited are more fixated than ever on bypassing the traditional media to convey the latest speeches and press releases to the general public. Expanding this role of the site has, however, come at a cost to others.

For corporate web managers, the sites discussed below are worth visiting to gather ideas on conveying news to generalist audiences. But in many respects, the best corporate websites now dramatically outclass these public sector counterparts. 

The White House

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 14.23.30.png

During the Obama administration, the White House website was awash with tools and materials designed to get citizens ‘involved’ – from signing petitions to sharing videos and infographics carefully designed to ‘go viral’. We wrote approvingly about all this in January 2013.

Revisiting in September 2018, it’s a very different site. Attempts to encourage citizens to engage have been substantially scaled back. There is no longer a ‘Social Hub’, ‘Engage’ page or ‘Participate’ main menu link.

There is a link labelled ‘Get Involved’, hidden behind a hamburger menu (poor practice in desktop mode of a site), and in the footer. This leads to a page offering just three options to engage – sign up to email updates, write to the President or apply for an internship or fellowship.

Social media integration is limited to a panel showing a recent @whitehouse tweet on the home page, links to the President’s and other officials’ Twitter feeds on biography pages, plus standard footer icons linking to the official White House Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram account. 

The primary navigation menu consists of five policy topics – Economy, National Security, Budget, Immigration and The Opioid Crisis. On click, each leads to brief introductory material on the topic, followed by a list of links to related statements, fact sheets and other information. It is a simple approach – but clear, intuitive and far more informative (if uncompromisingly partisan) than equivalent material on the four other sites we revisited. 

Information about the White House itself has been stripped back, too: an elaborate multimedia tour has been removed, for example. 

Site layout is clean and clear, and users who take the time to dig into the site will find some useful information on various executive offices and the people who run them.

Navigation and orientation provisions are very poor, however: it is hard to work out what each section contains, and to keep track of where you are within them. 

Office of the Canadian prime minister

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 14.23.51.png

Justin Trudeau may share little common political ground with Donald Trump, but his official website is also less ‘social’ than his predecessor’s. 

There is no longer any signs of ‘24 Seven’, an ‘online magazine that publishes shareable content’, which used to be a key part of the Canadian prime minister’s site. 

Like the Trump-era White House site, the official Trudeau web presence has been simplified and decluttered – though an embedded @CanadianPM Twitter feed features prominently in all key sections.

While policy topics dominate the White House site’s primary navigation menu, there are few signs of them at all on Justin Trudeau’s site. The focus, instead, is on news and photos. Visitors looking for information about the role of the Canadian prime minister and his offices will be disappointed, too: there is good biography information but little else. 

The Élysée Palace

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 14.24.15.png

The online home of the French Presidency is far more ‘social’ than its US and Canadian counterparts. Indeed, before users can reach the site’s home page they are urged to ‘Like’ the official Facebook page. 

The home page itself is dominated by a grid of videos, images and other materials designed to be shared on Twitter and Facebook. ‘Social Networks’ is a primary menu link. ‘Share’ icons are festooned across the News landing page and elsewhere. 

Policy topics get far less prominence than on the White House site. And although the home page was full of fresh material during our September 2018 visits, there were signs elsewhere of serious neglect: the ‘Social Networks’ landing page contained just four tweets – all from May last year.  

And like the White House site, navigation is weak. For example, a substantial but poorly presented section providing information on the role of the French Presidency appears to sit entirely outside the primary section structure of the site. 

Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street

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As in our previous visits three and a half years ago, the UK Prime Minister’s office does not have its own website. Instead, it occupies a tertiary-level section of Gov.uk, the UK government’s comprehensively consolidated website. 

This remains a serious drawback. Gov.uk is designed to make it easy to find and fill out government forms, pay bills and complete other linear tasks. It does this very well. But the site is not designed to house editorially or visually rich information, or to make it easy for users to jump between different categories of material deeper in the site. Moreover, some parts of the Prime Minister’s office section are astonishingly thin: the ‘About us’ area consists of just one paragraph, for example.

Office of the President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic

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The online presence of the Italian presidency has improved since early 2015 – though problems remain. An extremely dated site has been replaced with a modern offering that takes its visual cues from online magazines. 

Like the other sites discussed above, it suffers, however, from confusing navigation: key links are buried behind a hamburger menu even in desktop mode, and the news-focused home page is full of baffling icons that are anything but self-explanatory.

And like most of the other G7 leaders’ sites, social media integration is minimal. The priority, once again, seems to be to broadcast news directly to citizens, without journalists or social media users getting in the way. 

- Scott Payton

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

 

 

 

BC tip: Oracle – Making cookies hard to swallow

Cookie compliance notices may be legally necessary in Europe, but the US software giant does nothing to sweeten the user experience.

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The Feature

Although cookie notices are commonplace in Europe following the adoption of GDPR regulations earlier this year, a cookie notice we came across on Oracle’s UK site is unusual.

It is delivered in an overlay which covers much of the page, effectively preventing visitors from accessing the material unless they complete the form. The form is also more extensive than most, including headings and summaries for three types of cookies (required, functional and advertising cookies); and users are asked to opt in or out of each. Selecting ‘No’ returns a note informing the user ‘We are processing the requested change to your cookie preferences. This may take up to a few minutes to process.’

During our visit, this was followed by a note stating ‘You have successfully updated your cookie preferences’ together with a contradictory warning that ‘… Some vendors cannot receive opt-out requests via https protocols so the processing of your opt-out request is incomplete.’ and inviting us to try again.

The Takeaway

Oracle’s verbose and legalistic approach to cookie compliance risks irritating and alienating users – lawyers seems to have been given free rein to create a form, without any attempts to make it user friendly or easy to digest.

The complexity may be unnecessary (when compared to most of these notices we have come across) and the ‘few minutes’ processing time adds to the irritation. Together, the approach undermines this technology company’s attempts to look technologically slick.

Although Oracle’s digital managers could not decide whether or not to publish the legally required cookie notices, they could have done a better job to influence how the options are presented to visitors.

https://www.oracle.com/uk/applications/taleo.html

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: Netflix – A podcast for jobseekers

A one-hour podcast is unusually open about hiring practices and company culture

BC tip - Netflix.png

The Feature

Netflix, the fast-growing US media streaming company, has a podcast on its careers microsite, ‘How We Hire at Netflix’. Produced in May 2018, it is the second in a series of podcasts on all aspects of the company, ‘We Are Netflix’, which has been running since March.

In the podcast, a presenter interviews two representatives from the human resources department, covering the company’s self-starting culture – ‘some people will thrive in this environment and some will not’; the interview process and how salaries are negotiated; as well as controversial issues in the technology sector such as diversity and ‘implicit bias’ in job interviews.

The Takeaway

The podcast is unusual for its openness and its length. The guests appear to be answering spontaneous questions, and although the interviewer doesn’t probe too far and they don’t give away any trade secrets, the treatment of controversies is far more open than in most corporate productions.

At nearly an hour, it is much longer than most corporate podcasts, perhaps mirroring the current fashion for ‘long-form’ articles. The length and openness will likely appeal to many jobseekers.

However, those pressed for time (which include jobseekers with families, who are mentioned in the podcast) may not have time to listen to all of it; and there no context provided for them, such as a summary, bullets or excerpts.

For example, one of the most interesting tidbits comes at the end, in a discussion about salaries. For ‘80 to 90 per cent’ of candidates, they are asked to accept a job before knowing what the salary will be, because Netflix knows it already pays at the ‘top of the market’. Some potential hires, who stop listening before the end, may never hear about that.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.
 

BC Tip: The Walt Disney Company – easy route to hard CSR data

The US entertainment giant makes it exceptionally simple for users to find a comprehensive table of non-financial performance data

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The Feature

The Walt Disney Company’s corporate site has a primary section titled ‘Environment’. 

On click, users are taken to a landing page with a prominent link to a ‘2017 CSR Update’ PDF, visible without the need to scroll on a standard desktop monitor. 

Clicking this link leads to a PDF with a list of links to six language versions of the CSR Update. Each of these has a clearly presented, hyperlinked contents page, with ‘Data Table & Footnotes’ included in the contents options.

Clicking this option leads to a comprehensive table of non-financial performance data for the last three years across a wide range of metrics, including emissions, philanthropy, employee diversity and supply chain ethics. 

The PDF also includes a comprehensively hyperlinked GRI Index and an overview of CSR performance against targets.

The Takeaway

Like many major US companies, Disney is increasing its efforts to communicate its CSR performance. While its online presentation of this issue is not sophisticated, it is effective in three ways.

First, CSR performance data is exceptionally prominently signposted. Second, the use of hyperlinks in the PDF CSR report makes it easy for users to jump to specific information. Third, Disney aggregates top-line performance of a good depth across multiple metrics in a single table.

The provision of this data in downloadable Excel format, the inclusion of information on performance against targets in the aggregated table, would make Disney’s strong provision even better – as would an overhaul of the Disney corporate site’s flawed navigation system

https://www.thewaltdisneycompany.com/environment/ 

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

The rocky road to media section heaven

The arrival of 'media asset databases' in two corporate sites gave David Bowen great hope. Until he tried to use them.

 

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece headed ‘What to do with the poor old media section?’, pointing out that as press officers rarely know who they are serving any more, it is not surprising press areas are also confused. Are they for ‘journalists’ in the old fashioned sense, for anyone who writes anything on the internet, or perhaps for everyone? But I did say it is important to have a service for media professionals who need to find something quickly: how to spell the CFO’s name, what brands the company owned, a photo of a factory. That sort of thing.

At the time the fashion was for ‘social media dashboards’ – where companies could display all their latest tweets and the like. I couldn’t (and can’t) see the point of these: journalists can set up their own social media monitoring, and the last thing they want is a selection sanitised by the company they are covering.

But one company was doing it right. Siemens has for several years had a press section that is a searchable database of ‘assets’ – press releases, photos, background materials and the like. Here, you can choose the bit(s) of Siemens you are interested in – or select them all – then do a search using a keyword and/or date range. It worked, and works, well. So it was with joy that I discovered that two sites I was reviewing last week have adopted the same idea. Vale, the Brazilian mining giant, and Philip Morris International, now have press sections that are asset databases. Unfortunately my joy diminished as I tested them out: they have the theory, but for the moment they are just annoying.

Vale is the better of the two, and in some ways works well. You can for example click Environment, and see all relevant assets listed on the page. Or you can put the CFO’s name in the search box, press return, see a list of assets, then refine them by theme, type or date.

But if you do not do what the mechanism wants you to do, you are undone. Put the  CFO’s name in and click ‘search’ rather than hit return, and nothing happens. The main filter list (‘Type’) does not include press releases. To see them you have to click something else, such as Photos, then click to get a much bigger set of filters. Still no press release option here, but click ‘All’ and you will finally see some.

These are just a few of the hurdles I hit while trying to use the site. What should be a massively powerful system is instead massively irritating. It needs a thorough assault by usability testers; then it will be indeed massively powerful.

If Vale’s database is over-complex, PMI’s is just baffling. It appears to have a search box at the top, but it is not one – rather it is a category selection menu, but with only one option: ‘All categories’. So you can’t search or filter the database. A set of ‘tags’ at the top appears to offer a filter option, but does not – if you click one of them, the page scrolls quickly down to a panel on the page. Try that with ‘News’ and you get to press releases – but there is no way to search or filter them. In one way this has the opposite problem to Vale: it is not sophisticated enough. But it shares another: it does not work well.

I’m not suggesting that Vale or PMI should drop these mechanisms. They should just make them work better. Then other companies should follow their examples but avoiding the birth pains. Siemens has been getting it right for ages. Why can’t others?

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

 

 

Heard the one about the scientist and the start-up?

A new enthusiasm for science and innovation stories is good news for corporate digital communicators, Jason Sumner says.
 

Scientists are being widely encouraged to use the ‘tools of narrative’ to grab the attention of general audiences and communicate findings to their peers, according to a recent piece in the Guardian.

Stories are also enjoying a renaissance in the world of entrepreneurs and disruptors. The Harvard Business Review has taken start-ups to task for wanting the world to understand their brilliance, while at the same time weighing down press releases, brochures and online articles with jargon and technical language written by PhDs.

McKinsey made a similar point recently to the entrepreneurs it works with – ideas need an engaging storyline to get noticed.

Our clients in corporate digital communications are also increasingly asking us how they can communicate the message ‘we are innovative’ across the corporate website, social media and other online channels; which is really about telling good stories in the first place, and then promoting them effectively.

GSK, with its ‘Behind the Science’ online magazine, is an example of a company doing this well. Abbvie has some gems, including this feature about one of its chemists. PMI has a well-produced and engaging video about why its scientists choose to work in the tobacco industry.

Many more companies are failing though, not for a lack of interesting stories to tell or even a desire to tell them, but because of ingrained cultural barriers and outdated approaches to public relations. One big problem is that risk-averse large companies rarely want to publicise the elements that make for good drama – such as conflict, complications, or a ‘hero’ trying to accomplish something difficult.

Danaher, an American medical and industrial diagnostics giant, is an example. It must have many, many good stories lurking in its laboratories, and the management certainly wants people to believe the company is innovative. We know this because the corporate website repeatedly makes unsupported claims to being innovative; without taking the risk of telling a good story to demonstrate it. Its ‘Feature stories’ in the news section are really glorified press releases. This closed ‘tell don’t show’ approach is unlikely to convince many people.

The pieces from the Guardian, HBR and McKinsey which I’ve cited above are worth reading even if they are targeted towards scientists and entrepreneurs – there are some good ideas that could be adapted to the corporate environment. An example is McKinsey’s categories of stories to look for – ‘serendipity’, ‘perspiration’ the ‘underdog’, etc.

More importantly, if the idea that good stories are worth investing time and money in gains broad acceptance among scientists, engineers and technical experts working in big companies, it can only be a good thing for the people often tasked with creating them – digital corporate communicators.

- Jason Sumner

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC Tip: ITV - Not loving islands of information

British broadcaster ITV fails to make the most of a significant new strategy

 ITV plc corporate home page

ITV plc corporate home page

The Feature

UK-based broadcasting and production company ITV plc announced a major new strategy in June.

As of early August, the corporate site home page http://www.itvplc.com/ has a rotating carousel promoting the 2018 Interim Results, the 2017 Annual Results, and information on ‘What we do’.

The new strategy is mentioned, but in an area under the carousel and below the ‘fold’ on many devices. Along with an overview, there are links to find out more by downloading the 2018 Interim Results presentation or the Interim Report.

The home page strategy area also offers link buttons relating to ‘Broadcast & Online’ and ‘ITV Studios’, but – as with the presentation and report links -  these open PDFs without warning although at least they do appear in new browser windows.

The home page does not link to the new strategy page, housed at About ITV > Our Strategy.

The Takeaway

At a time when ITV has a higher public profile than usual – thanks in large part to the popularity of its Love Island programme in the UK  - the corporate site misses an opportunity to sell its new strategy, and how the company will capitalise on its current success.

The site still feels as if it is in ‘news’ mode rather than presenting a consistent, integrated view of the new strategy. This might be understandable in the immediate aftermath of a big announcement that the web team may or may not have been privy to, but they have had enough time to rectify matters.

Many users on smaller screens might not scroll, and so miss the strategy area on the home page. The strategy could have been promoted in the carousel as a main item. Even though the timing meant it was competing with the Interim Results part of the announcement, some mention of it could have at least been made on the Interim Results panel.

The PDF links were probably a temporary measure when the announcement was made and perhaps before the strategy page existed. But linking to them now, instead of the strategy page, does not makes sense.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: Danaher – Over-quoting the CEO

A US conglomerate relies too much on bland quotations from its chief executive

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The Feature

The words of Tom Joyce, president and chief executive of Danaher, are featured unusually frequently across the company’s corporate web estate.

On the ‘Danaher Story’ page, Mr Joyce says: ‘I see our future as a bright one. We have a terrific team of hard-working, dedicated associates around the world. We have exciting new products coming out every day providing customers with new and innovative solutions to their daily work.’ To jobseekers on the careers microsite, Mr Joyce declares (again), ‘I see our future as a bright one…’

A pull quote from Mr Joyce on the investors landing page says, ‘We Compete for Shareholders is one of the Core Values we live by at Danaher, and we strive to deliver meaningful and long-term shareholder value.’

He is quoted in his own biography on the site: ‘We’ve always believed that the best team wins. But we’ve learned that the best team is also the most engaged team. The best, most engaged team is deeply committed to its organization’s purpose, its reason for being.’

The Takeaway

If you let senior managers dictate what is on a company’s website, it will be very dull, as the bland pronouncements from Danaher’s CEO demonstrate.

We think digital managers should be given the authority to decide what – and more importantly, what does not – go on the corporate site. However, we know that in the real world, not many digital managers have the influence to say an outright ‘no’ to their CEO. Only a lucky few would have enough authority to say to Mr Joyce, ‘your words are far too boring to be published’.

The most effective digital managers use persuasion to get their way. For example, the people that run Danaher’s site might reasonably argue that quoting Mr Joyce so much undermines the company’s public commitment to ‘diversity and inclusion’; and crowds out the voices of ordinary employees that would be more engaging online.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.