BC Tip: BP shows the best and worst of graphics

BP manages to get its formats right and wrong in the same story

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The feature

BP Magazine is held within the News and Insights section of BP.com, but is linked from the left menu on every page. It has a variety of stories on a wide range of subjects, and is keen to illustrate them as vividly as possible.

Earlier this year it carried a story headed ‘The tech revolution producing greener power’. This fills a long page and has several photos. The first image, however, is a colourful and elaborate infographic showing how different activities and businesses link up: about 30 squares or hexagons are used to show the connections, with text in each of them. The text is readable on a large screen, but on a normal laptop it is tricky and on a mobile phone, impossible.

Further down the page is a bar chart showing how demand for different types of fuel have grown and will grow over the decades. It uses colour-coding and, by mousing over each column, it is possible to see the figures behind the chart. It is readable on screens of all sizes. The numbers are drawn from BP’s own Statistical Review of World Energy, which is linked.

The takeaway

This page shows how careful even the most experienced web team needs to be with images and formats. Infographics were originally designed to be used as posters to stick on walls. They can be brilliant for that, but rarely work well on a screen. Sometimes the shape is the problem: long and thin posters do not work on a short and wide screen. That is not the issue here - it is simply that the text is too small. As mobile usage continues to grow, it is ever more important to make sure that your information is readable by everyone; this image fails that test. A shame because it contains much excellent material, which could surely be neatly presented on an interactive graphic?

The chart, by contrast, is just dandy. It fits neatly on any screen, is not too busy, and uses simple interactivity to add detail. It also draws on BP’s own data, and is used to publicise its statistical tool. All perfect. Why the contrast?

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 Index of Online Excellence: Who serves which audiences the best online?

Jason Sumner looks beyond the overall top-scorers in our annual ranking to see which companies are best at serving individual audience groups with their digital communications.


Last month we published the 2019 Index of Online Excellence, a ranking of the world’s 30 best companies at digital corporate communications. (See also a Forbes magazine article on the Index results).

Making it into the Index is an achievement in itself, because we take the 30 best from a pool of the largest 200 companies in the world by market capitalization. We spend thousands of hours analysing the effectiveness of their online communications in eight broad categories (and a total of 26 metrics in total).

Corporate digital communication is complex because companies have to satisfy audiences that have varying goals and information needs. The Index measures how well companies are managing this complexity through our five so-called ‘serving’ metrics, in which we take a granular look at how well specific audiences are being catered for – jobseekers, investors, media, customers and ‘society’ (including corporate social responsibility professionals and general audiences who are interested in a company’s record on ethics and sustainability).

Here are the companies that came top in each of these five metrics. (We will look at the best in the other three categories – construction, message and contact information – in a future column.)

Best for ‘serving jobseekers’

Top-scoring company: Verizon (29 points out of a maximum of 32)

Runners up: BNP Paribas (28/32) and GSK (26/32)

Note: BNP Paribas (and some companies below) do not appear in the overall top 30 list, but were identified as category leaders when we evaluated the largest 200 companies in the world by market capitalization.

Verizon does an excellent job of ‘selling’ the company as an employer. The excellent new podcast for employees, ‘Up to Speed’ is available to anyone on the website.

Verizon does an excellent job of ‘selling’ the company as an employer. The excellent new podcast for employees, ‘Up to Speed’ is available to anyone on the website.

Best for ‘serving investors’

Top-scoring company: Shell (29 points out of a maximum of 32)

Runners up: BP (27/32) and Zurich (27/32)

Shell is a long-time high-performer in this category. Information in the global site’s Investors section remains as rich as ever. The ‘Shell and our strategy’ sub-section is complemented by the impressive Investors Handbook and Annual report, both available online and in PDF.

Shell is a long-time high-performer in this category. Information in the global site’s Investors section remains as rich as ever. The ‘Shell and our strategy’ sub-section is complemented by the impressive Investors Handbook and Annual report, both available online and in PDF.

Best for ‘serving the media’

Top-scoring companies: Nestlé and Bayer (both scored 26 points out of a maximum of 32)

Runners up: BASF, Daimler, Vinci (all on 24/32)

Nestlé’s press release archive is easily found, neatly presented and displays well on a mobile.

Nestlé’s press release archive is easily found, neatly presented and displays well on a mobile.

Bayer.com is a rich resource for journalists seeking background material.

Bayer.com is a rich resource for journalists seeking background material.

Best for ‘serving customers’

Top-scoring company: Microsoft (28 points out of a maximum of 32)

Runners up: Texas Instruments and Maersk (both scored 27 out of a maximum 32)

The strength of Microsoft’s provision for customers through its online channels lies in doing a lot of things very well. Customer journeys are smooth and integrated, while good information is provided throughout to help customers make decisions.

The strength of Microsoft’s provision for customers through its online channels lies in doing a lot of things very well. Customer journeys are smooth and integrated, while good information is provided throughout to help customers make decisions.

Best for ‘serving society’

Top-scoring company: Nestlé (29 points out of a maximum of 32)

Runners up: Eni (28/32); and BP, Bayer and BAT (27/32)

Nestlé’s relaunched CSR section, ‘Our Impact’, does an exceptionally good job of presenting progress against a large number of goals that is both accessible and detailed. Corporate governance information is well-written, neatly presented and highly transparent. Its Creating Shared Value reporting also serves CSR professional audiences well.

Nestlé’s relaunched CSR section, ‘Our Impact’, does an exceptionally good job of presenting progress against a large number of goals that is both accessible and detailed. Corporate governance information is well-written, neatly presented and highly transparent. Its Creating Shared Value reporting also serves CSR professional audiences well.

- Jason Sumner

For full results and analysis and a free Index publication, visit our website.

The Bowen Craggs Database is the engine that drives the Index of Online Excellence, with detailed scoring and analysis for more than 100 global companies and best practice from the top performers.

BC tip: Bosch – Expert profiles

Skilfully written and presented profiles effectively introduce the scientists and engineers at the German engineering company.

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The feature

Bosch’s global corporate website has 35 profiles of its research experts in a ‘Get to know our researchers’ section, which is housed in a primary ‘Research’ section.

The landing page displays each profile in a click-to-expand panel with a photograph of the subject at work. Opening the panel reveals another image and short summary, written in first-person (eg, for Dr Raphaëlle Satet, ‘I am a materials scientist by training and joined Bosch in 2005 to work first on ceramics design.’).

Clicking the ‘More about me’ tab leads to an expanded profile page, with a pull quote, presumably by a famous figure who has inspired the subject – eg, for Dr Satet, ‘As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it. Antoine d Saint-Exupéry.’ Each profile page is organized similarly – with highlights of the subject’s CV, ‘Selected Publications’, a Q&A, and an email address to ‘Get in touch with me.’

The takeaway

Bosch’s ‘Get to know our researchers’ are well executed at every level. Navigation is simple and consistent, allowing readers to browse three levels, drilling down to get to more detail.

The presentation is modern and attractive, with creative photography (no sign of stock imagery or clichés here). The writing is pitched at general readers and describes complex scientific topics in simple, but not dumbed down, language. Linking to articles in professional journals reinforces the subjects’ expertise. Asking readers to ‘get in touch’ promotes open-ness and may be genuinely helpful for recruitment, for example.

Many companies talk about ‘innovation’ online – Bosch shows how effective it can be to open up about the people whose job it is to make the innovation happen.

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: Deutsche Telekom – chatbot-style answers to common questions

An automated FAQs generator effectively saves a company money and its website users time

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The Feature

Pages throughout Deutsche Telekom’s corporate website have an ‘FAQ’ icon that ‘sticks’ to the right edge of the screen as the user scrolls. 

Clicking the icon opens a panel titled ‘Frequently asked questions’.

The panel contains the following explanatory text:

 Simply enter your question, results on the topic will be displayed underneath the box.

‘No matching results? Click the “send” button and we will reply as soon as possible.

For information on tariffs, services or products please contact our service team.

‘Services team’ links through to a customer services contact page.

Users can type their question into a text box.

A list of answers to relevant questions then appears in the bottom of the box, each in a click-to-expand panel. 

If users click ‘Send request’, they are presented with name and email address fields, which if completed can be used to email their question to Deutsche Telekom to be manually answered. 

The Takeaway

Deutsche Telekom’s tool is an effective hybrid of a chatbot, an email contact service and a traditional FAQs section. 

It successfully encourages users to find answers to common questions without the need for the company to answer such questions manually, in a way that does not force the user to scan an extensive FAQs section to find an answer. This should save the company money and the user time. 

A drawback of many similar services – especially chatbots – is that they are too often unable to answer many questions that users ask, due to the limitations of the still relatively nascent technology underpinning them.

The fact that Deutsche Telekom provides users of this tool with a prominently signposted ‘backup’ in the form of an email contact form means that this drawback is effectively overcome.  

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 end of 'storytelling'?

When companies stop pretending that everything they publish online is a ‘story’, they clear the way for genuinely engaging narratives to shine, David Bowen says.

A few years ago, ‘storytelling’ was about as fashionable as it could be in corporate digital communications. It was almost compulsory to say you communicated by ‘stories’, as if they were the key to all effectiveness.

That was nonsense then, and it still is now. Communicating effectively online as a company means using many different editorial formats, only one of which – although an important one – is the ‘story’.

When used properly, stories are indeed a powerful way of putting across corporate messages, but to be fully effective at it, companies need to avoid two mistakes. One is an issue of labelling and the second is a failure to work around the risk-averse tendencies of big organizations.

First, a story is not a story simply because it is labelled as such. A story is a narrative, with a beginning, middle and an end. It is the most powerful form of editorial because it is the most natural structure, and answers our natural curiosity to find out ‘what next?’ There is a reason almost every novel is a narrative: it by far the best way of getting people to the end. That is not to say ‘non-narratives’ cannot be engaging; but it is harder work to make them thus.

PepsiCo used to have a ‘stories’ section that consisted mainly of press releases. Indeed the current pepsico.com has ‘stories’ over its home page – most of them are pretty much news releases. Danaher, the US conglomerate, has ‘feature stories’ in its news section; a similar problem. Coca-Cola took the idea even further by trying to convert its whole corporate site into a magazine. By launching the ‘Coca-Cola Journey’ site, it aimed to become a ‘media company’ taking on – and bypassing – traditional media by going directly to customers it wanted to woo. The site today still has much impressive and engaging editorial, but I doubt if ‘old media’ publications feel too threatened by it.

The second mistake is a failure to recognise that corporate risk aversion is a barrier to good storytelling. As my colleague Jason Sumner pointed out last year ‘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’.

It is very likely (pretty much certain) that there will indeed have been drama – hurdles, arguments, maybe even violence – in the course of every corporate achievement. But I have yet to see such stories told by companies themselves. Look to independent storytellers – such as Steve Coll with his gripping Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power. But do not look to ExxonMobil. Mr Coll’s book is not all dirt by any means; but it is the gritty bits that give credibility to the rest. To resurrect another over-used word from the past, corporations find it very difficult to be ‘authentic’ – and so will struggle to match the credibility of independent sources.

However, the ‘authentic’ problem is not insuperable and corporate storytellers should not give up. Coca-Cola has been monitoring which pieces are most popular on its Journey site, and discovered that the best ones are those about itself. Special bottles for Star Wars, a Coca-Cola cake recipe (honest), a history of Coca-Cola advertising slogans (they should definitely revive ‘The Great National Temperance Beverage’). You get the idea. There may not be any drama or violence, but at least a company is likely to get the facts about itself right, and presumably has better access to insiders than anyone else.

Two more elements help. First, where you can, write about individuals. They might be employees, customers, people in a local community, but humans are generally more interesting than companies, products or trends. Second – and most important – stories can only work if they are well written. Use experienced feature writers or copy editors; they will have a feel for language that it is hard for others to match.

Here are some other examples – not all have all elements, but they cover my points.

I come back to PepsiCo. Among the non-stories on the home page, there is one that really is one. ‘New home, new hope’ leads to a video in which a Colombian woman tells how she brought her children from a violence-wracked region and found a job in a Pepsi-owned plant. It feels real, and probably is.

Siemens’ careers section has ‘Our Stories’ – some are, some aren’t – but ‘Taking on the seven biggest mountains in the world’ has a beginning and a middle, and promises to have an end. It is about an employee who decided to become the first Kuwaiti woman to do the climbs, and tells us what she has done so far.

Pharmaceutical companies often tell patient stories, but Novartis also uses narrative well to bring its scientific investigation to life. ‘Investigating the myopia mystery’ lays out the tale of a scientist couple investigating the spread of short-sightedness.

Novartis also understands the power of a good headline – on a magazine front cover, it makes you turn to the piece; on a website, it makes you click. How about ‘Giraffes have high blood pressure. Why don’t they drop dead?’ Or indeed ‘How I built a mini-gut with next to no biology training’ – how can you not read on? These headlines may seem simple, but a lot of thought has gone into them.

AbbVie, another pharma company, has at least one powerful writer on its books. Here is a story about a doctor helping after the Puerto Rico hurricane. The writing is simple but strong.

None of these, sadly, has any violence or even arguments in them. But given the reality of bosses being bosses, they are doing as good a job as we can hope for. Don’t give up on storytelling; just do it well.

- David Bowen

The Bowen Craggs Index of Online Excellence 2019 was published last week. Visit our website to see the ranking of the 30 best corporate digital estates in the world and download a free PDF publication.

Reading the signals in the noise: Five takeaways from the Bowen Craggs Conference Berlin

Our theme at our annual conference last week was ‘Where will communications go and what route will they take?’ Jason Sumner shares five quick highlights from the event.

1. Scrutiny of corporate behaviour means old-fashioned honesty will matter more than ever

Futurologist Ian Pearson opened the conference with a look far beyond the future of digital corporate communications, forecasting a world where self-driving vehicles are commonplace, people can link dreams and download themselves into the cloud. New technology will continually challenge public trust because people will depend on it more, but understand it less.

How should corporations respond, Ian was asked, when surveillance over business practices will increase and bad behaviour becomes increasingly difficult to hide. His answer, ‘Be honest’.

2. Technology will change, but the fundamentals of good online communication will not

Scott Payton of Bowen Craggs returned us closer to the present, exploring technology being implemented by companies now, which shows ‘glimpses of corporate communications tomorrow’. Scott looked at real-world examples of new tech in action on the corporate web – virtual reality, augmented reality, personalisation, chatbots and voice.

However, no matter how much technology changes, the tried and tested rules of online comms still apply. ‘Corporate communications needs to be easy to find, clear, engaging, relevant to the audience and effective at communicating your company’s key messages,’ Scott said.

3. Can we measure hopes and fears?

Most digital communicators know they need to move beyond measuring ‘clicks’ and ‘likes’ into more sophisticated metrics of ‘engagement’. This was reflected in a quick poll of delegates who said their top measurement concerns were – ‘Measuring the impact of digital communication on company reputation’ and ‘Linking data sources together’. Siemens is moving ahead quickly in both of these areas, and provided a possible glimpse of the future of engagement metrics, with its new algorithms that emphasise the emotional aspects of social media.

The company’s content strategy for engaging on social media is changing too; adapting to a world in which an unexpected tweet by the CEO derails a carefully thought-out comms plan. One to watch.

4. Channels old and channels new

David Bowen of Bowen Craggs explored the trends emerging from this year’s Index of Online Excellence, our ranking of the best 30 companies in the world at corporate online communications. Old channels such as podcasts and blogs have been reinvigorated by the likes of Daimler, Shell and Verizon, proving that no idea ever really disappears on the internet.

A newer ‘must have’ channel is Instagram, David said, with careers-specific feeds booming. For the moment, it is also less likely to receive hostile comments than Facebook.

5. Digital communications in 2030

A panel discussion on future tools ended with a crystal-ball question – will we have corporate websites in 2030? A quick poll of delegates indicated yes, with 76 per cent of the audience thinking they would still exist in 11 years. On stage, panellists from Eni, Norsk Hydro and Siemens believed it would likely exist in some form, but ‘trust’ is the issue that will need to be addressed, no matter what the specific channels will look like.

Digital corporate communications, in whatever format, will need to be the place for ‘truth’, and a channel for jobseekers to check up on corporate values. In the future, corporate communicators need to have more ‘ongoing conversations’, not just jump in when a reputation crisis blows up.

- 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: Aviva – Corporate values in the real world

The UK-based insurance company illustrates its corporate values online by using relevant examples and engaging videos.

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The feature

Each of Aviva’s four corporate values have a page on the company’s global web presence – ‘Kill complexity’, ‘Care more’, ‘Create legacy’ and ‘Never rest’.

Most of the space on these pages is devoted to showing how Aviva has put values into action. For example, ‘Never rest’ describes how the company allows customers to interact over Amazon’s Echo device: ‘We were the first UK insurer to deliver a Skill on Amazon’s Echo.’

‘Care more’ has the story of insuring customers after a wildfire destroyed homes in Canada, with an engaging embedded video. ‘Kill complexity’ also presents a customer case study to illustrate how it tries to simplify the claims process.

The takeaway

Values pages on corporate websites are often dull and clichéd, failing to say what is unique about a company’s ‘passion for excellence’ or ‘drive to innovate’, etc.

Facing public scepticism about ‘corporate values’, it is much more effective to illustrate the point with narratives that allow readers and viewers to decide for themselves. Values pages with well-told examples are also more memorable, and could help to convince a jobseeker, for example, that they want to work at the company.

Even if the company’s values themselves are dry or commonplace – which digital teams can’t do much about – it is usually possible to produce an interesting story to illustrate even the dullest value statement.

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: Chevron's top biography

Chevron’s site has an unusual news-driven CEO biography

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The feature

The leadership section of Chevron.com has biographies of the directors and corporate officers. Most are standard text, but the CEO, Mike Wirth, gets more.

The text biography is standard - in fact rather less detailed than some of the others - but the page includes four downloadable photos. At the bottom an ‘In the news’ section has links to four interviews with Mr Wirth about a recent acquisition and other news - two from Bloomberg and two from CNBC. These open the media sites in new windows.

The takeaway

Executive biographies are part of the furniture of every site, but they are often poorly thought out. Chevron’s is unusual in working out what their job is. A key one is to provide media organizations with a selection of good photos, but even more important is to provide material that is both interesting and believable. Journalists have a healthy tendency to disbelieve anything a company says, but if the company directs them to a third party, they may as well as well follow the link - especially if it looks newsworthy.

They can then watch the videos to see what they think of the speaker, as well as his views on the news. Combining a news element with the biography also helps keep the page fresh. The contrast with the coverage other executives and directors get is however sharp - they should at least be given a set of photos.

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: Maersk – Unrealistic filters

An online date of birth tool allows for improbably aged job candidates, and illustrates the importance of setting realistic limits on filters.

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The feature

Maersk, the international shipping group, asks online job candidates provide their date of birth using a calendar tool.

Users can scroll through a conventional month by month view or, more conveniently, click on the Month and Year headings to launch overlay menus and navigate to the correct date. The Month overlay brings up a list of the 12 calendar months, while the Year menu lays out a set of years, two decades to a screen, providing an efficient interface to reach the candidates’ date of birth.

However, the Year menu is not restricted to options within the range of a probable working career, or even human life span. Instead, users can select any date from 0001 CE into the far future (we stopped scrolling when we got to 4583). There is no subsequent form validation to highlight errors so a candidate could, for instance, submit an application with a date of birth in the future or one that coincides with the Battle of Hastings (14 October 1066).

The takeaway

Although in this instance the neat form interface makes it unlikely that candidates will accidentally select a date centuries before or after their actual birth date – other than for a fun screen shot – the calendar illustrates a wider point about the importance of getting date range parameters right.

Providing an exhaustive list of menu options may seem thorough, however it is exasperating when, for example, press release date range filters extend further back than the press archive leading to frustratingly fruitless search results. Setting forms to reflect the relevant parameters – including dates –provides users with a more focused and satisfying search experience.

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: BASF – Preferring not to personalise

The German chemicals giant has dropped a careers-related online personalisation tool from a recent website redesign

The previous version of BASF’s online careers section used a personalisation tool, but it has not been carried forward in the recent redesign

The previous version of BASF’s online careers section used a personalisation tool, but it has not been carried forward in the recent redesign


The feature

BASF maintained a personalisation tool in its corporate website careers section for several years. The ‘My preferences’ tool, which was signposted prominently in the in-section navigation of the previous version of the website, allowed visitors to ‘select your interest to customise page content’.

Visitors could choose to customise website content based on their experience level – graduate, professional or student, and business field, such as administrative, engineering or marketing.

Following a recent redesign, BASF has dropped the feature from its global site.

The takeaway

The ‘My preferences’ tool was part of a package of innovative features that BASF introduced to its online careers section a few years ago, including a quiz, a blog, WhatsApp chat and 360-degree videos. Some of these, including ‘My preferences’ were abandoned in the recent redesign, although WhatsApp and the videos have remained.

‘My preferences’ worked reasonably well in our tests, although most content within Careers stayed the same no matter which preferences were selected. Maybe, as with other personalisation features we’ve seen on the corporate web which have been quietly dropped, it did not have enough take up to justify keeping it; although we do not have any inside knowledge of BASF’s reasons.

Personalisation is being pushed hard by agencies at the moment, and we are sceptical of the promises being made.

Remembering the experiments that didn’t work out are important when considering whether or not to jump on the personalisation bandwagon.

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: LVMH and Mercier Champagne – Sustainability messaging lacks fizz

Parent and subsidiary companies fail to keep their offline and online communications consistent

Champagne Mercier website - cellar tour page

Champagne Mercier website - cellar tour page

The feature

Mercier Champagne, based in Epernay, France, offers a charming train tour of its impressive caves (cellars), which we were lucky enough to experience recently. The audio guide talks about the brand’s sustainability efforts, including the reduction of herbicides and pesticides through the use of natural alternatives, such as bugs. It also references its parent brand LVMH’s commitment to sustainability.

The Mercier website does not evidence the sustainable activities, even on the page dedicated to the tour , nor does it link to the LVMH website. The Mercier page on that site is engaging, but also fails to mention sustainability – and the main area of LVMH’s site dedicated to social and environmental responsibility is sparse too.

The takeaway

We often encounter organizations which fail to ensure that the messages on their global corporate and brand or subsidiary sites match up. In this case the sites themselves are not linked together well either – at least from the subsidiary to the parent site.

It is also important that offline and online communications are joined up. When they are not, the impact of messaging is diminished, and inconsistency can undermine authenticity. In our experience, governance is often at the heart of such problems: digital managers and teams must not be in a silo.

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: Vinci – making sense of search results

French construction company Vinci cleverly uses visual elements to make its corporate website’s search results listing easier to digest

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The Feature

The internal search engine results page on Vinci.com has a comprehensive set of filters in the left column. These allow users to filter results by site section, sub-section, year, category (including ‘Acquisitions’ and ‘Events’), document type (PDF or web page), country and language.

As is conventional, the number of search results available via each filter is shown in numerical form alongside each filter label (see screenshot). Unusually, visual elements are also used to indicate the number of results in two filter categories:

  • Number of results for each of the last ten years are illustrated by horizontal bars. 

  • A ‘word cloud’ style device is used to indicate the country filters with the most results. 

The Takeaway

Vinci’s search engine filters are exceptionally comprehensive. This could potentially make them overwhelming for some users. The use of visual elements to clearly illustrate the number of results available in key filter categories helps to avoid this potential problem. 

The use of horizontal bars to show number of results by year is particularly intuitive. However, the word cloud approach used to indicate number of results by country may not be immediately obvious to all users. 

Overall, however, the use of visual elements here is an effective complement to standard numerical indication of results in a set of filter tools. 

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.

Podcasts: the past becomes the future

Once ignored as ‘old technology’, podcasts are now essential listening for hipsters as well as the rest of us. David Bowen explains why this bandwagon should keep rolling, and examines a sprinkling of corporate examples

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Audio files were an early stirrer of excitement when the web came along in the Nineties. They did not need high speed internet access, so were happily accessible while videos were still stammering and stuttering. But - perhaps because they were not much of a technical challenge – they were never seen as particularly exciting. The spoken word was always useful, particularly to people who could not see well, but few people would want just sound when they could get pictures as well.

 Or so the thinking went. But those of us who hung on to speech radio as an important link with the outside rather appreciated a world delivered into our ears rather than our eyes. And I’m happy to say  the rest of humanity has now caught up.  Audiobooks are huge, podcasts are even bigger. The BBC, which has always been a big radio provider, is now pushing its podcasts hard, and so are other broadcasters.

But what of corporations? They are in there too. I am always suspicious of bandwagons, but I feel this one will keep on rolling. Audio will never be as quick to absorb as text, but for people whose eyes  and hands are occupied (for example while driving or in the gym), podcasts make a lot of sense. As they do for people who like radio and, of course, the visually impaired. Another advantage over video is that there is not a desperate need to keep them short – if people are driving they want a chunky listen, which is why 20 to 30 minutes is normal. Finally, the nature of podcasts means that you can subscribe to them – while some just play from sites, most are also delivered through an app: people can listen to them without ever going to the ‘mother site’.

Here are five we listened to. They each take a slightly different approach, which is what tends to happen when new things are introduced (or re-introduced). Where should they be kept on a site? Should they play direct or through a player (and if so, which player)? I suspect a standard approach will relatively quickly be adopted; that tends to happen.

Daimler has just launched its Headlights podcast series. It is currently promoting it on the home page of Daimler.com, though it actually lives in Careers, which is a clue to the target audience. A new episode is launched every Monday, alternating between English and German, and is accompanied by links to subscribe on various players.

Headlights has a young and upbeat feel, and kicked off with an interview with the CEO, followed by one with the head of an incubator unit. It should do well with young jobseeking audiences.

Daimler has an interesting site because it is happy to try things out in the cause of innovation, and has been running ‘audio reading’ versions of its blog posts since 2015. Presumably these were included primarily as an accessibility aid, but they are now also available as podcasts. It is encouraging to see an accessibility tool becoming a standard bearer for new technology. 

Verizon has a podcast series called Up to Speed. It is not kept in a particular place on the corporate site, but links to it are found dotted around. For example under News > People, a recent story headed ‘The imaginable reality of 5G’ is an Up to Speed podcast. There are no options to subscribe to Up to Speed on apps but a little control panel lets you jump forward or back, or download the file. You can also download the transcripts, which is good for accessibility. The podcasts take the form of interviews with experts, inside and outside the company,

Shell launched Inside Energy initially as an iPad app, but technological fashions move on and it is now a section of Shell.com with a shiny new Energy Podcast. This is less ambitious than the others in that it is touted as a five part series – but presumably if it is successful there will be more. It does not play directly from the site – you have to choose whether to hear it through iTunes, Google or Spotify.

The first episode, ‘Battery technology: where could it take us’, is a professionally presented and interesting piece. It sounded like a serious radio programme and set me wondering whether it is tainted by being a corporate production. I decided not – the interviews are all with scientists and engineers, and it would be nice to think that Shell’s specialists know as much about energy as anyone else.

Morgan Stanley uses its Ideas podcasts to present itself as the thinking person’s investment bank. The current programme is part of season four, we are told, and is based on a ‘trip to the future’. The destination here is Dar es Salaam which, we learn, has one of the most advanced rapid transit systems in the world. Choices here are to listen direct, or on Apple Podcasts or Google Play.

This is a serious documentary about a general interest subject, and it might make you wonder why an investment bank is bothering to produce it. But maybe that it the strength – it is hard to see how talking about a Tanzanian transport system directly benefits Morgan Stanley. In any event, if someone is sufficiently intrigued to subscribe to the podcast series, they will find they are being fed material by the bank without even trying. Brand-building at its most subtle.

Goldman Sachs has just launched the 120th of its Exchanges podcasts. Even though the interviews are interesting (about market and other developments) it is not as professional as the others. The presenter is the head of corporate comms and he sounds rather rushed and perhaps a teeny bit bored. So these podcasts, which can be played direct or though iPlayer, could give us another lesson. That if you are going to become a broadcaster, you need to do it professionally – and that may well involve using professional broadcasters.

- David Bowen

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: Barclays Center – Accessibility add-on

An accessibility widget is a potentially useful shortcut for compliance, but the ideal approach is to build accessibility into the fabric of a site’s design

Screenshot 2019-04-16 14.44.45.png

The feature

The Barclays Center, a sports arena in Brooklyn, New York, uses a widget on its website to make the site usable for visitors with special needs.

An always visible icon to the left of the screen opens a menu of options to toggle on or off, including: screen reader compatibility, keyboard navigation, a text reader, font sizes, magnification, image description and other features.

The menu also includes a link to an ‘accessibility statement’, which gives details of the changes developers made to the site.

The takeaway

Using a third-party add-on to make a website accessible could be a useful short-cut for companies that do not have the time or money to build the necessary changes into their corporate site. The ever-present widget icon demonstrates the company’s commitment to accessibility to its audiences (and perhaps regulators) for relatively little effort.

However, the corporate websites that are best at accessibility build it into the core of the design – navigation that works via keyboard, clear captions and headings, closed captions and transcripts for videos, a comprehensive and customised statement on website accessibility, providing a channel to report problems, etc. Shell’s corporate web presence remains one of the best examples we’ve come across of designing for accessibility.

The widget approach is at least ‘better than nothing’ when ‘nothing’ is too often extent of company’s efforts to make their websites accessible for everyone.

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: Merck and the non-scrolling home page

Merck, the US pharmaceuticals company, has a home page that neatly avoids scrolling on a computer screen, while allowing it on a mobile device

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 10.14.26.png

The Feature

The home page of Merck.com is dominated by a carousel of features with images and introductions; their subjects vary, but always include technological stories.

On a desktop or laptop screen, a top menu triggers dropdown panels or links to other parts of the site. A bar across the bottom of the screen - always in view - has three links: Latest News, Social@Merck, and Other Merck sites. Mousing over any of these triggers the same panel, which springs upwards. This has the latest news story and tweet, and a set of links to other company sites.

On a mobile phone, the top menu is replaced by a ‘hamburger’ menu, while the bottom bar disappears. Instead news stories, the latest tweet and links to other sites are displayed below each other, to be viewed by scrolling.

The Takeaway

Most companies assume that users will happily scroll down their home pages, and will pack them full of juicy titbits. But Nielsen Norman’s research shows that on laptop or desktop screens clicks drop off sharply ‘below the fold’, and common sense says that you should not make visitors do any work when you have a few seconds to convince them to stay on your site. A mobile is quite different: scrolling is the natural thing to do.

There are ways of tempting people to scroll on a computer, but Merck’s answer is blindingly simple - it makes sure nothing is out of view. If you want to see news, tweets or other sites, click on the bar at the bottom. Otherwise let yourself be tempted in without distraction by the main features, or click links at the top to get where you want.

It could be done better. The images and headline in the features are not strong, and we are sceptical that a carousel is in any event the best way of drawing visitors into a site. The spring-up panel could be better used too. There should be a separate one for each link, and they could be more enticingly populated.

But the idea of treating laptop and mobile visitors quite differently is good, and respects likely usage. Latest Bowen Craggs figures show that 67 per cent of visits to corporate sites are still on laptop or desktop computers, with 27 per cent on mobiles. The first is dropping, the second rising, but there will have to be much more change before it no longer makes sense to give much as much attention to the one as to the other.

https://www.merck.com/index.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.

Getting people where they need to be: Six of the best corporate online directories for country sites, brand sites and social media

A corporate website has many jobs to do. One of the ‘boring but essential’ tasks is to direct visitors to different sites on a company’s web ‘estate’ as efficiently as possible. Here, Jason Sumner looks at six of the best online directories for visibility, presentation and usability.

Many people arrive on a company’s corporate website when they really should be on another site in the company’s online estate. A customer looking for product may be better served by a country or brand site that sells products, for example. Local journalists may want to find out about the brands available in a particular country or see the list of social media channels they could follow.

In these cases and others a clearly signposted, well-presented and highly usable directory is a perhaps unexciting, but necessary tool that can make the difference between a successful visit or a frustrating one. From a website governance point of view, a well-executed directory can make a complex estate of country sites, brand sites and social media channels more coherent and manageable.

Here are six of the best in the corporate online world.

GSK’s well-constructed country menu

GSK's country-selector menu features a complete listing of GSK countries with links to country sites where available and country information pages where no such site exists. A 'new window' icon helps to differentiate between the two types of links. The menu is replicated on country sites, where it serves as a hub for movement around the estate. A link back to the global site is prominently included, which is good practice.

A useful tool for moving around GSK’s web estate

A useful tool for moving around GSK’s web estate

AstraZeneca’s hub directory covering customer sites, careers pages and social media

'AstraZeneca websites', in the header menu, launches a menu page which includes not only country sites but also customer, careers and social media presences. The link is present on most AstraZeneca sites, making this an excellent hub for the estate as a whole. There are some weaknesses too. For example, languages are not signalled via the menu. But on balance this is a simple approach which could be adopted usefully by many corporate online estates.

Visitors can use the menu to navigate customer sites, careers pages and social media

Visitors can use the menu to navigate customer sites, careers pages and social media

Unilever’s brand finder tool is integrated with contacts

A multi-tier dropdown menu on the ‘Our brands’ page, which has entries for product categories, countries and brand name, makes the task of reaching one of the company’s brands from this page on the global site easy and intuitive.

In addition, a major strength of the tool, as we noted in a recent BC tip, is the fact that it provides country contact details for brands, without visitors needing to leave the global site.

The brand tool is usefully integrated with contacts

The brand tool is usefully integrated with contacts

ING’s ‘Products & services’ tool, with location sniffer

The ING corporate site home page has a prominent panel titled 'Find ING in your location'. It users location-sniffer technology to present the user with a default country setting ­– eg 'ING in the United Kingdom'. Clicking on the panel reveals a tailored list of onward links to customer ING sites relevant to the user's country. A simple 'Select other location' dropdown menu allows users to choose another country, and thus tailor the list of onward links. The same tool can be accessed throughout the site via the 'Products and services' primary menu link. This is simple but effective.

ING’s country product finder tool is notable for its well-executed location sniffer

ING’s country product finder tool is notable for its well-executed location sniffer

SAP’s powerful country finder tool, with flag icons and location sniffer

SAP’s country finder in the universal header is a powerful tool to move around the web estate.

A country and region selector, signposted with a small flag icon in the header of all sites, calls up an overlay panel from which visitors can click the country or regional version of the site they need. Like ING, the tool uses a location sniffer, but allows visitors to decide whether to use it before sending people to a site.

The country name is presented in the language of the site – in the German version, Switzerland appears as ‘Schweiz’, and in the French version, it appears as ‘Suisse’. The menus appear across all country customer-facing sites and the ‘about’ corporate pages which are in English and German. Users can also access country sites from a ‘Worldwide Directory’ link in the footer.

This country menu covers the consumer and corporate parts of the SAP online estate

This country menu covers the consumer and corporate parts of the SAP online estate

HSBC’s straightforward social media directory

HSBC provides journalists visiting the media section of its global site with a simple and straightforward list of all of its global and local social media channels. They are first organised by channel – Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, WeChat and YouTube – and then by ‘global’ and ‘local’ channels. Users can drill down through a series of click-to-expand menus. There are few bells and whistles on the page, but journalists – as well as other audience groups – are likely to appreciate the efficiency of the tool for deciding which social media channels they should follow.

A simple and useful tool for journalists and others who are deciding which of HSBC’s social channels to follow

A simple and useful tool for journalists and others who are deciding which of HSBC’s social channels to follow

- 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: JPMorgan Chase – encouraging jobseekers to pack their bags

Careers pages inspired by travel magazines effectively inform and enthuse potential recruits

Screenshot 2019-04-01 at 10.24.55.png

The Feature

The Careers site for JPMorgan Chase has an About Us section with a sub-section titled ‘Locations’.

A set of graphic panels on the Locations landing page promote ‘Featured Locations’ in which the New York headquartered investment bank operates. These include Bournemouth in the UK, Wilmington in the US, Bengaluru in India as well as Warsaw, Hong Kong and other capital cities.

Each location has a dedicated page written and presented in a style similar to that of a travel magazine article. Elements on each page include:

- Engaging headlines – for example, for Bournemouth: ‘A beach town that means business: work and play on Britain’s Jurassic Coast.’

- Panels that highlight the key attractions of the location in question – such as ‘Wake up your taste buds: from fine dining to popular local dishes, like hummus and Shakshuka, the dining culture of Tel Aviv and Herzliya has never been more exciting’.

- A gallery of large captioned images of the location, each highlighting a benefit of living and working in it.

- Links to more details of specific roles and departments in the location.

- Buttons leading to local vacancy information for both ‘students’ and ‘professionals’.

Screenshot 2019-04-01 at 10.23.29.png

The Takeaway

Many companies’ careers pages work hard at selling the benefits of working inside a particular organization. But few do as much as JPMorgan Chase to sell the attractions of living in the locations in which a firm operates.

By borrowing elements from travel magazines, JPMorgan Chase has created a simple but effective format for informing and enthusing internationally-minded potential recruits about opportunities the firm offers around the world.

This approach also has the benefit of communicating the company’s international reach and cosmopolitan culture.

The provision of prominent links to tailored local vacancy information on these pages ensures that jobseekers have clear onward routes if the magazine-style material has whetted their appetites.

https://careers.jpmorgan.com/us/en/about-us/locations

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: Levi Strauss & Co - the wrong sort of 501

Levi Strauss & Co returned to the stock market recently, but its IR site was not dressed as properly as it could have been

Levi Strauss & Co IR site home page

Levi Strauss & Co IR site home page

The Feature

Levi Strauss & Co shares started trading again on the New York Stock Exchange recently, after an absence of over 30 years.

The company’s Investor Relations site, separate from the other areas of its corporate web estate, carried regulatory news items relating to the IPO, including the final prospectus filed on flotation day.

Its Events & Presentations section was and remains, at the time of writing, totally empty. The section is promoted on the IR site landing page, leaving error messages visible to users arriving at the site.

The Takeaway

An IPO is a stressful time for any IR department and digital manager, and it can be easy for things to slip through the cracks on the IR site – especially if the site, or part of it, is new, and laws about what can and cannot be shown must be navigated.

But that does not mean that companies cannot do more to prepare for the day that shares float.

We suspect that the Events & Presentations section on the Levi Strauss & Co site was simply part of a standard template, but clearly it would have been better to remove it until the company had something to put in it; or to create a more elegant message advising users when materials would be available.

The prospectus is largely hidden, only available from the SEC Filings area of the site and not in, for example, Financial news. The company should at least point investors to this more obviously now the shares are trading. We would also expect material from the prospectus to be adapted for the website, to state the company’s investment case, in the near future as regulations allow.

Sometimes the IPO company has not thought about its IR site and who is going to run it, so that planning should be part of the overall preparations. We know that US companies, encouraged by their legal departments, can outsource their IR sections or sites. If this is the case, it should still be closely overseen by the in-house digital and IR teams.

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 – Data shows a broad audience for online CSR information

Interest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) cuts across all audiences to corporate websites

Seven per cent of media visitors to corporate websites in our benchmark say ‘CSR’ is their reason for visiting

Seven per cent of media visitors to corporate websites in our benchmark say ‘CSR’ is their reason for visiting


Across the Bowen Craggs survey benchmark (see description below), those identifying themselves as CSR professionals, which include representatives of NGOs or charities, make up just 1 per cent of survey respondents; and are the smallest visitor group in the survey.

However, the audience for CSR material is wider than just those who identify strictly as ‘CSR’ visitors. A small percentage of many other audience groups say they are visiting to find CSR information, adding up to a significant but diverse group of people. For example, the chart shows the percentage of media visitors in our benchmark identifying ‘CSR’ as their reason for visiting, at 7 per cent. The figure for employees is 4 per cent; for investors, 3 per cent; and for consumers, 1 per cent. It is useful to remember that these are averages. Many of the companies in our benchmark have higher percentages than these.

The figures show that interest in CSR cuts across many different audience groups, so it is important to have CSR material that appeals to (and is written for) all of these groups, as well as having easy routes to CSR-related material in sections where these audiences visit.

The Bowen Craggs corporate website survey benchmark contains responses from over 450,000 visitors. The latest statistics cover more than 20 companies, and looks at who visits corporate websites, why, and how satisfied they have been. For more information visit our website.

BC tip: Nike – An option to skip?

A ‘Skip’ button in Nike’s corporate sustainability videos could be useful, but is poorly implemented

Screenshot 2019-03-19 16.31.45.png

The feature

The sustainability microsite of Nike, the US-based sportswear giant, has a ‘Skip’ feature on the videos that introduce many of the sections.

When visitors land on the site, they can use a set of right-column links to navigate to different sections, or scroll down the page to reach them. Most of the sections showcase a video; for example, ‘Protecting our environment’ has a story about Carissa Moore, a champion surfer. Clicking ‘See Carissa’s story’ plays a video.

The ‘Skip’ option appears in the lower middle of the screen on mouse-over; one of only a limited set of options, including social media sharing and muting.

The takeaway

We can see the ‘Skip’ tool being useful if it were implemented in the right way. It recalls the Netflix-style ‘Skip intro’ feature that viewers will be used to in other contexts; and implies that the company values the viewer’s time. A video may be excellent (and in Nike’s case they are), but maybe visitors just want to move on to other things.

However, the way Nike has implemented the tool turns it into a hindrance rather than a help.

It is initially unclear to what destination visitors are ‘skipping’. It turns out that using ‘Skip’ (or watching videos to the end) is the only way to see other content in the section. The fact that you must scroll once you have skipped the video is also unclear. We thought initially during our visits that the only option on the ‘Skip’ screen was to play the video again, and it took a little while to work out that you must scroll; which is likely to be frustrating for others too.

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.