BC tip: MSD – a map to unexpected destinations

An interactive map provides quick access to local office contact information – but then frustratingly transports users away from it. 

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The Feature

MSD.com, the global corporate website for US pharmaceuticals company Merck, has a Worldwide Contact Information page. A global map occupies the entire visible part of the page before scrolling on a standard desktop or laptop monitor (see screenshot).

Each country on the map is coloured either grey or company-brand dark green. Hovering the cursor over a dark green country triggers a pop-up box containing the country name, plus addresses and telephone numbers for local MSD offices.

Clicking on a dark green country transports users to the home page of the relevant MSD country site if there is one. Grey countries on the map have no information or functionality associated with them.

Below the map is a table listing countries in alphabetical order, with office address, telephone numbers and (where available) country site links for each country. A horizontal set of A-Z anchor links allows users to quickly travel down the listing.

This listing is not visible to visitors without scrolling.

The Takeaway

MSD’s Worldwide Contacts Information page has a number of strengths:

  • It is prominently signposted via a self-explanatory ‘Worldwide’ link, accompanied by an intuitive globe icon, in the permanent site header.

  • The map is cleanly presented, with elegantly executed mouseover functionality.

  • The tabular listing of country office contact details below the map is comprehensive and makes intelligent use of anchor links to help users travel rapidly to the relevant country information.

However, two key weaknesses risk frustrating and disorientating visitors to this page:

  • The fact that clicking on a country on the map leads to a country site home page, rather than deeper country contact information – as the title of the page promises to deliver – is likely to be unexpected, unhelpful and confusing for many visitors. The pop-up boxes do contain a very small-font caption, eg ‘Click on country to visit MSD in Spain’, but this is easily overlooked by first-time visitors. Moreover, country site home pages we visited do not contain contact information.

  • The useful A-Z country contact directory below the map is very easily missed by visitors, because it is not visible without scrolling, and there is no clue above the scroll line about its existence.

http://www.msd.com/contact/contacts.html

 

What do 400,000 surveys tell us about your corporate website?

Our archive of corporate website visitor surveys, which we’ve been conducting for clients since 2011, continues to grow – to more than 425,000 currently. We recently presented an update on what this body of research can tell us about how to serve your visitors more effectively. Here are the highlights.
 

For a full recording of the web meeting, please email Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com. 

Corporate website measurement is maturing

Digital managers want to measure engagement and journeys rather than simply tracking visits or downloads through analytics: they want meaningful information – did users achieve their tasks and if not, why? Using surveys and analytics together, as we do for some of our clients, can help answer these questions. We are able to see at a granular level, what particular audiences did on a site, or where visitors failed when trying to do something specific.
 

There is much room for improvement when it comes to ‘goal achievement’

Only just under half of survey respondents, 48 per cent, say they achieved their goals on corporate websites. Nearly a quarter of respondents say they definitely did not achieve their goals, and 28 per cent ‘partly’ achieved them.

Jobseekers and customers continue to outnumber other visitors, but only sometimes succeed

The largest audience on websites, according to our surveys, is jobseekers, and the biggest reason for visiting a corporate site, at 39%, is to search for a job.

at_a_glance.png

The second biggest audience continues to be customers, at 25%: confirming what our analytics  suggest – that customers are indeed present on corporate sites, whether site managers want them to be or not.

Of those, almost half come for customer service or to find out about a specific product. Sites which fail to address those needs, or at least to direct customers to the appropriate place to serve them, risk alienating customers.

Our surveys suggest this is happening more than digital managers may like. Customers may be the second biggest audience on corporate sites, but they are least likely to achieve their goals of all corporate audiences, with a goal achievement rate of 41 per cent. Journalists and CSR analysts do not fare much better, with a 46 per cent success rate, while many web managers might worry that their largest audience, jobseekers, only succeed half of the time.

Jobseekers have the most positive perception of the brand, and customers the least

We measure how corporate website visitors’ perceptions of a company’s brand improves or declines after visiting the site. Jobseekers are the most likely audience to  have their brand perception improved after visiting, at 55%. In contrast, only 34% of customers have their perception of a company improved by a corporate website visit. Investors, on the other hand, tend to leave with their perception unchanged: a challenge to investor relations teams?

Failure to achieve goals is linked to a decline in brand perception

Overall, 44 per cent of survey respondents leave with a better perception of the company (in itself an opportunity for improvement), but only 24 per cent of those who fail to achieve their goal do so. Helping website visitors complete the tasks they came for could improve the company’s reputation.

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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: LVMH – A virtual luxury?

A virtual reality annual report has flaws, but is worth watching

BC tip - LVMH VR.png

The Feature

LVMH, the French luxury goods conglomerate, has created a 360-degree version of its annual report, which is being promoted on its corporate website.

Visitors begin the virtual journey outside the Paris headquarters of the Louis Vuitton Foundation, LVMH’s non-profit art museum and cultural centre. Inside, visitors are taken to different rooms in the museum, as well as four virtual, but realistic, luxury stores in the LVMH group.

There are clickable icons along the way to call up videos and ‘page-turner’ narratives about the group’s activities in 2017. At the end, key figures are displayed on a screen, before directing people to the exit.

The Takeaway

We tried the feature on desktop, mobile and using 3D goggles, and although the overall experience on all three types of screens was awkward in different ways, we spent longer than we thought we would looking around.

It is visually sumptuous, beautifully designed and probably more expensive than most corporate comms budgets will accommodate. But the message it sends – ‘we don’t mind spending money to show how innovative we are’ – fits in well with the rest of LVMH’s web presence and brand (the subject matter – luxury goods and Frank Gehry architecture also help).

As an annual report, it has little or no value for professional investors, but it is most likely not intended for them. The audience is broader – all corporate audiences, private investors, customers and the general public; part of turning the annual exercise of producing a financial report into more of a public relations event.

Although perhaps not directly relevant for most corporate websites yet, it is worth watching for potential applications of the future. For example, it manages to convey an awful lot about LVMH as a group, and as the technology improves and gets cheaper, we could see a similar feature fitting nicely in a future ‘about us’ or careers section.

https://digitalannualreport.lvmh.diakse.com/?lang=en

A jobs quiz for millennials has lofty aims but poor execution

Vodafone’s new online tool for jobseekers, the ‘Future Jobs Finder’ is an interesting idea, but the way it is implemented may test jobseekers’ patience more than their skills, says Karen Le Marquand.
 

Vodafone launched its ‘Future jobs’ campaign in March, which is aimed at helping a ‘lost’ generation of millennials find a job in the digital sector.

As part of the initiative, the UK-based telecommunications giant has an online test on its corporate website called the ‘Future Jobs Finder’. The stated goal of the quiz, which was produced by experts in psychometric testing and occupational psychologists, is to identify skills and match candidates to appropriate careers.

The tool is interesting and engaging in some ways, and we could see how it might be adapted successfully by other corporate careers sections. However, we encountered a number of problems when we tested it.

This is no quick multiple choice tool. Test-takers are required to register (which may put many people off right from the start). It has 45 steps, including an ‘About me’ questionnaire and several analytical and mathematical challenges. These evaluate skills such as multi-tasking and deductive reasoning, set against the clock. Completing the test took us about 20 minutes, a generous time commitment; and the challenges were fast-paced and interesting, but stressful.

The question is, do jobseekers get something useful in return for their time and stress?

After we competed the four challenges, the ‘profile’ information was perfunctory and usually no more than a few words – eg, ‘key skills’ listed as ‘memory’. Nothing was listed under ‘personal strengths’ – potentially disillusioning to young jobseekers.

Jobseekers are matched up with a list of potential jobs or training courses, but strangely, a majority of the jobs listed are not actually with Vodafone. Following one of these ‘opportunity’ links takes users away from the Vodafone site, where they are required to use a further set of filters to find any useful results.

The need to register raises questions about data collection, in a time of increasing concern about the topic. How many young jobseekers be willing to share in-depth information that could potentially be linked to future job applications? Or will the more savvy among them simply shy away from revealing the truth, putting the reliability of the data in question?

The associated privacy statement is unclear about how data will be used with job applications, but apart from privacy concerns, what serious applicant would admit to ‘not being able to maintain high levels of concentration’ during a test (one of the answer options), should they one day wish to work for Vodafone?

For such an extensive tool requiring a high level of commitment in time and effort, a lack of substantive profile feedback will be a surprise and, coupled with the need to register and share personal data, could raise further questions about the real value – and purpose – of the exercise.

BC Tip: Back to the future in search

Daimler's media site offers Boolean operators to improve search results

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The feature

Daimler's corporate site has a separate Global Media Site, reached from the Press link in the primary menu. This has a large database of assets that include press releases, pictures, videos and press kits. A 'detailed search' option allows these filters to be selected. The search field (on the English site) also has this in it: 'Conjunction (AND): Term 1 Term 2. Disjunction (OR): Term 1 OR Term 2. Negation (NOT): -Term'. This suggests that Boolean operators will work  - use 'and', 'or', or 'not' to refine the search. A further filter box on the results page allows a date range to chosen, or another term added.

A test search for 'zetsche and truck and hybrid and speech' brings up nine documents, one of which was a speech by the chairman Dr Zetscher that looked at the future of electric cars and trucks. 'Formula 1 and china' shows 74 documents and 88 pictures, most of which are of the Chinese grand prix. However 'China not Formula 1' interprets 'not' as 'notiert':  German for 'notes'. It is necessary to write 'China - Formula 1' to find results that exclude motor racing.

The takeaway

There was a time when Boolean operators were commonplace in searches. They were a librarian's tool. No one knew how to do it better – until, that is, Google taught us to write in any question we liked. But anyone who uses internal search engines knows they will struggle hopelessly to match Google – unless they use Google technology (which is to be denied to them). So Daimler has been brave in throwing away fashion and reintroducing Boolean operators. Our tests showed that when used carefully, they can quickly zoom in on results that might otherwise never be found. 

There are two problems. First, the need to use a 'minus' sign instead of 'not' means that anyone used to Boolean operators is likely to be confused. Second – linked to this – there is insufficient explanation of this: indeed the tiny '-' in the search field is likely to be missed. This is just part of a lack of explanation – a generation of users is arriving that has no clue what a Boolean operator is. A simple explanation, with some examples, would make all the difference.

http://media.daimler.commedia.daimler.com

BC tip: Home Depot – Showing sustainability at store level

A simple interactive tool puts the US retailer’s sustainability programme in an appropriate context.

BC tip - Home Depot.png

The feature

Home Depot’s corporate website has an interactive graphic in its ‘Responsibility’ section that lets visitors click around an image of one of its retail sites to see how the company is reducing its environmental impacts.

There are 11 clickable numbers around the image of the site, each with one sentence summarising the efficiencies being made, from the introduction of low-wattage lighting, fewer parking spaces, recycled roofing materials, etc.

The takeaway

The interactivity is basic, verging on old-fashioned, but the graphic’s strength is the way it explains sustainability at an easily understandable level – the individual store.

The target audience for the page is general visitors – jobseekers, customers, individual investors – for whom simplicity is an advantage. The information imparted is clear, straightforward and memorable; and it fits in with the rest of the corporate site’s ‘fun’ and informal feel.

A drawback is that we found the usability fiddly, with some trouble zooming in and out in desktop view; and it was even more difficult on a smartphone.

However, the central idea behind the tool – finding an appropriate visual ‘hook’ for explaining a company’s environmental programmes – is one which has applications across sectors.

https://corporate.homedepot.com/responsibility/operations

Knowing when to say no (and yes)

Digital managers have no shortage of opportunities to adopt the latest piece of clever technology. How to tell which to go for, and which to avoid? By David Bowen

 Unilever shows off the first UK commercial

Unilever shows off the first UK commercial

Digital managers in large organizations are very desirable creatures. At least they are to people who want to sell them things - let's call them vendors. Of course Bowen Craggs is one such, and I will give no guidance as to whether you should or should not use our services. But I do have some thoughts about whether you should dig into your pockets for pieces of web functionality that may (or may not) be worthwhile. 

Once you have invested in something, you should be able to get an idea of its effectiveness using traffic analysis, market research, and so on. But you will need to stick with it for a while to get meaningful results, so this can be an expensive business.

May I suggest another approach - to piggyback on the experience of others? If something has come and stayed, it is probably safe to adopt. If it has come as part of a broad fashion, then gone away, it is worth ignoring, at least until that particular wave returns. If it keeps coming and going, be suspicious - it is probably something that vendors try periodically to sell, but the business case is dubious. And if no-one has yet given a piece of functionality enough of a chance, you may have to take the risk. Here are some examples of each type:

Here to stay

  • Video has always been theoretically possible on the web, but in the days of dial-up modems it was more likely to irritate than excite. No longer true with broadband, and we can all think of videos that work better than text or photos. A couple of warnings: if you have a significant audience in parts of the world where broadband is not widespread, you should still ignore it. And it is not a good way of getting information across fast, so if you want to be useful to journalists and analysts, for example, either avoid it or provide transcripts (much faster to read). 
  • Responsive design is not going away. We were dubious at first, because too often it was accompanied by a deterioration in the desktop experience (and corporate sites are still primarily views on larger screens). But that, mostly, has been fixed.
  • Ingenious interactivity: watch others to see what works. For example BP keeps on upgrading the charting tool it has long used in its investor and, now, CSR sections. It must have a reason for that. Many companies have stuck with interactive devices to bring their stories to life. A nice new one is Unilever's history, which includes (for 1955) the first UK television commercial (so you get a video too).

Riding the fashion

Innovations in navigation tend to be driven by fashion. The most obvious is the current trend to hide menus - we believe we are now close to 'peak hiding' - but there have been others in the past and there will be more in the future. This is a problem, because to ignore fashion runs the risk that you will be accused of being old-fashioned - but if you do have to follow it, at least do what you can to minimise any drawbacks it brings.

Corporate apps came - and went, as companies realised they brought little a responsive website could not, but were a lot more expensive (though see my exception under virtual reality, below).

Coming and going

Personalisation is making a comeback - as it does every so often. I remember getting frustrated by the BT website in the late Nineties: it was so full of personalising tools that it was desperately slow. Of course personalisation is huge in marketing (the whole Facebook data thing is about it), but it also makes occasional incursions into the corporate world - and then leaves. A few years ago Aviva allowed shareholders to tick boxes to configure a page to suit them; it no longer does. France Telecom allowed visitors to drag widgets around its home page  to the same end; it no longer does. There are some examples that do have a specific use. For example the 'consumer corner' on Philip Morris International's site will show brand information to people in Switzerland, but not to those in most other countries - a regulatory trick that makes sense. But generally decent navigation allows people to see what they want without any need for clever technology - that goes for 'country sniffers' too.

HTML annual reports come and go like the swallows in Spring. We did research a few years ago that suggested that neither financial professionals nor retail shareholders made much use of them. Yet they are on the up again as IR teams see that other IR teams are using them more (encouraged, certainly, by vendors). The growth of mobile does make PDF less useful - and therefore HTML more useful - but think hard before you decide that it is finally here to stay.

Too soon to know

Virtual reality has been around for such a long time - without any real impact in the corporate world - it is tempting to dismiss current experiments as mere fashion. We are not so sure:  there have been real changes in technology that could make virtual reality, and the related world of augmented reality, stick this time. Faster internet, of course, but this is also one area where apps could make sense - especially if they are aimed at jobseekers. Exxon Mobil's virtual reality app is impressive, particularly when viewed on a VR headset.

Chatbots are much talked about. We will return to them, but my initial thought is that they are rather similar to advanced search engines, such as ENI's. Both must be built round a database of prepared answers to be helpful. Whether typing a question to a chatbot is easier than typing it in a search engine is of course a moot point.

Podcasts are on the up. I can see why they could work - a good way to absorb information while you are travelling. But it does raise the question of why they have not taken off before, given their simple technology. Still, keep an eye on Morgan Stanley to see if it continues to promote podcasts on its home page; if you do not want to take the risk, let your friendly investment bank test the market for you instead.

BC tip: SAP - Transparency though Glassdoor, but presented opaquely

SAP is embracing Glassdoor as a channel through which to engage with employees and respond to criticism. But oddly it seems reluctant to shout about it.

 SAP response to criticism on Glassdoor

SAP response to criticism on Glassdoor

The Feature

We wrote almost two years ago how SAP has established a vibrant presence on Glassdoor, the site where employees can leave reviews of companies as employers.

The company has invested time and money in creating an enhanced employer profile, on which it displays awards and feeds from its other careers-focused social channels such as Twitter and Facebook. It also posts updates directly, and has created other bespoke information on life at SAP.

A closer look reveals that the company responds to both positive and negative employee reviews – the central part of Glassdoor.

For example, on February 4th 2018, the company thanked an employee for a 5-star review, while on March 7th it engaged with an employee who had posted a review titled ‘Trash’ and which complained about sexism, racism and homophobia. The company detailed its efforts at inclusion, apologised to the employee for their experience, and provided an email address for the employee to take matters up with the HR team.

On the SAP website, Glassdoor is not included in the links to social channels in the footer. The company’s Glassdoor profile is advertised on a page at SAP Careers > Who We Are > Social Media Channels, but this page is quite hidden in the site – not in the navigation and only accessible via small links on other pages such as Careers > Who We Are.

Unlike two years ago, there is no advert on the Careers landing page for the Glassdoor presence (only a reference to a Glassdoor award).

The Takeaway

SAP’s activity on Glassdoor shows how employers can engage with employees and show how transparent they are.

There are alternatives to this approach: this recent PR Week article sets out the legal avenues to have posts removed, or prevented in the first place. While these options may be useful in extremis, such as if an employee at the company in question has been identified, it is preferable to demonstrate transparency by facing negative reviews head on.

Given that employees will be posting reviews – both positive and negative – on the site, whether a company has chosen to tailor its presence there or not, it makes sense to respond to criticism and put forward the company’s point of view.

There is evidence to back up the benefits of this approach: a 2016 Glassdoor survey found that 62% of jobseekers said a response to a negative review would improve their perception of a prospective employer.

However SAP’s seeming reluctance – or perhaps it is just oversight - to publicise its engagement on Glassdoor seems odd, and to undermine its efforts there. Other companies such as BNP Paribas do a much better job of showcasing their Glassdoor presence.

BC tip: BBC – Design disturbs a story

An article's intrusive design makes it hard to read

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The feature

The BBC website has many feature articles. One that has been promoted recently is 'Does Putin's Russia reject the West?', by the Moscow correspondent, Sarah Rainsford, and explores the views of a cross-section of Russians across the country. It is lengthy but is held on one page – navigated either by scrolling or by using 'chapter' numbers (one to seven), which stay in place at the top of the screen. Each 'chapter' is headed by an image with a headline superimposed.

On a desktop or laptop screen, design features include images that stay in place as the text is scrolled past them, photos that transform into another automatically, (it is necessary to wait for this process to finish before continuing scrolling), and a split screen with images scrolling past text – sometimes the text is on the left, sometimes on the right. These features start in chapter two, and continue to the end. On a mobile phone screen, the text is always in the centre – the only devices that are used here are static images with text scrolling past them. 

The takeaway

This is a well-written and interesting feature, with nice illustrations – it would make a good read in a colour magazine. It is however very long, so the way it is presented is key to helping readers get through it.

The 'chapter' device is strange, because without headings there are no clues as to what might be found in, for example, chapter 5. But the real problem is that the design is too gimmicky, piling one device on top of another. The still photos that are scrolled past by text are fine, but when the scrolling is blocked by the need to wait for pictures to transform and – particularly – where text moves from one side of the screen to the other, the design becomes distracting. It is as though the designer has decided to use all the tricks in the box to create variation for its own sake – the needs of the reader have been largely forgotten. Evidence for this comes from the mobile view, where design is much simpler, and the story easier to read.

Scrolling stories such as these have become common on corporate sites, and are often elegant. They were pioneered by media sites such as the BBC, but these latest complications mark a path other organizations would do well to avoid.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/russia_election

 

 

 

 

 

Corporate values online: show, don’t tell

Company values pages are home to some of the worst clichés on the corporate web. They can often seem an afterthought, rather than an opportunity to showcase what is unique about a company’s culture and turn it into a selling point. In the spirit of ‘showing’, Jason Sumner shares a few examples, good and bad.
 

‘Show, don’t tell’ is a longstanding principle in creative writing. Authors, so the advice goes, should illuminate setting and character through action and dialogue, and avoid vague summarising or heavy-handed explanations directing readers how to feel about the story.

The same principle applies to company ‘values’ on corporate websites. In fact, the problem with many of these pages can often be boiled down to ‘too much telling and not enough showing’.

The bad
 

Danaher: Bullet points and clichés

Danaher’s ‘Shared Purpose and Core Values’ page not only ‘tells’ the values of the US industrial healthcare conglomerate via well-worn corporate clichés; it puts them in a list of bullet points, a sure-fire killer of originality. The video at the top of the page could have worked well, but in Danaher’s case, it is just as vague as the rest of the page.

 Danaher's 'Shared Purpose and Core Values' page

Danaher's 'Shared Purpose and Core Values' page

Shire: Ideals without evidence

The ‘Our Culture’ page on Irish pharmaceuticals group Shire’s corporate website  does not use bullet points, but its approach, one dense paragraph, is equally dry. It includes statements such as: ‘Our patient and customer focused culture encourages employees to embrace innovation and challenge the status quo’; ‘honesty and transparency are inherent in all that we do’; ‘we foster an environment where leaders are positive, accountable, results driven and great people managers’, etc.

These are all noble ideals, and Shire’s employees may well know many examples of how the company puts them into practice. Most visitors to the website, however, will need to take these statements on trust. At a time when institutions, and especially large corporations, are under scrutiny, it is risky to make statements without any evidence to back them up.

 Shire's 'Our Culture' page

Shire's 'Our Culture' page

The good
 

Barclays: Videos lend believability

In practice, digital teams may have some input on the company values, but little power to change them once they are agreed. That may even involve a directive from above to put them on the site ‘as written’, even if that means a bulleted list.

Barclays, the UK financial services firm, manages to augment the conventional bullet points on its ‘Purpose and Values’ page with a number of relevant and carefully crafted videos, showing ‘values’ in action. The employee profiles are most effective, with members of staff explaining how they apply the values in their work and everyday lives.

One drawback – the videos could be better signposted; they are at the bottom of the page in a tabbed menu, where they are more likely to be missed.

 Barclays 'values' videos

Barclays 'values' videos

Total: Embedding links and videos

French energy giant Total bolsters its values page, ‘Five strong values embedded in our DNA’,  with embedded videos and links to resources around the site. For example, there is a short film about how an employee in Kenya rose through the ranks to illustrate Total’s ‘stand together’ team spirit.

 An embedded video on Total’s values page

An embedded video on Total’s values page

Google: Linking stories to values

Google’s recently redesigned ‘corporate’ home page has an ‘Our values in action’ section, with a horizontally scrolling list of graphic-panel links to relevant stories housed across its sprawling web estate.

For companies with a library of stories, it could be useful to think whether they illustrate the company’s values in any way and, if so, link to them from the relevant page.

 The Google corporate home page: ‘Our values in action’

The Google corporate home page: ‘Our values in action’

 

 

BC tip: KFC - Not catering for journalists

KFC’s response to its chicken supply problems in the UK has been admired – at least for customers. But it has not put much on the menu for the media.

 KFC UK's 'Crossed the road' store finder

KFC UK's 'Crossed the road' store finder

The Feature

KFC’s UK website responded to a shortage of chicken in its restaurants with a helpful page allowing users to search for their nearest open restaurant.

The URL was memorable https://www.kfc.co.uk/crossed-the-road and also advertised in various publications, through humorous and eye-catching adverts, as well as on social media accounts such as the KFC UK Twitter feed.

The site also featured a menu detailing which items had limited availability, and offered rewards to customers inconvenienced by the shortage.

However, the UK site offered no press releases: there is no News section. There were no links to the global/US site, or to the website of the chain’s parent company Yum! (Yum.com); although neither carried any news on the UK shortage in any case. In fact, we could find no mention of Yum! at all on the UK KFC site.

The contact page on the UK site defaults to an email form; users can get to a page with a phone number, but that is for customers, with the press office number displayed in small text below.

The Takeaway

The media can be a helpful ally in communicating the reasons for problems at a company, and the response to them. But while KFC helped customers get their takeaway, journalists coming to the site hungry for the latest official releases, or detail about the supplier switch which caused the shortages, would have been left unsatisfied. These problems could have been at least partly mitigated by easily-found press contact details.

It was also a missed opportunity to explain more about the company’s supply chain – both to those interested in the company’s CSR approach, and to potential partners. The parent company Yum!’s site would have been the place to publish this, and any press releases. But even if they had been available there, the lack of any connection between the KFC UK site and yum.com meant that journalists would have needed to know or research who the parent company was to find them.

It is understandable to prioritise customer communication in a crisis, but companies should remember that other audiences will be looking for information too, and may well visit 'customer' sites which are not primarily intended for them.

Having good, permanent signposts between the different parts of your web estate, and to helpful contact options, can help direct those audiences to their correct destinations, and give you one less thing to worry about in a crisis.

https://www.kfc.co.uk/crossed-the-road

BC tip: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - answering tough questions

A blog-format annual letter is used to tackle contentious issues head on in a detailed yet visually and editorially engaging way. 

Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 10.06.39.png

The Feature

On 13th February 2018, Bill and Melinda Gates’ private charity foundation posted its tenth annual letter on Bill Gates’ blog. The post was prominently signposted on the Bill & Melinda Foundation’s home page.

The post consists of both Bill and Melinda Gates’ seemingly verbatim answers to ‘10 tough questions that people ask us’.

Each question is headed by an animated cartoon illustrating the theme of the question (see screenshot above).

The detailed text answers are interspersed with charts, captioned images and embedded YouTube videos illustrating the foundation’s work and the topic in question.

‘Hand-written’ additions to the typed answers are included in the ‘margins’ of the blog post (again, see screenshot above).

The Takeaway

The Bill & Melinda Foundation’s blog-format annual letter offers a useful lesson for corporate web managers: that contentious issues can be effectively addressed directly online in ways that can be both detailed and engaging.

For example, the letter’s use of video, animation and photography helps to convey complex information clearly and entertainingly – while the ‘hand written’ comments in the margins convey a personal touch that is often absent from large organizations’ social responsibility communications. Perhaps most importantly, the Gates’ detailed answers to the ten questions are written in a clear, jargon-free style, which is likely to be appreciated by both generalist and specialist readers alike.

https://www.gatesnotes.com/2018-Annual-Letter

Intel – Initial confusion

Using abbreviations for job locations risks being lost in translation.

BC tip - Intel jobs.png

The Feature

Tech giant Intel’s global jobs listing page uses initials to identify the country and state where the role is located.

For example, a recent listing for ‘Cloud Hardware Design Intern’ has ‘CN’ for the country, and ‘Shanghai’ for the city. In this case, ‘Shanghai’ is also spelled out as the ‘State’. Most others, however, have abbreviations for ‘state’. For example: ‘Verification Engineer’ – ‘IN’, Bangalore, ‘KA’.

A listing for ‘Open Source Linux 3D Graphics Driver Developer’ based in the UK, showed Swindon as the city and then ‘LIV’ as the ‘state’ (the UK does not have ‘states’, just counties). Other listings for UK, Swindon, leave the ‘state’ field blank.

If visitors click through to the full job listings, the abbreviations are not spelled out there either.

The Takeaway

At the risk of admitting our geography knowledge is not what it should be, it seems likely that many jobseekers will be left guessing by Intel’s location abbreviations.

The system works best for US jobseekers, where the country is a given, cities are spelled out, and state postal codes are mostly common knowledge. For locations outside the US, the labelling is often confusing, and in some cases indecipherable. The problem is compounded by not spelling out locations in the full listings, where there is space to do so.

Intel funnels international jobseekers to a centralised service, which is good practice, but comes across as US-centric, undermining the company’s desire to be seen as global. It is one example of a wider issue about jargon on corporate sites – it is always worth reading with the eyes of an outsider. If people outside the company (or the home country) may have trouble understanding, consider a rewrite.

http://jobs.intel.com/ListJobs/All

Hamilton the quiz

BNY Mellon uses a simple quiz to test people on its founder

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The Feature

The New York based investments company has Our Story as the first element in its Who We Are section. This is heavily based around the founder, Alexander Hamilton. As well as a biography and a video chat about him by the former chairman, it has an interactive quiz. The six questions include asking the name of his house in Harlem and the treaty he signed with Britain. The answers add a little extra information when they appear.

Takeaway

Quizzes make good use of the web's capabilities, and if your founder is the hippest 250-year-old around, why not use him to attract interest among young jobseekers? The questions are serious, but are they too serious? The rigorous refusal to mention the year's most successful musical may give some the impression that BNY Mellon is a little haughty. Surely 'The ten-dollar Founding Father without a father got farther by working a lot harder' is an excellent message for the modern capitalist? Most HR departments would give much to have such a seam of gold to mine. 

https://www.bnymellon.com/emea/en/who-we-are/hamilton-quiz.jsp

BC tip: SpaceX - propelling jobseekers

An embedded live video of a rocket launch ends by encouraging jobseekers to explore the Careers section of the corporate website. 

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The Feature

On 6th February 2018, US aerospace and space transport company SpaceX broadcast the test launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket via a live embedded YouTube video signposted on its corporate site’s home page.

The 35-minute video was presented by SpaceX employees (including an engineer from the firm’s avionics department, pictured above) and took the style and structure of a television news programme. 

The live broadcast included video feeds from various parts of the rocket, as well as shots of SpaceX employees gathered to watch the launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The video concluded with one of the presenters saying:

‘If you would like to join us on exciting projects like these, please visit spacex.com/careers’ – to the loud applause of colleagues gathered around him.

After the live broadcast, the video remained on the corporate site (as well as YouTube) for users to replay it.

As of 12th February 2018, the video had been viewed more than 19 million times.

The Takeaway

Of course, it is not possible or appropriate for many companies to launch products or projects as literally and spectacularly as SpaceX.

But the idea of producing television news style videos of major company events in-house, and broadcasting them live via the corporate site, is one that many firms could borrow – as is SpaceX’s decision to use the opportunity to harness interest and excitement around the event to drive potential future recruits to the Careers section.

http://www.spacex.com/webcast

 

 

Corporate digital managers’ top priorities in 2018

We asked 40 corporate digital teams what is on their to-do lists for the next year. Here, Jason Sumner and Lisa Hayward reveal the biggest concerns: content strategy across channels and countries (and working out who inside the organization manages which channel); setting KPIs and usability testing.
 

Bowen Craggs has now conducted 40 in-depth interviews with digital teams at some of the world’s largest companies in Europe and North America.

These wide-ranging conversations covered digital communications performance across a number of categories, including, broadly: content and channel strategy, stakeholder management, team performance and measurement.

We conducted the interviews in the process of setting up the Bowen Craggs Club, a networking and research group for digital corporate communicators. The interviews were confidential, but we are able to publicise the broader themes about the areas they are most looking to improve in during the next year. (Those whom we’ve quoted below said they were happy for us to share their comments.)

Content, country sites and internal ownership

There is a recognition that proliferating channels and devices means it is no longer adequate to publish across so many global corporate channels without an overarching plan; but recognizing the issue and having the time and resources to tackle it are not the same thing.

Many digital managers are hoping to take action in 2018, however. ‘We are currently working on mobile strategy, to implement in the next 12 months,’ said one interviewee. Said another: ‘Our production process needs refining. This is a priority for the next 12 months.’

Another content-related gap frequently mentioned in the interviews was ‘striking the right balance between global and local content’. The difficulty comes because the ‘right balance’ is usually highly specific to individual companies, depending on their sectors, the extent of their global presence and what they are trying to achieve in different markets.

Some of the comments from the interviews point to the difficulties: ‘Local content is difficult to source currently. It’s extra effort for local teams, on top of other priorities.’ Another said, ‘This is a big challenge due to business structure. Local content owners are busy, dispersed or unengaged. Regional content hubs trained on global content are helping local teams to create interesting content. Hasn’t yet resulted in a big improvement.’

A related issue is managing the ownership of online channels across a global organization.

Roeland van der Heiden, digital director, corporate affairs at AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company, said global and local channels, and who has ownership, are priorities for his team this year. For example, they need to work out the right process for giving equal weight to science material on social media channels (of global concern), balanced with the need to comment about UK policy. ‘We are very busy with UK policy but cannot forget the thousands of people in the US, Sweden and China.’

AstraZeneca has had a central editorial planning group for a year, and will be making improvements in 2018 including: creating a central content budget; involving markets more in the planning process; and fully rolling out a new CMS. The CMS will provide more transparency about what is being published globally and allow the company to produce more employee-generated stories.

Setting key performance indicators

Ninety per cent of our interviewees gave themselves a rating of three or below (on a scale of one to five) in setting KPIs for corporate digital comms. Even those with the right tools find that technology is not enough; training and the right processes need to be in place for the technology to work well.

Ben Jefferies, head of global digital publishing at BP, the energy giant, says his team has spent several years adopting technology tools to measure digital corporate comms and are now working out how best to use the data to change the culture and behaviour. ‘We can measure pretty much everything now, but this can be a problem in and of itself – which of the measures matter?’ he says. He adds there is a ‘clickbait versus journalism’ debate – if the goal is many page views, a popular but superficial topic may be covered rather than something more relevant but specialist.

Also, many clicks on a piece will not tell you if the article resonated with people. All views are not equal either – a piece may ‘only’ get 10 page views or clicks, but those 10 people might be influential politicians or academics. His team are also looking at ways to measure how well a piece does offline – eg, a visitor reads something on our website and then tells 70 of their colleagues. ‘We never get to see that impact,’ he says, ‘unless they then talk online about what they saw.’

Overcoming the barriers to usability testing

On e-commerce sites, usability, user experience or ‘UX’ is considered a competitive advantage. This mind set has not yet translated to corporate digital. Many of the digital managers we interviewed use usability testing on an ad hoc basis, but would like to do it more regularly. Budgets are a big barrier; time is another. One interviewee said, ‘I want to spend time and money on testing, but am never able to achieve it. There are too many other priorities.’

In our experience, usability testing for corporate digital needs to be implemented with caution, and with special care for the needs of corporate websites. However, appropriate and targeted usability tests can pay dividends, in that a problem caught at design stage costs exponentially less to fix than fixing a problem after launch.

The Bowen Craggs Club is an exclusive network for the most engaged online corporate communications professionals, aimed at individuals and companies who believe in the need for world-leading corporate web estates. Although most group members work in Fortune 500 corporations, we welcome senior managers from public sector and non-governmental organizations with responsibility for large web presences.

For more information, visit our website, or contact Lisa Hayward, lhayward@bowencraggs.com

Who's top for what in the 2018 Bowen Craggs Index?

Scott Payton looks beyond the overall top-scorers to reveal the world's best companies in specific areas of online corporate communications.
 

Last week we published our latest ranking of the globe's top 30 large companies for online communications – the 2018 Bowen Craggs Index. (See also a Forbes magazine story on the Index results).

To produce this list, we spent thousands of hours analysing the online estates of more than 200 of the biggest multinational companies – and wrote up best practice every time we found it. 

Subscribers to our database can learn from everything we've discovered across eight metrics and 26 sub-metrics. 

But here are the companies that came top in each of the eight key areas that we examine. Interestingly, the very best firms in some aspects of online communications are outside the overall top 30. 

Best for 'construction' (covering navigation; user orientation; web and social media integration; internal search; and web visibility)

Top-scoring company: BP

 BP's global website is most notable for its excellent usability, which comes largely from a refusal to drop left menus. This makes BP’s site much easier to use than most other corporate sites, with no real loss in visual appeal. 

BP's global website is most notable for its excellent usability, which comes largely from a refusal to drop left menus. This makes BP’s site much easier to use than most other corporate sites, with no real loss in visual appeal. 

Best for 'message' (covering strength of the home page; visual impact; internationalism and company information)

Top-scoring company: Maersk

 Maersk's global site continues to set standards in design. It is also editorially rich, with good use of 'stories' to convey key corporate messages. 

Maersk's global site continues to set standards in design. It is also editorially rich, with good use of 'stories' to convey key corporate messages. 

Best for contact provisions

Top-scoring companies: Eni, GSK, Nestlé

 Eni has made an already strong Contacts page stronger through design enhancements and new options for key stakeholder groups. The company's ambitious Ask Now search facility appears to perform well as a substitute for conventional FAQs, though there are caveats. 

Eni has made an already strong Contacts page stronger through design enhancements and new options for key stakeholder groups. The company's ambitious Ask Now search facility appears to perform well as a substitute for conventional FAQs, though there are caveats. 

 GSK - the top company overall in the 2018 Bowen Craggs Index - has a model global 'Contact us' page. It features clear language and comprehensive signposts, including simple but significant links to Facebook and Twitter.

GSK - the top company overall in the 2018 Bowen Craggs Index - has a model global 'Contact us' page. It features clear language and comprehensive signposts, including simple but significant links to Facebook and Twitter.

 Nestlé continues to sharpen its approach to handling stakeholder contact, both on its main website and on social media. Contact options are unusually prominent thanks to boldly colourful signposts throughout the site, signalling openness to dialogue (and perhaps helping to change people's perceptions of a company many people once considered to be secretive). 

Nestlé continues to sharpen its approach to handling stakeholder contact, both on its main website and on social media. Contact options are unusually prominent thanks to boldly colourful signposts throughout the site, signalling openness to dialogue (and perhaps helping to change people's perceptions of a company many people once considered to be secretive). 

Best for 'serving society' (covering corporate governance; service for CSR professionals; and building a reputation for responsibility)

Top-scoring company: Nestlé

 As well as providing invitingly presented, comprehensive governance information and extensive CSR reporting data, Nestlé openly and energetically addresses controversies and criticisms on its global website, most notably via the Ask Nestlé primary section.

As well as providing invitingly presented, comprehensive governance information and extensive CSR reporting data, Nestlé openly and energetically addresses controversies and criticisms on its global website, most notably via the Ask Nestlé primary section.

Best for serving investors 

Top-scoring company: Shell

 Shell's recently redesigned Investors section houses exceptionally rich materials covering not just financial results, but all aspects of the business in which investors and analysts are likely to be interested, from major projects to company strategy. 

Shell's recently redesigned Investors section houses exceptionally rich materials covering not just financial results, but all aspects of the business in which investors and analysts are likely to be interested, from major projects to company strategy. 

Best for serving the media 

Top-scoring company: Starbucks

 Weaknesses elsewhere on Starbucks' online estate pull it significantly short of our overall top 30. But its online provisions for journalists shine. Powerful press release search tools; comprehensive, regularly updated fact sheets; and an exceptionally deep image library are among the stand-out features. 

Weaknesses elsewhere on Starbucks' online estate pull it significantly short of our overall top 30. But its online provisions for journalists shine. Powerful press release search tools; comprehensive, regularly updated fact sheets; and an exceptionally deep image library are among the stand-out features. 

Best for serving jobseekers 

Top-scoring companies: BNP Paribas, Google, GSK, Verizon

 Like Starbucks, BNP Paribas is not in our overall top 30. But it is among the top performers for serving jobseekers. An impressively smooth global job search tool; stylish material that effectively sells the company as workplace; and imaginative use of multimedia are among the highlights. 

Like Starbucks, BNP Paribas is not in our overall top 30. But it is among the top performers for serving jobseekers. An impressively smooth global job search tool; stylish material that effectively sells the company as workplace; and imaginative use of multimedia are among the highlights. 

 Another firm from outside our overall top 30, Google has designed its own job search tool. As one might expect, it's powerful, easy to use and full of clever features.

Another firm from outside our overall top 30, Google has designed its own job search tool. As one might expect, it's powerful, easy to use and full of clever features.

 GSK makes excellent use of employee profiles and stories to show jobseekers what working at the company is like. The company's innovative and welcoming new job finder tool attempts to redefine what the corporate job search can look like - mostly successfully.

GSK makes excellent use of employee profiles and stories to show jobseekers what working at the company is like. The company's innovative and welcoming new job finder tool attempts to redefine what the corporate job search can look like - mostly successfully.

 Verizon's simple but effective job search tool has a useful and unusual browse feature, which offers candidates a variety of ways to find suitable vacancies. Military recruitment material remains another strength, as does a Locations directory. 

Verizon's simple but effective job search tool has a useful and unusual browse feature, which offers candidates a variety of ways to find suitable vacancies. Military recruitment material remains another strength, as does a Locations directory. 

Best for serving customers

Top-scoring company: Microsoft

 Just outside of our overall top 30, Microsoft is the best of them all for serving customers. Indeed, the company's main website site is all about consumer journeys and the home page offers multiple paths to relevant content. Journeys are smooth and integrated, in marked contrast to corporate journeys. Decision-making materials for customers are also strong, from FAQs to videos, case studies and integrated forums. 

Just outside of our overall top 30, Microsoft is the best of them all for serving customers. Indeed, the company's main website site is all about consumer journeys and the home page offers multiple paths to relevant content. Journeys are smooth and integrated, in marked contrast to corporate journeys. Decision-making materials for customers are also strong, from FAQs to videos, case studies and integrated forums. 

- Scott Payton

Please visit our website for full results of the Index of Online Excellence 2018, including commentary, lessons from the leaders, best practice and methodology.

BC tip: Facebook – Unfriendly engagements

The social media giant responds personally to the negative comments it receives to its ‘hard questions’ posts.

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The Feature

Facebook’s online ‘Newsroom’ has a blog-like section called ‘Hard Questions’ where the company and influential ‘guests’ present their views on the controversies surrounding the company and social media in general.

Facebook introduced the feature in June 2017 and since then has had posts covering ‘Is Social Media Good or Bad for Democracy?’; ‘Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad For Us?’; ‘Should I be afraid of Face Recognition Technology?’ etc.

The posts receive many critical comments, which Facebook leaves visible and often responds to.

The Takeaway

Encountering hostility on a public social channel is one of the biggest risks companies face when they go on social media, and it is worth watching how the king of social media deals with the issue.

Facebook’s ‘Hard Questions’ is another example of a trend we have seen among large corporates – increasingly they are engaging with critics online; or inviting comments in unusual places – see our tip last year on ING for example – with less hesitation about putting their point across.

It may help to keep things civil that the people commenting on ‘Hard Questions’ identify themselves, often with a job title or the company where they work, and at the very least with a hyperlinked name that seemed to lead to Facebook pages of real people.

For example: In response to the article ‘Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us’, co-authored by Facebook’s director of research David Ginsberg, one reader wrote, ‘So the answer, in Facebook’s opinion, to the problem of too much Facebook is MORE engagement with Facebook? A little self-serving don’t you think?’ Many critics took a similar tone. Mr Ginsberg responded in a three-paragraph post, beginning, ‘Thanks for the thoughtful comments above…’  

While this sort of engagement may not change the mind of the person commenting, a large number of such responses could help convince other readers that Facebook is not ‘evil’, one of the reasons why many companies are spending the resources on responding to individual comments.

https://newsroom.fb.com/news/category/hard-questions/

BC Tip: Deutsche Telekom - Experimenting with a chat bot

Using an innovative way to communicate with jobseekers brings mixed results – but some promise

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The Feature

Deutsche Telekom offers an unusual way for jobseekers to interact with the company.

The corporate website exists in English and German, and on the German version a blog alerted us to the existence of a chat bot, ‘KATY’, in the careers section of the subsidiary T-Systems Germany site.

KATY appears as an overlay panel available on the right-hand side of all pages in the section; users simply type in questions and the answer is provided (or not).

The bot did not prove that useful. We asked it several simple questions in both German and English, and most of the time received a standard message that it could not help us.

Even when we wrote, in German, that we were looking for jobs in Stuttgart, we were simply directed to the job search mechanism, rather than a listing of available jobs in Stuttgart from the job search site.

The Takeaway

The fact that Deutsche Telekom is prepared to use a chat bot – and to advertise it on its blog and other channels, such as its Whatsapp messenger service – is perhaps as much about reinforcing its credentials as an innovative tech company than providing services of real use, at least at this stage.

In mitigation of KATY’s deficiencies, the blog publicising the release of the bot states clearly that it will not be perfect yet and that, as an implementation of artificial intelligence, it needs to learn from successes and failures. Only offering the bot on a subsidiary country site, at this stage, seems sensible too.

The blog also says humans at T-Systems will sometimes help the chat bot as it learns. This seemed to happen when we asked it about company benefits. We initially got the reply that KATY could not assist, but then several minutes later received another answer – presumably from a person – setting out some high-level information on company benefits, although there were no onward links and many jobseekers may have given up on KATY by then.

As ever, the success of using new technologies relies on the skill and effort of the humans behind them.

https://www.t-systems.com/de/de/karriere/willkommen-bei-t-systems/karriere-126456