BC tip: Suncor Energy – Social media pop-ups

Social media icons with pop-up menus can help integrate digital channels and send visitors to the right place.

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The Feature

The social media icons in the footer of Suncor Energy’s corporate website have pop-up menus with links to different pages on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

For example, on clicking the Facebook icon, links to five of the Canadian oil company’s Facebook pages appear – the main corporate page; careers page; and consumer and campaign sites.

For icons with one channel, such as Flickr, there is an introduction ‘Check out our Flickr photostreams’. YouTube has a longer introduction to its two channels: ‘We maintain several official YouTube channels to share official Suncor videos as well as relevant videos and playlists from our stakeholders.’

The pop-ups also work in smartphone view of the responsive site. Unusually, the set of icons has one for Suncor’s blogs, with a pop-up menu describing three that the company maintains.

The Takeaway

The pop-up menus are a quick way of promoting multiple social media pages from one set of icons, and help visitors find the right channel.

Many companies have a main Facebook page and a Careers page, for example, and these can be brought together without worrying which one is being promoted in the footer at any given time.

There are weaknesses in the way Suncor uses the icons – some of the Facebook channel headings are unclear, for example. The blog menu is promoting two blogs that are no longer maintained.

One company we know used pop-ups, then dropped them.

Used in the right way though, they could be a neat hub for a company’s social media pages, and a good way to integrate the company’s online presence.


BC tip: Total – Corporate history wiki

A French energy company uses a wiki to personalise its corporate history.

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The Feature

‘WikiTotal: Your Stories, Our History’ is a wiki page for employees, former employees and anyone who has had dealings with the company in its nine-decade history to share memories.

Promoted on the corporate site’s home page and within the history section, the wiki already has several contributions, called ‘testimonials’, including images and short narratives in English and French. There are six categories – Countries, Activities, Brands, People, Products and Periods.

The wiki is billed as part of the company’s ‘One Total’ initiative (‘expanding to include our history’).

The Takeaway

History is always more accessible when it focuses on people, and the Total history wiki is an interesting attempt to inject personality in an area of the website that can end up as a dry recitation of mergers and acquisitions.

With the focus on employees, the wiki combines internal and external communications – employees and jobseekers are likely to find it interesting. It is also a chance for the company to reinforce its values through personal stories.

It will be interesting to see how Total develops the idea and integrates it into the main corporate site. The strength of a wiki is the expansive and spontaneous feel, but content can quickly become unwieldy and vary in quality. If the digital team manages to incorporate the most interesting contributions into the website’s history section, perhaps leaving the wiki as a feature for browsing, it could be a useful example to follow.


BC tip: The Draft House – Retweeting from across the group

A UK-based pubs company’s approach to local Twitter feeds could be adapted by corporates.

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The Feature

The Draft House has a group Twitter feed – @DraftHouseUK. Each of the pubs in the group has its own Twitter handle, based on its location eg, DH Tower Bridge, DraftHouse WB, DraftHouse MK, etc.

All of the group's Twitter accounts bear the group logo as an identifier but in a different colour to help to easily differentiate at a glance.

The group account regularly retweets each pub’s tweets on the group-level account.

The Takeaway

The Draft House approach is a simple way to ensure that a group-level Twitter account is always busy, interesting and reflective of the whole group.

In a corporate context, this approach could be applied to country, regional, division or individual Twitter accounts.


BC tip: PepsiCo - Convenient management images

A drinks giant has an unflashy but useful one-stop-shop for management biographies and images.

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The Feature

The ‘Our Leadership’ page on PepsiCo’s corporate website has a conventional set of headshots for its global executive team.

On click, a biography opens, with the option to download the biography in PDF and a JPEG headshot. The feature is not available in smartphone view.

The Takeaway

PepsiCo’s download feature is simple and not flashy, but will be a useful tool for journalists and/or picture editors.

It means visitors can read a biography and download an image without leaving the main management page.


BC tip: Merck - Rise of the footer

A US pharmaceutical company’s home page footer expands upwards when the mouse hovers over it.

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The Feature

The Merck.com home page has a narrow footer panel with three headings in a row – ‘Latest News’; ‘Social @ Merck’ and ‘Other Merck Sites’.

When visitors hover the mouse over any part of the panel, it rises up the page to reveal more details under each of the categories – summaries and links to press releases; the latest tweets and social media follow icons; and links to other parts of the web estate. Moving the mouse off the panel causes it to collapse back down the page.

On a smartphone screen, the three elements of the panel are stacked vertically. The expandable footer appears to be limited to the home page; it is not on any of the section landing pages, for example, or anywhere else that we clicked.

The Takeaway

Merck’s expanding panel tries to do for footers what the mega dropdown menu has done for primary navigation. On the Merck home page, the feature is a space-saving way to let visitors see options that are not in the main menus at the top; and helps to keep the home page from scrolling. It could be a useful design in some circumstances – if footers can expand downwards, why not have the option to go up too?

It is not clear this works completely – for example, the way Merck have implemented it means they cannot have a longer home page, even if they wanted one. There are some other disadvantages in the way it is executed – on smaller laptop screens the panel obscures some of the text in the carousel.

If in doubt, a useful guideline to follow is, don’t try to innovate with navigation.



BC tip: Intel - Breaking news on a blog

The computer chip manufacturer shows another potential role for a resurgent online channel.

The Feature

Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, announced on Monday via a company blog, policy@intel, that he was quitting President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council. This followed the resignation of Merck CEO Kenneth C. Frazier, a higher-profile event in part because the US president attacked him personally on Twitter.

We could not find any reference to the resignation anywhere on Intel's corporate website, or even a link to the policy blog (including using the internal search engine). This goes for the online newsroom too, and we could not find an official press release.

The New York Times linked to the blog post directly in one of its stories about the resignation. 

The Takeaway

Intel using a blog to break news, rather than an online press release, makes sense – a blog is direct, easy for journalists to link to, and (usually) more readable for the general public than press releases.

In this case Intel had a ‘go to’ channel - it maintains a blog on public policy and so it was a natural fit.

The fact that we could not find the blog post or a link to it on the website is interesting, but it is not unusual for corporate sites to be silent about controversies. A big reason is often legal caution (although the Intel policy blog is run by Intel’s lawyers). 

We have noted how blogs have been making a comeback, although in some corners of the IT world they are well established. Google has long-favoured using blog posts over traditional press releases to disseminate company news. But not in every corner – Apple recently launched its first-ever blog, for technical discussions about artificial intelligence).

The point for other digital comms teams is that breaking controversial news is one more potential role for this ‘old is new again’ online channel. 



BC tip: McKinsey - Expandable sidebar

A creative variation on the ‘click-to-expand’ menu could be useful for corporate website articles.

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The Feature

An article on crisis management on McKinsey.com, the website of the US-based management consultancy, has a ‘click-to-expand’ sidebar.

On a desktop screen, the sidebar appears as a box in the left column – ‘Sidebar: Are you prepared for the worst? Twenty-five questions executives should ask themselves now’. (On a mobile screen, the box is centred across the screen.) Clicking on the ‘plus’ sign in the box expands the full story on both smartphone and desktop screens.

The Takeaway

The expandable sidebar is a neat design feature that could be adapted to improve the way corporate articles are presented online; as an alternative to pop-ups, tabs or more conventional ‘click-to-expand’ menus.

A few caveats, however – the sidebar is well down the page, meaning visitors may miss it. The heading, ‘Sidebar’ does little to draw visitors in (and may not be understood by all readers). It is also worth considering whether the ‘plus’ sign is familiar enough to indicate to readers that clicking on it will reveal more information.


BC tip: Ambev - Lost in Google translation

Relying on Google for different language versions of a corporate site has predictably patchy results.

The Feature

Ambev, the Brazil-based brewing company, has a language toggle in the upper left corner of its corporate website. The site’s default language is Portuguese, and the toggle, ‘Select Language’ allows users to switch to English or Spanish.

Clicking either of these options launches Google’s translation tool, and a bar at the top of the site says the site has been translated, to English or Spanish.

The Takeaway

The Google-powered translation, in our tests of the English-language site, were riddled with grammatical errors.

On the home page, for example, the headline on the banner reads: ‘Meet the AMA water, our launch. 100% of the profit goes to projects of access to clean water.’ Further down, under ‘Become our supplier’: ‘Wants to offer its products and services to Ambev? It is uncomplicated and fast.’ Under, ‘Work with us’: ‘The most special moments of consumers can get their hands on. See our vacancies!’

Ambev may have chosen to use the quick and inexpensive Google tool to save on translation costs, perhaps thinking the end product would be ‘good enough’. Given that English speakers will find the site uncomfortable to read at best, and at worst, incomprehensible , it looks like a cost-cutting decision too far.


BC tip: UnitedHealth Group: Accessible careers chats

An online chat feature gives a wide range of options for jobseekers to ask questions about the company and recruiting process.

The Feature

UnitedHealth Group, a US-based health insurance giant, offers online chats with company recruiters in the careers section of its corporate website.

There are chats in nine functional areas, including ‘clinical’, ‘college’, ‘consulting’, ‘customer service’, ‘technology’, etc. Each of these has further ‘areas of interest’- for example, under ‘Clinical’ there are links for physicians, pharmacy, behavioural health. Days and times are given (in US central time), with links to access the chat.

A 2-minute video explains how to prepare for the chat and what kinds of questions to ask. The web page also suggests jobseekers ask about benefits, the business, CV-writing tips, interviewing tips and locations. If jobseekers cannot make the chats at the specific times, they can email questions; and there is an FAQ.

The section is responsive so jobseekers can access it on a smartphone.

The Takeaway

UnitedHealth’s recruiter chats are unusual for their breadth of options and flexibility.

The range of functions means there is likely to be an option for most jobseekers, and also gives an immediate sense of the numerous career paths on offer. FAQs and chance to email questions are useful options for those who can’t make the specific time.

The video is welcoming, straightforward and informative; and will encourage uptake.

It is a good way to make the company seem friendly – and perhaps give recruiters a chance to cherry pick especially promising talent.


BC tip: Philip Morris International - Sophisticated sniffer

The tobacco giant’s corporate website displays brand sites and jobs based on a visitor’s location.

The Feature

PMI’s recently relaunched corporate website uses a country detection tool to change elements of pages on the main corporate site, according to where visitors are in the world.

For example, visitors from Switzerland who visit ‘Consumer Corner’ from the home page will see links to brand websites available in that country – Malboro and Chesterfield. Visitors from India who click on ‘Consumer Corner’ see the same page, but in the area for brands it says, ‘Sorry, we don’t have a brand website available in your market.’ The same is true for the UK.

Similarly, the Careers landing page has a section, ‘Exciting opportunities near you’, which displays available jobs in the visitor’s country and region.

The Takeaway

Country redirection or ‘sniffer’ tools commonly take visitors to country-specific sites – it is rarer to see elements of a page change based on a visitor’s location.

PMI uses country redirection because tobacco is a heavily regulated industry, in which it is essential not to fall foul of regulators, and marketing must be country-specific for that reason. Pharmaceutical companies may be in the same situation.

So the brand example will not be applicable to everyone. However, using a similar tool in Careers would be relevant to most large companies.

Country redirection can be annoying, because it takes visitors somewhere they might not want to go, but this is a more appropriate and subtle use of the tool.


BC tip: Bristol-Myers Squibb - Return of the left menu, mobile-style

An American pharmaceutical company uses its mobile navigation menu on the desktop, with mixed results.

The Feature

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s new responsive corporate website uses the same navigation device on its desktop and mobile versions.

On a desktop, the device appears on the left side of the screen and is always in view. Clicking on any of the hyperlinked menu items, eg ‘Job Seekers’ takes visitors to the page.

If there are further layers within the section, an arrow appears to the right. Clicking this, displays the next level of sub-menus. A ‘Main Navigation’ link appears at lower levels, as well as a link to return to the previous level.

On a smartphone, the menu collapses behind a hamburger icon, and when clicked, works in the same way, but it takes up the entire screen.

The Takeaway

We have noted how ‘Mobile-first’ design led many corporate sites away from left menus on desktops, at a great cost to usability. Now things have come full circle at Bristol-Myers, with mobile navigation being adapted for desktops.

In practice, the device operates much like a traditional left menu, especially at upper levels. It usefully stays in place as you scroll and provides a logical structure for first-time visitors. It condenses five layers of navigation in a compact device.

One downside is that at lower levels, it can be tedious to move between sections without a universal primary bar across the top of the site.

It is also not clear whether it gets around the perceived problems of the left menu which have led to them being dropped – it takes up at least as much space on the screen as a conventional left menu; and in this case, is (in our opinion) less visually appealing than a conventional left menu, so it is hard to see it catching on.


BC tip: Roche - YouTube recruitment

A pharmaceutical uses a video Q&A on social media to explain a senior role and attract candidates.

The Feature

Roche, the Swiss healthcare giant, is recruiting for a head of public relations. The company published a video on YouTube this month, in which a member of the ‘Talent and Acquisitions’ team at Roche interviews James Woodhouse, Roche’s director communications, about the role.

In the five-minute video, Mr Woodhouse describes the role, the kind of person they are looking for (eg, someone who can help manage controversies and be an ‘ethical compass’), practical details such as the size of team that will need managing; and opportunities for career progression.

The video is housed on Roche’s YouTube channel, and we saw it promoted on Roche’s LinkedIn and Facebook careers feeds. At the end of the video, candidates are invited to send ‘video applications’ via a link on the corporate website.

The Takeaway

Roche’s YouTube recruitment video is innovative use of the online channel to ‘sell’ the idea of working for Roche and the specific role on offer.

When used in this way, video is an effective way to go beyond a written job description – giving jobseekers a fuller description of the role and opportunities in the organization; as well as to introduce the culture and their potential boss.

The five-minute length seems about right – it might be too long for other corporate videos, but in this case, interested candidates are likely to watch until the end. Candidates will also have a better idea of the tone they should take in their own video applications.


BC tip: Home Depot - Leadership extras

The US retailer’s online leadership biographies have a number of useful related links.

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The Feature

Leadership biographies on Home Depot’s corporate website have several links to related resources: articles in the media and the Home Depot web estate, pull quotes, embedded videos and a choice of downloadable images.

For example, the page for chief executive Craig Menear, has a pull quote, links to a story on the Fox Business website, interviews on CNBC, articles in the Home Depot website newsroom, and a choice of three images. The page for Matt Carey, executive vice president and chief information officer, has an embedded video of a conference interview, ‘3 Minutes with Matt Carey’, in addition to article links and a choice of images.

The Takeaway

The array of supporting materials helps to humanise the leadership team and provides journalists with interesting background for stories and talking points for interviews – eg, more than one member of the senior team has been on Forbes’ annual list of Most Powerful Women. Picture editors will appreciate the range of styles and angles of the downloadable images.

A lack of dates on articles is a weakness, and we could not see why the image galleries in desktop view have arrow icons even when there are no more pictures to scroll through. However, the related links on Home Depot’s biography pages are a good model for other companies whose executives feature elsewhere on the corporate website and the wider media.


BC tip: Philip Morris International - Smoking headline

An intriguing home page headline makes it difficult not to click.

The Feature

The home page of Philip Morris International’s recently relaunched corporate website has the headline, ‘Designing a Smoke-Free Future: How long will the world’s leading cigarette company be in the cigarette business?’

The large white lettering takes up much of the page above the fold, as repeating videos play in the background – employees smiling, and meeting, shots of PMI buildings, etc. Clicking on the call-to-action ‘Read more’ takes visitors to a page in ‘Who we are’ explaining PMI’s investments in smoke-free products.

The Takeaway

Few companies outside the tobacco industry will be in the position of needing to explain why they are investing in alternatives to their core business. But as a piece of writing designed to draw people into a corporate website and hear the company’s messages, the PMI headline is one of the best we have seen and well worth emulating.

It is simple, counter-intuitive and poses an interesting question; all of which makes it very difficult not to click. Other companies will have subject matter or ‘stories’ that could be treated in the same way on the home page.


BC tip: Oracle - Introducing campus recruiters

A simple, friendly page with campus recruiter biographies could be adapted for other corporate careers sections.

The Feature

The campus recruitment section on Oracle’s corporate website has an ‘Overview’ page that introduces its team of university recruiters that cover North America.

There are nineteen short profiles, each with a one-paragraph biography, smiling headshot, an invitation to make contact via LinkedIn and ‘quick apply’ link, which leads to Oracle’s Taleo application management system.

The Takeaway

Oracle’s welcoming and social media friendly biographies strike the right tone for US university students looking for job opportunities.

Some of the US-centric details of the page could put off international audiences – lots of smiling and ‘fun facts’, etc – but its benefits in helping jobseekers get to know a company’s recruiting team is an idea worth adapting.


BC tip: BMW Group - A hamburger that should be off the menu

The German carmaker’s odd variation on the hamburger menu requires its own instructions.

The Feature

There is an unusual-looking hamburger menu on secondary and tertiary pages on the BMW Group’s corporate website. The three lines of the ‘hamburger’ are partially overlaid by right arrow or ‘greater than’ sign (>).

Clicking the icon (or the accompanying heading itself) collapses all of the tertiary or deeper level headings contained on the long-scrolling pages into a menu of ‘jump links’. For example, if you click on the icon on the ‘Company Portrait’ page, all of the tertiary options on the page collapse into a menu – ‘A consistent focus on the premium segment’, ‘Our strategy’, ‘Board of management’, etc.

On a smartphone, the menu comes with its own instructions: ‘Show an overview of the topics on this page for selection,’ which were absent from the desktop version.

The Takeaway

The designers of BMW’s variation on the hamburger menu make the mistake of assuming visitors to corporate sites want or need to take time to learn specialised navigation. Many users of corporate sites come too infrequently for it to be worth the effort, and will likely just be confused and frustrated. Even for frequent visitors, the mechanism is still fiddly. And the instructions on the smartphone version are unclear.

Maybe there should be a rule of thumb – if your hamburger needs instructions, take it off the menu.


BC tip: GSK - Volunteer vlogs

The pharmaceutical giant has successfully adapted the ‘video blog’ trend to the corporate web.

The Feature

GSK has created a series of video blogs – known as ‘vlogs’ – featuring an employee who spent six months on a company-sponsored volunteering programme in Kenya, which finished in December 2016.

Vanina Kacheva, an area marketing manager for Central and Eastern Europe in GSK’s healthcare business, created five vlogs during her stint advising Save the Children on its communications.

They are two-minute to three-minute video diaries, in which Vanina speaks directly to camera about her experiences, in the style of popular video blogs on YouTube. The vlogs are located on the corporate website in the Responsibility section, and on YouTube. GSK promoted Vanina’s final vlog on Twitter in December.

The Takeaway

GSK has taken the trend for vlogging, popular among internet marketers and millennials, and adapted it effectively for the corporate web.

A volunteer programme, which gives employees interesting new experiences to share, is a natural application. You need an employee willing to go on camera, but an advantage is that with vlogs, lack of high production values or professional presenting skills is an advantage, and adds to authenticity.

Vlogging could have a number of uses in the corporate context – employee profiles are an obvious one, but there are surely many others.


BC tip: The Pool - Calling time

Does stating how long it will take to read online articles make for more ‘engaged’ readers?

The Feature

The Pool, an online magazine aimed at women that was launched last year, puts labels on all of its stories and videos saying how long they will take to consume.

Subject feeds, under ‘News & Views’ and ‘Fashion’ for example, promote articles with a headline, summary and a circle saying ‘1 min’, ‘2 min’ etc. The articles themselves have these circular signposts as part of their headings, sometimes appearing right under the title. The drop-down panels in the primary navigation also use the device for featured stories.

The Takeaway

We can see the appeal of signposting reading or viewing times for online stories, where attention is scarce and infinite scrolling automatically invites the question – ‘when will I get to the bottom?’ The scroll bar used on most sites does the same thing but less explicitly. As a reader, there is a comfort in knowing ahead of time how long it might take to get through a piece.

Time stamps could be appealing in a corporate context (and we have seen at least one corporate online magazine using them). However, clicking around the Pool even briefly, all of the signposts can start to make the site appear unduly preoccupied with time, although this may play into the brand’s attraction for a ‘busy’ audience.

The precise timings, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 23 minutes, etc, invites the cynic to ask who is the presumably ‘average’ reader on which the measurements are based; maybe better to be more vague – ‘short’, ‘long’, or time ranges. Used sparingly and in the right context, it can’t be a bad thing to let people know a rough idea of the time investment before they click.


BC tip: Bloomberg - signposting live video

A media company’s ‘Live TV’ button could be adapted for corporate websites.

The Site

Bloomberg has a small box in the lower left hand corner of its website that encourages visitors to click on a live feed from its television and radio channels.

On landing on the home page for the first time, visitors see a miniature feed from the TV channel; on subsequent visits, there is a black screen with a ‘play icon’. Clicking on ‘Live TV’ leads to a new screen with the television channel; clicking on ‘Audio’ leads to the radio channel.

On desktop view, the button stays visible as visitors scroll down the page; the feature does not appear on smartphone screens.

The Takeaway

A ‘live’ feature could work on corporate sites to promote its own real-time events – investor webcasts, AGM feeds, press conferences, etc. It could be a useful way of signposting these events to journalists, investors and others, who visit with the intention of viewing a webcast live.

Bloomberg is distinctive in having television and radio channels, and corporate websites would not usually have live events to promote. However, a similar feature could be adapted to send people to other interesting or useful content. One important aspect is the box’s ‘stickiness’ – it is always in view as viewers move up and down pages in the increasingly ‘scrolly’ corporate web.