BC Tip: BNP Paribas – an online forum for jobseekers

A microsite that allows jobseekers to get their questions answered by existing employees conveys the impression of a confident, open and innovative workplace.

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The Feature

The Careers section on the French language version of BNP Paribas’ corporate website promotes a microsite titled ‘Job Preview’. 

The microsite, which is structured like an online forum, is designed to allow jobseekers to ask questions to existing employees about life working inside the French international banking group. 

Users can also view answers to other users’ past questions (searchable by keyword and topic), and read simple ‘Q&A’ style profiles of each of the ‘ambassador’ employees answering questions.

During our March 2019 visits, there had not been new answers added for some months. But the viewing figures for the most recent answers suggests that the site is reaching a healthy number of jobseekers: one answer from October 2018 had been read more than 1,000 times, for example (see screenshot below).  

The microsite, which is available in French only, also offers feeds from the bank’s various social media channels, and links to other careers-related information elsewhere on its web estate. 

Screenshot 2019-03-04 at 10.16.25.png

The Takeaway

This microsite has a number of benefits for both BNP Paribas and its potential recruits.

First, it sends the message that the bank has a culture that encourages openness – and has the confidence to let its own employees sell its benefits as a workplace.

Second, it conveys the impression that the bank is innovative – at least when it comes to its approach to recruitment.

Finally, it provides jobseekers with direct insight from employees into the bank as a workplace, and is an efficient way of getting their own particular questions answered. 


BC Tip: The Independent Group – lacking visibility

A new UK political grouping launched in a blaze of publicity recently, but their website was left in the shadows

The Independent Group’s website

The Independent Group’s website

The Feature

The UK’s proposed exit from the European Union is having profound political effects, and one recent development has been the formation of a new political alliance by defectors from the main parties.

The politicians have called themselves ‘The Independent Group’, and launched their venture with a great deal of attention in the UK.

While they have amassed significant numbers of followers on various social media networks, their brief website https://www.theindependent.group/ has come in for some very public criticism in the mainstream press and broadcast channels. Images are repetitive, and often of low quality.

It is not very visible on search engines: a search for ‘the independent group’ only revealed the official site on the fifth page of Google results. Results for news coverage of the group, and for sites about a movement of artists in the 1950s with the same name, dominated the results listings.

The Takeaway

It is unsurprising that such a controversial project should come in for criticism, and perhaps the group should not be judged too harshly for having a website without a lot of material on it at this early stage in their existence - but undoubtedly it could have been slicker.

Digital managers preparing for the launch of sites at short notice – for use in a crisis, perhaps – would do well to note the effects of an obvious lack of preparation, and in particular poor image choice.

Clearly social media has been the focus for The Independent Group, but the lack of attention to the website’s search engine visibility is questionable – especially if the group becomes a party, as it is likely to do so, and needs to attract donations and publicise its policies. Any company will be unable to rely on social media visibility alone.

How visitors will find you is a key question for any new website – especially if you do not have control over your name or even URL, and/or you do not have a lot of material to start with. Paid search marketing may well be worth considering in this case – but long-term, a good organic search presence is essential.

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: Heineken's slick appeal to jobseekers

A sophisticated ‘interview’ may be designed to repel as many people as it attracts

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The feature

Heineken’s global corporate site has a separate careers site, with ‘Why join us’ as its first link. This page has a prominent invitation to ‘Take the interview or explore employee stories’. By choosing ‘Take the interview’, visitors are led into an expensively-produced feature, on its own site, that combines video with interactivity.

A smooth-talking Englishman - who introduces himself as a ‘curator of choices’ and changes his outfit many times - asks 12 questions, each with an A/B answer. The first is ‘Would rather be a) world famous or b) have strong roots?’ Whichever you choose you will be told that ‘the Heineken company offers both strong roots and world fame.’ The rest of the ‘interview’ alternates questions with patter about the company, mostly emphasising the international opportunities. For example: ‘Perhaps you’ll start your career as in legal affairs for Birra Moretti in Italy on your way to becoming brand manger of Tiger Beer in Vietnam’.

At the the end visitors are given a main ‘type’, such as Initiator, and are encouraged to apply via the careers site - a link leads to the jobs area either on the global or on the local site (vacancies are being migrated onto a single platform). Although they are asked for their country and date of birth at the start, the same service appears to be delivered to everyone.

The takeaway

Interactive suitability tests for jobseekers are well-established, but Heineken has taken them to a new level with this extraordinary feature. We say ‘extraordinary’ in its literal sense: out of the ordinary. It does not necessarily mean it is good. Indeed it is likely to send at least as many people running away screaming as it attracts. But this may well be the object: it will weed out anyone with an ounce of cynicism, and attract only those who want to devote their careers to the glitzier end of marketing. Young people used to video games may not be impressed by the technology - but even they will have to agree that for a boring old corporation, Heineken is trying very hard indeed to stand out.


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

Explain Yourself and the Zeitgest

A new edition of our Explain Yourself Index, focusing on US companies, has just been published. David Bowen explains why ‘explaining yourself’ makes such so much sense, and who is doing it best

This week we publish our second Explain Yourself Index. It’s a ranking of companies that are best at … well, explaining themselves, on the web and in social media. The last one, at the end of November 2017, was popular, and there is evidence that we are now tapping even further into the Zeitgeist.

Before I go on, I should say that there is one big difference between this Index and the last. The last one was global, and was dominated by European companies. This time we have decided to concentrate on the US, and have included a sprinkling of Europeans (there is science to the selection – they are those identified by Harris Poll as having very high recognition in the States). We are also looking at an element US companies are particularly interested in: political disclosure.

For those who do not already know, the Explain Yourself Index is derived from our main Index of Online Excellence (a new edition of which is out in a few months’ time). It starts with the metrics in this that are designed to ‘explain’ a company – by which we mean company information, anything to do with reputation management and (new for this edition) how well it presents its non-financial (CSR/ESG) data and political contributions. We then apply a more granular set of metrics to come up with the top 20 performers. It’s an interesting list – download it from our website – for a number of reasons. 

Before getting into the detail, why is this so much in the Zeitgeist? In the New Year the Financial Times published a long piece headed ‘Beyond the bottom line: Should business put purpose before profit?’ It was deliberately phrased as a question – there are plenty of people prepared to argue the answer is ‘no’. But as one of the FT editors tweeted at the time, this is definitely a theme for the year.

So, have we moved to a ‘post-Friedman world’? In 1970 the economist Milton Friedman poured scorn on the idea that business should have a social conscience, setting set a nice simple path for bosses to follow for the next several decades. But then Corporate Social Responsibility came along, with its desire to measure those non-financial factors Friedman despised. And in the last few years there has been an epidemic of reputational crises, spreading around the world like wildfire. Add the growing interest in ‘ethical investing’, and we have a trinity of reasons why the Friedman doctrine might be looking somewhat out of date.

CSR and the reputation wildfire have something in common: the internet. CSR reporting grew up with the corporate web, so it is not surprising that the vast bulk of non-financial data is reported only online. And it was social media that fanned the wildfire. In the past you had a decent chance of containing an issue in one country. No longer.

Our research for this Index shows that more and more companies are adapting to this new world.

A big clue is that a remarkable number have transformed their corporate website into a form of online magazine – a place where they can tell their stories, put their points of view across and, crucially, to be seen as a ‘brand’ in their own right – rather than an anonymous background operation.

Look at Johnson & Johnson, which heads the ranking. Its new site is designed above all to explain the company in an easy-to-digest way. Half the navigational links come under an ‘Our stories’ heading, and the core of the site is a giant magazine. It, along with companies such as Coca-Cola, BP and Shell, bring editorial professionalism to a medium that was often, previously, little more than a filing cabinet. I am sad that as far as we know no company has yet appointed an editor with the power to  say ‘no’ to colleagues in the name of quality, but I hope we are creeping in that direction.

We also see greater efforts to present companies as ‘good’. This is both defensive – look at Nestlé’s Ask Nestlé for a thorough attempt to confront the many difficult questions thrown at it – and ‘offensive’. By that I mean telling the world about the good things you and your employees are doing. There is no shortage of this ‘good’ – especially in the US, where helping out in the community is an embedded part of the culture – but not all tell these positive stories as well as they might. Those that do, we note, often use blogs – a nicely informal way to tell nicely informal stories. See for example the FedEx or Walmart blogs.

CSR reporting is bounding along. The CSR industry grew up in Europe, and most of the leaders – like BP and Shell – are based there. But things are moving very fast indeed in the US. Ford’s data reporting in its Sustainability Report is as a good as anyone’s.

The special element we added for this report is on politics. This is measured in two halves. First, how easy is it to find how much companies or their employees (through Political Action Committees) are giving to candidates or lobbyists. There is great variation here, with some such as Pfizer taking the job very seriously indeed, while others provide little. European multinationals have something to learn here. It is no longer good enough to say ‘we don’t give anything so we don’t report anything’. First, they should explain that policy and second, if they do lobbying in the US (which they all do), they should provide information on this.

 It was fun looking at the other half of ‘politics’ – how many are using the web or social media to get their views across to politicians. Verizon is one of a handful of companies using a set of tools – including a blog and Twitter feed – to do that. But occasionally, very occasionally, a company will put its head well above the parapet. Former Goldman boss Lloyd Blankfein used Twitter to make his views on Brexit clear, and the Amazon blog last summer had a moderately fierce rant against Bernie Sanders.

Finally, why do European companies crowd the top even of this primarily US Index? It comes down, somewhat inevitably, to governance. We only give a few points (five maximum, out of 120) to the usability metric – but if you perform badly there, the knock-on effect elsewhere is likely to be substantial. If we can’t find information on something, we have to mark down the service. European companies nearly all have strong central web teams holding their sites and channels together; few US companies do. But that is changing – Johnson & Johnson has a well coordinated corporate website; so does Verizon. As others follow, that will be reflected in our Index.

- David Bowen

The Explain Yourself Index is the world's most rigorous assessment of companies' use of online channels to explain who they are and what they do. To download a copy of the report, which focused on the United States, please visit our website

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



BC Tip: Alibaba: Skilful journalism makes corporate news engaging

The Chinese e-commerce giant’s corporate news microsite is likely to be useful for the professional media and interesting to general audiences

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The feature

‘Alizila’ is Alibaba’s corporate news microsite, which is linked from the ‘News and Resources’ section of the Alibaba Group corporate website.

The site has a regular flow of stories on Alibaba corporate and business news, the digital economy and China. There are four categories in the primary menu – ‘New retail’, ‘Gateway to China’, ‘Ecosystem in action’ and ‘China insights’. Visitors can use filters for stories about businesses within Alibaba Group.

The site is laid out like an online magazine: a large rotating banner for the latest features, a ‘Trending’ column to the right, and more headlines down the page. Stories are wide-ranging within the broad themes of ‘Alibaba’ and ‘China’. Two recent stories have been on the increased consumption of coffee in China and the release of a Peppa Pig film, ‘Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year’.

The takeaway

The Alizila site is run by former journalists and it shows. Stories are well selected, written and presented online; and demonstrates that a corporate news site can successfully move beyond a tone that is blatantly promotional or too internally focused.

You could imagine journalists, and perhaps investors, industry professionals and even general news consumers, using the site as an online destination for news and analysis about China and one of the world’s largest online retailers.

There is also good attention to details that will matter to journalists, an open and transparent ‘About’ page, as well as a blanket statement about publishing permission: ‘We encourage you to share this information. All stories, photos, videos and other content posted on Alizila may be republished and re-used free of charge unless otherwise noted.’

China-based companies have been notably behind Europe and the US in their approach to online corporate communications, but Alizila suggests this could be changing.

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

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

BC Tip: The BBC – a choice between short and long-form analysis

Simple links allow users to opt for summary, in-depth or video analysis of a particular topic

Three versions of one section of the BBC News article; from left to right – ‘Short’, ‘Long’ and ‘Video’

The Feature

BBC News published an article on its website offering analysis of the November 2018 US midterm elections. Five ‘lessons’ from the election results are provided, under a heading for each – including ‘A record for female candidates’ and ‘The suburban split’.

Users are invited to click links labelled ‘Short’, ‘Long’ or, in some cases, ‘Video’ to choose between brief, detailed and video analysis of each of the lessons (see examples of each in the screenshots above.)

The Takeaway

This format could be adopted for use on corporate sites – giving users the choice between viewing summary and deeper information about a particular topic.

The BBC’s implementation of it could be improved, however. For example, some users may prefer a simplified choice between viewing a ‘Short’ and ‘Long’ version of the entire article, rather than being forced to make such choices for each of the five sections – which can be disorientating.

But the overall approach is a neat model for highlighting key points on a web page, while giving clear routes to deeper detail for visitors who want it.


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

Cracking contact

Rich contact information can please website visitors and boost a company’s reputation for transparency. Scott Payton visits eight corporate sites that make it exceptionally easy to get in touch. 

Almost every company wants to convey the impression that it’s open to questions from the outside world. But when it comes to the contact provisions on their corporate websites, many firms are inadvertently saying to visitors: ‘please go away’. 

Here are eight examples of companies that send a powerful message of openness by making it particularly simple for customers, investors, journalists and other audiences to make contact:

Vinci and Total – slick social contacts

Many journalists are heavy users of Twitter. So it makes sense to put press officers’ Twitter handles on the press contacts page, alongside the usual phone numbers and email addresses. French construction group Vinci has done this on its rich and easy to find ‘Media contacts’ page. Vinci also includes links to the LinkedIn profiles of each of its four press officers – as well as its two investor relations officers. The inclusion of IR contacts on the Media contacts page is in itself thoughtful touch. 

Vinci’s Media contacts page includes links to press officers’ Twitter and LinkedIn profiles

Vinci’s Media contacts page includes links to press officers’ Twitter and LinkedIn profiles

Another French corporate giant, energy group Total, also provides unusual social signposts on its global site: a social media directory in the Media section contains a prominent link to the chief executive’s ‘influencer profile’ on LinkedIn. While not a ‘contact’ channel as such, it’s still an effective way of conveying the impression that the CEO is keen to ‘connect’ with external audiences. 

A social media directory on Total’s global site includes a link to the CEO’s LinkedIn ‘influencer profile’

A social media directory on Total’s global site includes a link to the CEO’s LinkedIn ‘influencer profile’

TNO and KPMG – excellent expert directories

Dutch research organization TNO has a search tool on its global website that allows users to find the contact details of all of its researchers as well as other employees. A set of filters in the left column allows users to search for people by theme – such as ‘Traffic & Transport’ and ‘Information & Communication Technology’ – and by function, including press and human resources. 

Details for each employee include a photo – which itself sends a message of openness – as well as phone number, email and sometimes LinkedIn profile. 

In the Careers section of TNO’s site, there are big panels containing further contact details for relevant HR contacts for jobseekers. Here’s an example.

The impression all this creates is of an extremely open and accessible organization that is confident about engaging with the outside world.

TNO’s on-site employee directory houses a wealth of contact information

TNO’s on-site employee directory houses a wealth of contact information

Another ‘knowledge’-focused organization, Dutch professional services firm KPMG, also makes it usually easy for website visitors to find the contact details of a relevant in-house expert. On the ‘Contact’ page of KPMG’s global site, a simple set of dropdown menus invites users to drill down by country, then service (audit, advisory, etc), and industry.  The names and titles of relevant contacts then appear, with links to an email form for each, plus signposts to deeper contact pages for each expert, housing biography, phone number and other useful information. 

Overall, it’s a powerful tool for pulling in potential customers – and also shows off the depth and breadth of KPMG’s expertise to all audiences.

KPMG’s global site has a Contact page with a powerful tool for finding contact details for a relevant expert (bottom-right panel in screenshot above)

KPMG’s global site has a Contact page with a powerful tool for finding contact details for a relevant expert (bottom-right panel in screenshot above)

Henkel, Swiss Re and Hannover Re – superb CSR contacts

It’s pretty conventional for companies to provide detailed press and IR contacts on their corporate sites. Less so for CSR contacts: a generic email address at the back of the CSR report is too often the only relevant contact point provided.

In contrast, German chemical and consumer goods company Henkel provides a prominently signposted ‘Sustainability Contacts’ page with full contact details for no less than 10 CSR contacts, plus three further contacts at Henkel’s foundations. 

Henkel’s CSR contact details are exceptionally comprehensive

Henkel’s CSR contact details are exceptionally comprehensive

As we pointed out in a recent BC Tip, Zurich-based reinsurance firm Swiss Re also peppers its global site’s Corporate responsibility section with CSR contact information.

Meanwhile, Swiss Re’s German peer Hannover Re has a dedicated CSR contacts page, with phone, fax and web form contact details for four relevant people in the firm (in corporate communications and investor relations).

Again, such prominent and detailed contact information isn’t just useful to visitors; it also conveys a message of openness.

GSK – comprehensive contact hub

A common weakness on corporate sites’ main contact pages is a failure to cater for all key audiences. Jobseekers – often the largest visitor group on such sites – are often forgotten, for example. So are groups such as partners and suppliers. 

UK pharmaceuticals company GSK’s easy to find ‘Contact us’ page stands out for its thoroughness.

The page has clear routes to global and local contact information for a wealth of audience groups – including partners and suppliers as well as jobseekers, patients, potential whistle-blowers, and others. Links to GSK’s presence on Facebook and Twitter are also included on the page – which makes sense, because these are contact points, too. 

Finally, GSK’s main contact page also includes signposts to other parts of the company’s web estate in which visitors will find answers to common queries – such as how and where to apply for a job. Helping visitors to help themselves in this way pays dividends on a corporate site’s contacts page – because it can free up time and resources for answering trickier questions manually.  

GSK’s global site has an unusually comprehensive main contact page

GSK’s global site has an unusually comprehensive main contact page

-      By Scott Payton

Look out for the new Explain Yourself Index 2019 - US Edition, to be published on February 13th.
The Explain Yourself Index is the world’s most rigorous assessment of companies’ use of online channels to explain who they are, what they do – and why they are a force for good in the world. For more information and to be sent a copy of the research when it is published, contact Dan Drury ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

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

BC Tip: IBM – A smart campaign page?

IBM has a sprawling web estate with many blogs dotted around it – and a page which tries to bring order to the disorder

IBM’s ‘Let’s put smart to work’ page

IBM’s ‘Let’s put smart to work’ page

The Feature

IBM created a portal page as part of its 2018 ‘Let’s put smart to work’ brand campaign to help direct users to relevant material around its large digital estate.

The portal has several videos, presumably created as part of the campaign, as well as links to upcoming events.

An ‘Industries’ area on the page collates links to case studies and blogs in other parts of IBM.com, such as its Internet of Things Blog.

What appears to be a navigation bar at the top of the page takes users to dedicated IBM sites for products or services, such as Watson.

The Takeaway

The creation of a page to support a campaign by making use of existing materials is, in many cases, a sensible idea, especially if the campaign itself directs users there.

IBM’s page certainly gives users a good idea of the wide range of engaging stories it has produced, which demonstrate how the company’s services can help its customers in many different industries.

But the problem with this particular page is that it has no obvious home in the IBM estate – indeed we stumbled across it rather than finding it through IBM’s navigation.

It is still being updated, as the advertisement for an upcoming event shows, and the information it showcases is still relevant, but we suspect that few users will be finding the page now, some months after the campaign’s launch.

None of the links we found on the page - including the ‘navigation bar’ - indicated where the user was being taken, even though IBM.com is effectively a vast federation of microsites and blogs with at best loose connections to each other. So users who follow the links will likely end up disorientated in one part or another of the estate.

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: Swiss Re – Engaging CSR contacts

Named contacts for queries are highly visible throughout an insurance giant’s online corporate responsibility section

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The feature

The ‘Corporate responsibility’ section on Swiss Re’s corporate website has prominent signposts to CSR contacts, with headshots and links to phone numbers, on several tertiary and deeper pages.

For example, midway down the ‘Our approach to corporate responsibility’ page, there are two ‘Contact’ panels. One of these has a named contact, with headshot, and job title and a link to ‘View profile’, which lets users send a message via an email form.

Similar panels appear throughout the section and follow a similar format as contacts in the Investors and Media sections.

The takeaway

It is still unusual to find named contacts for CSR on corporate websites – most companies do very little. Some go as far as providing a generic email address buried in the CSR report PDF; many do not provide one at all.

Swiss Re’s approach shows a refreshing openness. Even if the majority of visitors do not choose to get in touch, the fact that they are able to is likely to leave them with a good impression of the company. The company is also increasing the chances of building relationships with CSR professionals, a small but influential audience.

Although signposting of contacts is excellent, Swiss Re would benefit from more consistency – not all of the contacts have headshots for example, and some links lead to direct phone numbers, while others do not. Direct email addresses, which are not included, could also be useful for professional audiences as well.

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.

Corporate videos online – seven of the best, two of the worst

Most corporate videos are mediocre and forgettable, but on occasion we come across ones that rise above the clichés and grip us to the end. Here, Jason Sumner provides a round-up of some of the best videos on the corporate web, and two that stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Imaginative. Memorable. Watchable. These are words not usually associated with corporate videos.

That is why it is a surprise and a delight (for those of us who spend our days evaluating the quality of online corporate communications) to find corporate videos that are genuinely engaging. The best corporate videos also have what we call editorial impact – putting across a key strategic message – whether it’s about innovation, nurturing employees or the company’s commitment to the environment.

Here are seven of the best online corporate videos that our consultants have seen recently, and two that are firmly in the ‘what not to do’ category.

Ørsted – ‘Home. It’s not what we think it is’

Currently available on the Danish energy company’s global home page, the 3-minute video has a clear purpose – to introduce the company’s name change and new business strategy, which focuses on renewables. It is also moving at times (for this viewer at least) – a rarity for corporate videos.

Ørsted – engaging, with a clear purpose

Ørsted – engaging, with a clear purpose

IBM – ‘First AI Companion in Space’

Filmed from a unique perspective, this imaginative video strongly puts across the message that IBM is at the forefront of innovation, and is a commercial for IBM’s artificial intelligence product, ‘Watson’. The absence of narration across just over a minute of video works well when the ‘AI point of view’ is so well realised.

IBM – showcasing innovation

IBM – showcasing innovation

Nabors – ‘Meet Dave, Floorhand, Big Piney’

Nabors is an US-based oil services company that has a range of global office-based positions, as well as a number of jobs on its fleet of land-based drilling rigs. In the corporate world, employee profile videos rarely venture outside the office environment, which makes this 2-minute video so refreshing. Dave is remarkably open about the benefits and drawbacks of life on a rig, but ultimately concludes – ‘I could never see myself doing an office job now’. It provides authentic insight for people considering the same work. Dave also manages to include an endorsement of Nabors’ commitment to employee safety.

Nabors – refreshingly open about working on an oil rig

Nabors – refreshingly open about working on an oil rig

Lilly – ‘Sweethearts in Science’

A clever and fun take on ‘The Newlywed Game’, where couples who also work together at the US-base pharmaceutical giant talk about their ‘worst date’, ‘best trait’, ‘irritating habit’ etc. The tone shifts halfway through, with the couples discussing why Lilly is a great employer.

Lilly – clever and fun

Lilly – clever and fun

LVMH – ‘In Situ’ videos

An oldie which we have written about before, but still a goodie. The luxury goods maker invites users to ‘take a glimpse at the daily lives of our employees’ with short, fly-on-the-wall films following a range of activities across the company’s brands. They range from a press team meeting at Paris department store Le Bon Marché to a morning briefing at cosmetics brand Sephora in New York.

BAT – ‘This is the man’

A 5-minute YouTube film that has been signposted from the British American Tobacco site for some time, but which is not any less memorable for that. It is the only corporate video that we know of with a murder in it. (And a bomb going off, and an age-appropriate warning).

BAT – the only corporate video we know of with a murder in it

BAT – the only corporate video we know of with a murder in it

PBS – ‘Value PBS’ films

PBS, a public television network, is loved and hated in the US, but it is tapping into the love for fundraising. These short films (scroll down the page for the videos) come from outside the conventional corporate world but are worth looking at for ideas about subject matter and keeping to a consistent theme.

PBS – lessons from outside the conventional corporate world

PBS – lessons from outside the conventional corporate world

Two of the worst corporate videos we’ve recently seen come from Danaher, the US-based industrial equipment and healthcare conglomerate, and Softbank, the Japanese telecoms giant.

Danaher – ‘Our shared purpose’

At first this 3-minute video (scroll down the page) appears to be a fairly conventional (and mediocre) effort. However, if you watch it all the way through (which we do not recommend) it takes all of the weaknesses of conventional company films to new lows. It is full of visual and editorial clichés: ‘Our shared purpose is in everything we are, and everything we do’; ‘It’s why we view every challenge as an opportunity’. It also lapses into jargon – ‘(our shared purpose) is operationalised through DBS’; and over-statement – ‘For us, (our shared purpose) is our greatest reason for being’.

Danaher – full of clichés and jargon

Danaher – full of clichés and jargon

Softbank – ‘Softbank’s Next 30-Year Vision’

This 2 hours plus film must be seen to be believed, and we confess to only having watched parts of it. Technically this is a webcast, not a film, but it continues to be promoted on the company’s online ‘Vision' pages, despite being 9 years old. Although there may be cultural differences at work, to Western eyes it is odd, rambling and offputtingly long.

Softbank – odd, rambling and offputtingly long

Softbank – odd, rambling and offputtingly long

- 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: Pfizer's one stop shop for journalists

Pfizer has a simple page pointing to a mass of useful information for the media

Screen Shot 2019-01-14 at 16.46.12.png

The Feature

Pfizer’s news section landing page promotes a Frequently Requested Info link. This leads to a page that has many links to other pages, as well as one to email the press team.

Links point to the company fact sheet, executive team biographies, the corporate responsibility report, financial reports, company history, the product pipeline, and more. The depth of information varies. For example the pipeline page is a sophisticated interactive device, while the fact sheet is a brief introduction followed by links to product pages.

There is also a link to company and specialist press kits (on vaccines and oncology).

The Takeaway

Too often press sections do not give journalists what they need – sometimes, indeed, they do not seem to be aimed at them at all. Pfizer’s is admirable in providing a simple page that will help media professionals gather a good deal of background with the minimum effort. It was clearly created by someone who knew what they would want – quite possibly a former journalist.

Two minor criticisms. First, the fact sheet is not as informative as it should be – it does not include basics such as revenue or employee numbers. Second, it would be helpful to provide PDFs of the different pages, or to make them print-friendly in some other way. Journalists are almost by definition in a hurry, and value the ability to print things off to read on the way to their appointments.


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: Starbucks – Sweetening jobseekers with a personal message

A simple personalisation feature creates a customised welcome

Screenshot 2019-01-07 at 15.22.31.png

The Feature

Starbucks’ Europe, Middle-East and Africa Careers site home page greets jobseekers with the message ‘Hi there! What’s your name?’ 

If a visitor types in his or her name and presses a ‘Go!’ button, the name appears in an animated ‘hand-writing’ sequence, on an image of one of the company’s coffee cups, alongside a smiley-face emoticon (see image above).

Further down the page, the user’s name is written on another image of a coffee cup, with animated steam coming out of its lid.

Further still down the page, the user will find a photo of three people in Starbucks barista uniforms, holding a sign with the user’s name on it - eg ‘We love Scott’ (see image below).

Screenshot 2019-01-07 at 15.28.55.png

The Takeaway

Like the company’s syrup-flavoured beverages, the personalisation on Starbucks’ careers site’s home page may prove too sickly-sweet for some jobseekers. But it has a number of things going for it:

First, unlike many other examples of personalisation on corporate sites, it does not force the user to do much work – answering a series of multiple-choice questions, for example. 

Second, it reinforces the company’s brand: names on customers’ coffee cups represent a key part of Starbucks’ identity.

Third, the personalisation is an optional extra rather than an integral part of the site’s functionality: if the user chooses not to key in their name, no functionality is lost – aside from the personal welcome messages. 

Finally, it sends the message – albeit in a syrupy way – that Starbucks treats its employees as individual people, rather than numbers on a spreadsheet.


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.

Facebook – Dark arts cast a shadow online

Facebook’s corporate online newsroom has shown an unusual willingness to tell the world what the company is doing to fight fake news and Russian trolls. Too bad the messages do not necessarily match the reality, says Jason Sumner.

Spend an hour browsing Facebook’s corporate online newsroom, and even the most ardent Facebook sceptic could experience a wobble.

Here the company has built a formidable resource to convince the world that it is doing all that it can to fight fake accounts, fake news, election interference, privacy breaches and misuse of data:

  • ‘News’ promotes positive features but currently shows Facebook mostly in defence mode, and you can trace the history of recent scandals by some of the links: ‘Response to Six4Three Documents’; ‘Elliot Schrage on Definers’; ‘New York Times Update’ (in and amongst more fluffy titles, ‘A New Way to Share Gift Ideas on Facebook’).

  • ‘Inside Feed’ is Facebook’s attempt to let us peer behind the curtain. ‘With Inside Feed, we aim to shed more light on the people and processes behind our products’. And the section is effective at doing this, with well-made videos showing real employees doing real things to ‘make advertising transparent’, fight child exploitation on the network, hunt false news (‘both those we caught, and some we caught too late’), etc. One video, ‘Facing facts’, is particularly persuasive.

  • ‘Hard Questions’ is a forum for Facebook, and external contributors, to explain the company’s approach and thinking about controversial subjects, such as ‘Who Reviews Objectionable Content on Facebook – And Is the Company Doing Enough to Support Them?’ or ‘How Does Facebook Investigate Cyber Threats and Information Operations?’ The section appears to steer away from specific controversies, leaving that for ‘News’. We praised ‘Hard Questions’ in a BC tip, for allowing and responding to criticism in comments below these pieces.

Facebook’s ‘Hard Questions’ puts across the company’s case persuasively

Facebook’s ‘Hard Questions’ puts across the company’s case persuasively

The articles and videos are full of facts, to their credit. An article published in November by Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy said the company, in the previous week, had removed ‘36 Facebook accounts, 6 pages and 99 Instagram accounts’. Another article by the vice president of product management said that in ‘Q3 2018, we took action on 15.4m pieces of violent and graphic content… more than 10 times the amount we took action on in Q4 2017’; they also took down 800 million fake accounts in Q2 and 754 million in Q3.

Even if you disagree with some of the above, or all of it, it is hard to come away from the site arguing that Facebook is ignoring its problems. It is unconventional, unusually open and thoughtful, acknowledges criticism and does not try to shift blame. For those reasons, it is a largely successful piece of online digital communications.

The problem is that anyone who has been on the internet or near a newspaper recently will know that what the company is saying in its online newsroom does not necessarily reflect what was happening behind the scenes.

Facebook’s travails show that it doesn’t matter how sophisticated the online communications are, when the message does not reflect reality, companies are going to be caught out.

- 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: Unilever – Helping customers get in touch, worldwide

Unilever makes it easy for customers on its global site to find local brand contact details

The Domestos brand page on the global Unilever site - with UK contact details displayed

The Domestos brand page on the global Unilever site - with UK contact details displayed

The Feature

Users who visit the ‘Our brands’ section of Unilever’s global website can use a brand selector to find the one they are interested in, for example Domestos.

Clicking on the brand tile brings up a dropdown menu listing all countries where the brand is available. At this stage users can select ‘Global brands’, which takes them to the Unilever.com global brand page, such as the one for Domestos.

These pages contain a prominent field where users can type in the name of their country. Predictive results are offered, and selecting a country brings up local contact details, and a link to the brand page on the relevant Unilever country site.

The Takeaway

The fact that users can find local brand contact details without having to leave the global site will be helpful for many customers. They are likely to be on corporate sites in large numbers – often as the second largest audience behind jobseekers – and almost half of them will have come for customer service or to find out about a specific product.*

Too often corporate sites do not help customers achieve their goals, so providing tools, like Unilever’s, which allow them to quickly find local contact details is advisable.

*Data from Bowen Craggs survey data, which indicates that 48% of customer respondents come to corporate websites for customer service or to find out about a specific product.; and that only 42% achieve their goal.

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.

Is personalisation tailored to a corporate website’s needs?

Personalisation on corporate sites is not new. But it is currently very fashionable, with software vendors pushing their tailoring technology hard. Should web managers believe the hype? Scott Payton offers five points to consider

Remember: you’re not Netflix

It’s no coincidence that the most costly and complex personalisation techniques have been developed by the giants of online selling, entertainment and social media. This is because personalisation holds much greater potential in these areas – ‘Products recommended for you’, ‘TV shows we think you’ll like’, ‘People you may know’ and so on – than on a ‘standard’ corporate website. 

I’m not saying that personalisation has no role on a corporate site. But – despite the software sales patter – it’s likely to have a relatively limited one.

It’s also important to remember that Amazon and Netflix spend millions of dollars developing bespoke personalisation techniques tailored to their business models. For now, off-the-shelf personalisation tools are in practice far cruder in comparison.  

Another big difference with corporate sites is lack of data to work with. The likes of Amazon, Netflix and Facebook can harvest a steady stream of data from their (frequent, account-holding) users. In contrast, as Bowen Craggs’ Web Analytics Benchmark data shows, the majority of a typical corporate website’s users only visit once or twice a year. 

So the first step in sizing up if and how to personalise your site is to find out which audiences (if any) visit regularly, and focus your efforts on those groups. 

Jobseekers are an exception to this ‘data desert’ problem. By inviting these people to log in to your Careers section via their LinkedIn account, it is possible to tailor vacancy and other information – because LinkedIn gives you access to a ready-made pot of personal data. See this BC Tip on BlackRock’s careers site for an example.

Meanwhile, some web managers are working hard to encourage other audiences to visit their site more regularly. KPMG, for example, now entices visitors to create a user account in return for access to a personalised ‘dashboard’ of articles and other material matching their interests. It’s an unusually sophisticated experiment in corporate site personalisation that will be worth watching during the coming months. 

KPMG is experimenting with personalisation that is unusually sophisticated for a corporate website

KPMG is experimenting with personalisation that is unusually sophisticated for a corporate website

Be transparent

There is an expanding, murky world of ‘hidden’ online marketing personalisation. Indeed, a growing number of companies are personalising marketing banners on their corporate websites – based on the visitor’s cookies or IP address, for example – in ways that are invisible to the user. 

But if you’re going to personalise things like product and article recommendations on your site, it’s best to make it clear to visitors both how you’re personalising information, and the value of this to them. 

This is one aspect of personalisation in which Amazon and co offer relevant lessons for corporate web mangers:

‘Recommended products’ is not nearly as useful a heading as ‘Customers who purchased this item also bought this product’. 

If you tell visitors how and why you’ve personalised information, it gives them the context they need to make the best use of it – as well as conveying an impression of openness and transparency about how and why their personal data is being used. This last point is increasingly important from a reputation management perspective.  

Personalisation is no substitute for good navigation

Logical, comprehensive and intuitive navigation menus can be complemented by personalised links – they can’t be replaced by them. Why? 

First, one-off visitors, and those with private browsing mode switched on, simply won’t get your personalised material. 

Second, Bowen Craggs’ website visitor research shows that people come to websites for a myriad of reasons – and often want to visit multiple sections. On a corporate site (rather than, perhaps, a selling site), it’s vital to give these users the opportunity to go on their esoteric, serendipitous journeys as they see fit, rather than to force them down pre-set routes based on what you think they will want.

One more reason not to make your website too reliant on personalisation functionality: doing so could pose a big problem in future if regulators, web browser makers or others change their approaches to use of personal data.

Beware of filter bubbles

Related to the above point, overzealous personalisation can be downright counter-productive. Just as personalisation in the world of online news can push people into cultural and political echo chambers, personalisation on a corporate site risks making potentially useful messages and information less visible – or even invisible - to some visitors.

At Bowen Craggs, we’re big fans of related links. But that is partly because they’re a mechanism for ‘cross-selling’ to visitors things or information that they not only didn’t know about, but also didn’t think they wanted to know about. That’s very different from the principle of personalised links, which is to try to second-guess what a visitor might also want.

Vigorous personalisation can also make users feel robbed of their sense of free will. I have a colleague who is infuriated with a new BBC app because it insists on showing him only radio programmes that it thinks he would like, rather than allowing him to browse the full range of output on offer. 

Make sure it’s useful – and not broken

The last two decades are littered with failed attempts to personalise corporate websites. 

In some cases, this was because the personalisation simply didn’t work properly. One corporate site’s Careers section once offered me ‘tailored vacancy information’ that focused on US military veteran postings. I am neither an American nor a military veteran. 

Another site once invited investor relations section visitors to ‘tailor your experience to your needs’. Few visitors wanted to make a ‘tailored experience’: they just wanted to get results data as quickly as possible. 

Yet another site recently experimented with tailoring a product-related primary navigation menu link based on the visitor’s browsing history. It was soon abandoned: it was not made clear to visitors when and why the primary menu changed, increasing confusion rather than convenience. 

Indeed, perhaps the biggest lesson in the history of corporate site personalisation is that bad personalisation is far worse than no personalisation at all. 

 - Scott Payton

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

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






BC tip: Credit Suisse – Serving jobseekers with a tennis ace

A Swiss financial services giant uses its sponsorship deal with Roger Federer to attract jobseekers.

BC tip - Credit Suisse.png

The feature

The Careers landing page on Credit Suisse’s corporate website features a 5-minute video ‘Credit Suisse Ambassador: Roger Federer giving career advice’.

In a series of short clips with headings such as ‘train hard’, ‘teamwork’, ‘pressure’ and ‘mental focus’, Federer talks about the tools he used to become arguably the best professional tennis player in history. It is part of a series of careers-related videos at the bottom of the landing page.

The takeaway

Credit Suisse pays Mr Federer a lot of money to be its ‘brand ambassador’, so it makes sense for the company to use the ‘content’ produced from the relationship wherever it can.

Some companies try to shoehorn expensive commercials on to the corporate site, with no context or customisation, and the effect on viewers can be jarring.

Credit Suisse adapts its marketing and advertising material much better than most. Although Mr Federer was unlikely to have been giving careers advice specifically (in what appears to be a wide-ranging interview that took place at a live event in front of an audience). However, Credit Suisse has given the interview a clever edit and the short video fits in well with the other videos on the corporate Careers site.

The advice in the video may also be useful, but the underlying message to jobseekers is, ‘you can work at a company that associates with Roger Federer’ – a clear winner for jobseeker comms.

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: Excavating the past to illustrate the present

Duke Energy has found a new way of engaging visitors by looking to the past

Screen Shot 2018-11-26 at 18.00.18.png

The feature

Duke Energy’s Illumination blog, promoted on the Our Company landing page, includes a Retro section. Each story has photos on a theme, with ‘Can you ID these old photos?’ at the top. They range from bosses (‘Who is the CEO?’) to Fun and Games (‘We think this photo is from the 1970s taken at a Cincinatti Gas & Electric picnic at Coney Island’). In each case the readers are asked to identify people or places and send memories by email to ‘help us improve our records’.

Several of the posts have a ‘Mysteries solved!’ epilogue, with a past picture published, who it is, and who has identified it.

The takeaway

It is a struggle for companies to get any sort of interaction going on a website, but this is a gentle and effective way of doing it. Although it does help Duke ‘improve its records’, we suspect this is not the main motivation (or at least advantage). Most of the responses are going to come from current or future employees, but what better way of keeping in touch with them? And the general reader will find the photos interesting too: just seeing how we dressed in the Seventies is still a source of amazement.


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 - corporate web managers face a growing challenge to engage users

Our web analytics benchmark research suggests corporate web managers face a growing challenge to engage users

Occasional feature highlighting useful data for corporate digital communication.

The chart shows the bounce rate, pages per session and average session duration over the years of the Bowen Craggs web analytics benchmark, 2013-2018  Source: Bowen Craggs web analytics benchmark 2018

The chart shows the bounce rate, pages per session and average session duration over the years of the Bowen Craggs web analytics benchmark, 2013-2018

Source: Bowen Craggs web analytics benchmark 2018

We looked for trends over time in some key engagement analytics metrics and found that, across our sample of corporate websites:

  • Bounce rate has varied a little but is around 50%

  • Pages per session dropped by 0.6 pages from 2.9 in 2014 to just under 2.3 in 2018

  • The average session duration has also been dropping from a peak of 148s (2m28) in 2014 to 120 seconds (2m) in 2017 and 2018.

The composition of the benchmark group has varied over the period, so could account for some variation. And these figures are averages. The picture on your site could be more complex, of course: shorter sessions could be the result of more efficient task completion. So you always need to understand user behaviour on the particular site in question.

But even allowing for these caveats, the general pattern is of declining engagement on corporate websites – and a challenge to managers to do more to attract audiences back to their sites.

* The 2018 benchmark covers 12 months between May 2017 to April 2018, including web analytics data from 29 companies, the largest sample ever. It has data on almost 106 million users and over 153 million sessions, and has been collecting data since 2014 with results from 2013 onwards. The research will be presented at a web meeting [https://www.eventbrite.com/e/web-meeting-web-analytics-benchmarking-research-2018-bowen-craggs-club-members-only-registration-45969889176] for Bowen Craggs Club members on Tuesday 20 November.


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

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

BC Tip: BlackRock – bad and good personalisation on one Careers site

The US investment manager offers vacancy listings personalised in two ways – but only one of them is useful

Screenshot 2018-11-19 at 16.07.41.png

The Feature

BlackRock has a Careers website featuring an ‘Experienced Professionals’ page within an ‘Explore Careers’ sub-section.

If the user arrives on this page after visiting a number of other pages on the site, a panel appears titled ‘Recommendations based on your browsing history’.

This heading is followed by the titles, locations and departments of five job vacancies. Users can click on one of the vacancies to view more details, or press a ‘More jobs’ button at the bottom of the panel to expand the list of recommended vacancies. The number of additional vacancies shown varied between 11 and 13 during our tests.

The Careers site also employs a location sniffer – but during our tests there was no evidence that this affected the personalised vacancy listing: ‘recommended’ vacancies shown covered a wide range of global locations.

Above this panel is the caption ‘Want personalized job recommendations? Sign in with LinkedIn.’ Once activated, this shows another, separate list of vacancies, titled ‘Recommendations based on your LinkedIn profile’.

The Takeaway

Experiments with personalisation on corporate websites are not new– but they are currently very fashionable, and something that a number of software vendors are pushing hard.

BlackRock’s attempts to offer personalised job vacancies based on the visitor’s browsing history are cleanly presented and clearly explained – though some users may mistakenly assume that their entire web browsing history is taken into account, rather than merely their visits within the Careers site.

The feature is also, sensibly, offered alongside a range of other vacancy search options, including the ability to browse vacancies by business area, location, keyword and so on.

But there are a number of problems with the personalise by browsing history feature.

First, Blackrock’s Careers site is extremely thin. This means that there are very few page visits from which the personalisation software can make a judgement about which vacancies to ‘recommend’.

Second, there are no options to refine the personalised listing – by location or department, for example.

In contrast, the option to view personalised vacancies by signing in via LinkedIn is much more convincing – because a LinkedIn profile provides far more information on which to base vacancy recommendations. During our tests, for example, activating this feature offered us a range of corporate communications and ‘digital analyst’ vacancies at BlackRock. Which are right up our street.


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

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

The updated Kering Job Offers page

The updated Kering Job Offers page

The Feature

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

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

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

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

The previous Job Offers page

The previous Job Offers page

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

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