BC tip: Maersk – Unrealistic filters

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

Maersk 1066 v2.png

The feature

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

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

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

The takeaway

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

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

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

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

BC tip: BASF – Preferring not to personalise

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

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

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

The feature

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

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

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

The takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

BC tip: LVMH and Mercier Champagne – Sustainability messaging lacks fizz

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

Champagne Mercier website - cellar tour page

Champagne Mercier website - cellar tour page

The feature

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

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

The takeaway

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

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

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

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

BC Tip: Vinci – making sense of search results

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

Screenshot_2019-04-23 VINCI - carbon emissions - All.png

The Feature

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

Podcasts: the past becomes the future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- David Bowen

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

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





BC tip: Barclays Center – Accessibility add-on

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

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The feature

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

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

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

The takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

BC Tip: Merck and the non-scrolling home page

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

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 10.14.26.png

The Feature

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GSK’s well-constructed country menu

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

A useful tool for moving around GSK’s web estate

A useful tool for moving around GSK’s web estate

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

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

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

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

Unilever’s brand finder tool is integrated with contacts

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

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

The brand tool is usefully integrated with contacts

The brand tool is usefully integrated with contacts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HSBC’s straightforward social media directory

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

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

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

- Jason Sumner

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

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

BC Tip: JPMorgan Chase – encouraging jobseekers to pack their bags

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

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The Feature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot 2019-04-01 at 10.23.29.png

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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


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

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

BC Tip: Levi Strauss & Co - the wrong sort of 501

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

Levi Strauss & Co IR site home page

Levi Strauss & Co IR site home page

The Feature

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chart of the week – Data shows a broad audience for online CSR information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BC tip: Nike – An option to skip?

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

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The feature

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

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

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

The takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

BC Tip: Giving picture editors what they need

Ford’s Media Center provide a formidable choice of photos of its directors and executives

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The Feature

Ford has a separate media site, which is linked from the footer of its corporate site. Its People section lists more than 100 directors and senior managers, from Bill Ford to regional vice presidents. They can be filtered by role or alphabetically, and the number displayed on a page can be adjusted.

Each of the individuals has a biography and a photo. Clicking the image, it expands and gives the option to download it, save it as a ‘bookmark’ (for later downloading), or to copy its URL. Senior people have several images displayed on the page, with a ‘View more’ option displaying a new page of thumbnails. Some such as Peter Fleet, President of Asia region, have a handful, but Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, has more than 100. They range from him with the Ford Volunteer Corps to him having a chat with Mark Zuckerberg.

The Takeaway

Most corporate websites provide images of senior managers (though a few, for mysterious reasons, do not). It is an obvious and useful service for media organizations. The quality of the images varies, but the main problem for those looking for interesting photos is that there is just not enough choice. They do not want to use the same photo they used last time, nor the one that everyone else will be using. So they will most likely go to a third party picture library, which may be fine but means the company loses any form of influence.

By providing a huge range of photos, Ford can present its people as it wants – and there is a good chance its images will be used.

We have a few small criticisms. The filters are rather limited for such a large number of people and there are few informal shots. More seriously, there is no obvious copyright notice – picture editors want to be sure they will not get a letter from Ford’s lawyers. But compared with other companies’ offerings, this is impressive and, most important, just what the target audience needs.


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: 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.

Screenshot 2019-03-04 at 10.17.06.png

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

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 11.58.43.png

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

Screenshot 2019-02-13 13.39.10.png

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.