Content strategy for the corporate web – answering three big challenges

The Bowen Craggs Club recently had a wide-ranging conversation about our members’ biggest challenges when it comes to content and channel strategies. While the proceedings are confidential, Jason Sumner shares three of the common problems that came up, as well as some of our advice, present and past.

Challenge one: Internal politics

The corporate website is too often a battleground of internal politics. Senior managers may demand that their material is given undue prominence, while others fear the risks involved in publishing compelling material.

The answer to this one is for the digital team to have influence and decision-making power – easier said than done, of course. However, some do achieve this. The most successful digital teams among our clients are those whose senior executives trust them to make the right choices on the web and give them the freedom to decide.

You and your digital team may be in that fortunate position, or more likely, you are not (or somewhere in between), having to go through rounds of approval, watering down a once-compelling story or being hopelessly late in fostering an online response to a fast-moving communications crisis.

There are ways to build influence and trust, and they come down to ‘proving one’s worth’ or in a word, ‘measurement’. The metrics and evidence that persuade bosses will be different for each organization but there are similar themes across the companies we work with. The evidence being compiled must refer back to the organization’s goals (or perhaps just the goals of the executive you are trying to convince – hopefully they intersect).

Many executives, being focused on the bottom line, love numbers, and especially ones that say the website is important to customers. Meaningful visitor data and analytics are often the key, showing where customers go on the site and their opinion of the brand and company after their visit – number of leads generated, for example.

Numbers are not everything, and well-chosen anecdotal evidence about a few big sales that started as leads from the website can be just as powerful. So in addition to all the other skills, the digital manager needs, as they say at my daughter’s nursery, ‘listening ears’ for these kinds of compelling internal stories.

For more, see ‘The right personality to run a global web estate’ on our website.

Challenge two: Sourcing good stories

See the ‘listening ears’ point above – it is sometimes about being in the right place in the right time to overhear an employee’s weekend feats that could turn into a good story for the website.

Processes and structures for sourcing good stories are important, such as brainstorming forums and well-publicised ways for employees to send tips. The digital team at SABMiller, before it was swallowed up by AB InBev, used to have an editorial board with dotted lines across the organization.

At our Web Effectiveness Conference last year, Tim Clark of SAP explained how he finds and nurtures gifted writers inside his organization for the production of articles on the company’s presence on Forbes.com, as well as on the company’s own online channels. Tim also urged delegates to focus on publishing articles that are genuinely interesting – even if their relevance to company activities are tangential – rather than falling back on marketing puff pieces, which never fail to fail on Forbes.com.

Also at the conference, Scott Roane of Aegon said he takes an informal, personal approach, contacting potential authors directly, offering encouragement and constructive feedback. With a streamlined approval process, he can sometimes get stories on the web in a matter of hours, which also helps to motivate contributors.

For more on stories, see ‘The joy of words’ on our website.

Challenge three: Balancing global and local content

The concept of the ‘corporate centre’ is common in most large organizations, but there is no common approach, or even definition of ‘local’. Some organizations have autonomous country managers, others are highly centralised; some markets take a higher priority; in others, they are equal. This diversity is reflected in the needs for local-presence websites, so there is no single model for success.

However, the most effective organizations find the right mix for them between incentivising regional editors with training and support and saying ‘no’ to new microsites or inappropriate material.

Our ideal is the ‘loose-tight’ model: light central governance and support, with engaged senior managers and well-trained web managers. Again, how this ‘ideal’ plays out will be different for each company.

The way forward we advise is to identify some companies who are doing it well, see which governance model best fits your company, and adapt accordingly.

For more, see ‘The tribulations of worldwide websites’ on our website.

For more information about the Bowen Craggs Club, our community for leaders in digital corporate communications at the world’s biggest organizations, please visit our website or contact Lisa Hayward: lhayward@bowencraggs.com

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 British Royal Family - Making a royal mess of navigation

The marriage of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry received a lot of news coverage globally, but the Royal Family’s website is not without a hitch when it comes to navigation

 The Royal Family's website

The Royal Family's website

The Feature

The British Royal Family’s website has a splash page, with an image of the newly-wed couple.

Clicking on ‘Explore’ or scrolling down reveals the ‘usual’ home page, which employs tiles, with and without photos, to guide users to content within the site.

The main site navigation is hidden behind a hamburger icon and the label ‘Menu’ at the top right of the page, but there is a brief left hand menu, indicating the user has landed on a page ‘About the Duchess of Sussex’. The only other option in this navigation is ‘Biography’, and there is no breadcrumb trail.

Clicking on the Royal Coat of Arms at the top left of the site header, which appears without a site title, takes the user back to the home page – with the splash image displayed again.

The Takeaway

The site as a whole looks appealing, and the use of big, bold images featuring smiling, candid shots of the Royal Family adds a warmth and authenticity to the site. The incorporation of Instagram images on the home page and in other areas also sends a positive message of modernity and inclusivity.

But the overall impression is let down by deficiencies in the navigation.

The fact the home page defaults to the splash image each time the user returns to it is likely to frustrate some, and the lack of any site title or navigation on it could confuse those who arrive here from links or search engines. While devices like splash pages can be used to add impact, especially around important events, the fundamentals of user experience should not be forgotten.

Those users who navigate within the site, or who find themselves sent there from search engines, are given no help with orienting themselves; even clicking on the Menu label and icon does not reveal where in the site they are, and there is no website title to help – just the Royal Coat of Arms.

For example, a Google search for ‘Duchess of Sussex’ returns a page from the site as the first result, so the lack of orienting devices including the absence of a website title will be a major problem for them.

Site managers should remember that it is not enough to ensure good search engine performance: the experience of the user once on the site, especially those who may arrive deep within it, must be taken into account too. And that means providing easy ways of understanding where they are, and how to navigate around the site, in addition to visually appealing and easy to read pages.

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: AXA – Fiction in the spotlight

A French insurance group uses well-written, speculative scenarios to help visitors understand its business.

BC tip - AXA.png

The Feature

‘Inside the Emerging Risks Room’ is a section in AXA’s online magazine, ‘Spotlight’, which uses fictional scenarios describing how risks could play out in the future, such as a disease pandemic or a major attack on the internet of things.

The imaginary scenarios are supported by non-fiction material, including facts the scenarios are based on and expert discussion presented as a series of text messages between the participants.

The Takeaway

AXA’s use of fiction on a corporate website is unusual, and perhaps unique, but it is an effective and creative way of making one aspect of AXA’s business more understandable.

Fiction works in this case because the scenario format aligns closely with the business of insurance risk planning. There is also plenty of non-fiction in the section to provide valuable information and context (no one can accuse AXA of ‘fake news’). They are also well written and designed, with eye-catching illustrations.

Corporate sites normally, and appropriately, do not cross the factual barrier with their content. However, this unorthodox approach, when done well and applied in a limited way, could help bring conventional ‘corporate’ stories and topics to life for visitors in a way that facts alone could not.

http://blog.bowencraggs.com/anansi-blog/2018/5/15/bc-tip-axa-fiction-in-the-spotlight

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: Apple – subtle animation guides the eye

Key points and onward links are made more prominent and easier to find through elegant use of moving graphics.

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 10.23.56.png

The Feature

A Climate Change page on Apple’s corporate website employs large headlines, striking images, charts and graphics to explain the technology giant’s efforts to reduce its impact on the environment. As the user scrolls down the page, a series of animated summary facts, figures and charts appear on the screen. Towards the bottom of the page, animated green icons also appear, denoting onward links to sustainability reports and FAQs. 

The Takeaway

Sophisticated animated graphics are fashionable on the web – particularly on media sites. But, as we pointed out in our recent tip about the BBC’s site, they can often hinder rather than help the reader to digest information. Apple’s subtle animation on its Climate Change page shows that when used sparingly, and executed elegantly, such elements can help to draw readers’ attention to key points and, perhaps most importantly, to calls to action. 

https://www.apple.com/environment/climate-change/

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: Asda - Merger, what merger?

The UK supermarket's reluctance to talk openly about a major deal is likely to frustrate website visitors

 Asda's corporate home page - no merger in sight

Asda's corporate home page - no merger in sight

The Feature

Asda and Sainsbury’s, two of the UK’s biggest supermarket companies, have announced plans to merge, attracting a great deal of coverage in the mainstream media and even debate in the UK Parliament.

The Asda corporate site has nothing on its home page about the deal, and even navigating to the Newsroom still reveals nothing (as of the afternoon on the day the announcement was made).

It is only when the user clicks ‘See All Press Releases’, and accesses the press releases listings page, that a news article is shown – with no image and the utilitarian title ‘Proposed combination of J Sainsbury plc and Asda Group Limited’.

The article is brief and advertises a ‘Digital Press Kit’ – which turns out to be some standard images of employees and stores available at the bottom of the article.

Asda’s parent company Wal-Mart did carry a home page story about the deal – but many people may not be aware that Asda is a subsidiary of the US company.

The Takeaway

Given the huge public and media interest in the deal, since it would create a retailer with massive power over suppliers and potentially affect both customers and employees, Asda’s online reticence about the merger is unhelpful for people visiting its corporate site. (This approach contrasts with another current high-profile merger in the US, where both T-Mobile and Sprint have material on their customer-facing sites, and have created a dedicated website about the deal.)

Granted, the terms of the tie-up suggest Sainsbury’s is the dominant player, so it is possible that Asda as a company is less enthused than Sainsbury’s clearly is: Sainsbury plc’s corporate site has plenty of material, including videos, prominently displayed on the home page, and even posted an article about pre-deal speculation over the weekend before the formal announcement.  Or perhaps Asda is expecting rival bids and so is anticipating further announcements and changes.

But that is all guesswork. What is not, is that there will be plenty of users coming to Asda’s corporate site wanting to find out what the company thinks and says about the deal. Making a limited amount of information hard to find is likely to frustrate them, whether they are journalists, customers, jobseekers or employees.

BC tip: MSD – a map to unexpected destinations

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

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The Feature

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

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

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

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

This listing is not visible to visitors without scrolling.

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Corporate website measurement is maturing

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

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

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

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

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

at_a_glance.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

brand_failure.png

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

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

BC tip: LVMH – A virtual luxury?

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

BC tip - LVMH VR.png

The Feature

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

A jobs quiz for millennials has lofty aims but poor execution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BC Tip: Back to the future in search

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 09.49.06.png

The feature

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

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

The takeaway

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

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

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

BC tip: Home Depot – Showing sustainability at store level

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

BC tip - Home Depot.png

The feature

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

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

The takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Knowing when to say no (and yes)

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

 Unilever shows off the first UK commercial

Unilever shows off the first UK commercial

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

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

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

Here to stay

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

Riding the fashion

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

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

Coming and going

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

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

Too soon to know

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

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

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

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

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

 SAP response to criticism on Glassdoor

SAP response to criticism on Glassdoor

The Feature

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

BC tip: BBC – Design disturbs a story

An article's intrusive design makes it hard to read

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 18.29.42.png

The feature

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

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

The takeaway

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

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

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

 

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

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 values online: show, don’t tell

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

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

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

The bad
 

Danaher: Bullet points and clichés

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

 Danaher's 'Shared Purpose and Core Values' page

Danaher's 'Shared Purpose and Core Values' page

Shire: Ideals without evidence

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

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

 Shire's 'Our Culture' page

Shire's 'Our Culture' page

The good
 

Barclays: Videos lend believability

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

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

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

 Barclays 'values' videos

Barclays 'values' videos

Total: Embedding links and videos

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

 An embedded video on Total’s values page

An embedded video on Total’s values page

Google: Linking stories to values

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

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

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

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

 

 

BC tip: KFC - Not catering for journalists

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

 KFC UK's 'Crossed the road' store finder

KFC UK's 'Crossed the road' store finder

The Feature

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

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 10.06.39.png

The Feature

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

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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.

Intel – Initial confusion

Using abbreviations for job locations risks being lost in translation.

BC tip - Intel jobs.png

The Feature

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

Hamilton the quiz

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

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The Feature

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

Takeaway

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

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