Corporate digital managers’ top priorities in 2018

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

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

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

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

Content, country sites and internal ownership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting key performance indicators

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

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

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

Overcoming the barriers to usability testing

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

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

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

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