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.