BC tip: Channel 4 News - Effectively short video

A UK news channel provides inspiration for spicing up corporate videos.

The Feature

Channel 4 News in the UK recently published a video on Twitter, ‘If America were 100 people’. A minute and a half long, it presents demographic statistics as if one percentage point represented a single person – eg, '13 are black, six are Asian, one is Native American, five are millionaires, 37 are obese, 12 are setting up or running a new business’, etc.

The Takeaway

At the same time as video is proliferating online, many corporate videos have got a little stale – too much of the same clichéd opening music, fast-moving images of cityscapes/traffic, uninspiring scripts and boring talking heads.

The Channel 4 video was created for a general audience, not a business one, but some of the ideas employed could be borrowed by digital communicators who are also trying to be informative and hold people’s interest.

A clear editorial voice, creative use of music, finding ways to humanise dull statistics – these techniques could all be applied in corporate contexts (explaining what the business does, sector challenges, CSR issues, etc) to move past the clichés and engage the audience.

https://twitter.com/Channel4News/status/789153329850953728/video/1

 

BC tip: Yara - Impressive timeline

A history timeline has a strong narrative style and makes effective use of archive material.

The Feature

‘The History of Yara’, a feature on the Norwegian fertiliser’s corporate website, has a concise overview and 14 sections, which include ‘Our History at a glance’ and summaries of different eras, eg 1900-1905, 1920-1939.

The sections are laid out so visitors can browse for an overview, or read more deeply as required. For example, ‘1900-1905’ has a paragraph introduction, then summary boxes with links to six longer articles, with more detail on the era. The summary boxes and stories are illustrated with archive images.

The Takeaway

The feature stands out for its narrative style, which tells the story almost like a novel. For example, the article, ‘A little bit of Norway – and more’, starts with: ‘The country was hungry not only for renewal and impulses, but also for symbols of new and better times ahead.’

Interesting details and techniques also bring the company’s history to life. For example, the fact that Nitrogen fertilizer is ‘Norgessalpeter’ in Norwegian. Or the use of dialogue in ‘Our History at a glance’: ‘In the course of the dinner [between the company founders] Eyde said: “What I want is the most powerful electrical discharge on earth…” to which Birkeland replied: “This I can get for you!”

Later articles have links to other material on the website, such as the new CEO’s biography. It is a rich resource, telling Yara’s story with literary panache; and is effective without using elaborate technology.

http://yara.com/about/history/

If you pay your taxes, why not shout about it?

I can't see how the tax spat between Apple and the European Commission is going to leave either side looking especially pretty, but it does show that tax payments are now a big issue. One perhaps that companies that pay up like good boys could exploit? 

The Financial Times carried a story yesterday headed  'Only one in five large large companies in the UK say tax avoidance is acceptable'. Why? Well, some top managers must actually think their employers should pay their taxes; and many more think the risks of avoidance outweigh the benefits. Either way, it's a matter both of reputation management and of its virtuous cousin, social responsibility. Two things for the corporate site, surely.

I started looking around to see what big companies were doing. I began with Apple, and yes, its European home pages link to a compelling letter from Tim Cook explaining why it is Right and the Commission is Wrong. Good reputation management, but there's nothing else I could find on Apple sites about tax. It is not being, to use one my least favourite words, proactive.

I wondered what other companeis were doing, and found a fair bit - but none of it is presented as effectively as it could have been. For example:

  • ExxonMobil, according to Forbes the biggest US payer of tax, has a 'US tax and payments' page under Current Issues. Easy to find from the dropdown menu, but it is very out of date - the headline talks about 2012 payments. Almost embarrassing.
  • Barclays produces an excellent PDF 'Country snapshot', giving a clear breakdown of where and how tax has been paid. You can reach it from this page. But the title gives no clue that it is about tax, and it is well and truly buried in the Reports and Publications bit of the Citizenship section on Barclays.com. It's almost as though the bank doesn't want people to find it; odd. 
  • Shell has a page in its Sustainability report called Tax and transparency. Clearly written, but actually rather light on facts (certainly compared to Barclays), and again well buried - it's in the Working together section. Who'd have guessed to look there?

If all this had been put somewhere more obvious - and in the case of ExxonMobil brought up to date - it would be powerful stuff. 'We are decent' is, we are always being told, one of the most important message to get across to potential employees, shareholders, even customers. So if you are, why not shout about it?

David Bowen


BC tip - AXA: Spotlight on editorial quality

A French insurance group’s online stories make excellent use of different editorial techniques to engage readers.

The Site

‘Spotlight’ is Axa’s online magazine, linked via the primary navigation on the French insurance group’s corporate website. Described as ‘a journal of ideas, experiences, and the people that make them’, Spotlight covers themes especially relevant to its customers, employees and jobseekers – protecting the environment, customer stories, the future of insurance and the future of work.

Within each section, image panels with teasers promote individual stories, with the invitation to ‘Read more’ or Discover more’, linking through to the full-page articles.

The Takeaway

Insurance companies are usually trying to dispel the idea that they are boring and old-fashioned. Axa’s Spotlight storytelling section helps counter this image by making excellent use of editorial techniques, including documentary photography, pulled quotes, embedded videos, data visualisations and subheadings that break up the text.

This makes the company's stories easy and enjoyable to read on screen. The responsive section provides an equally good experience on desktop or mobile. It also helps that AXA frames its stories within categories that are inherently interesting and relevant to its stakeholders, such as 'Future of Insurance' and 'A New Way to Work'.

https://www.axa.com/en/spotlight


IR in France: who's top?

We held an event in Paris this week, at which we revealed the best among France’s biggest companies for online investor relations (our global ranking was covered by IR Magazine earlier this month).

The top French performers provide some useful lessons for IR and web teams around the world.

Joint-top: Sanofi and Total

Both of these companies excel in serving two IR audience groups: analysts researching the company (as opposed to those who already follow the firm); and individual shareholders.

Look, for example, at the clear, plentiful overview information about the business and its performance on Sanofi.com; and at the powerful data analysis tools in the accompanying 'Financial Reporting Center’.

Look, too, at the warm welcome that Sanofi extends to private investors, and the wealth of information in the dedicated Individual Shareholders section.

Over at Total, highlights include clearly presented historical data tables for institutional investors, and a crisply laid out individual investors’ Publications page, stocked with useful material for visitors looking for both quick overviews and deep detail.

Indeed, our French IR ranking highlights the fact that France leads the world when it comes to serving individual shareholders online. If you’re interested in how this can be done well, the dedicated retail investor sections from Air Liquide and L’Oreal are well worth looking at too.

Third: AXA

This insurance giant shines at serving a third audience group: analysts who know the company (and therefore want historical performance data, quarterly results materials, webcasts and the like).

Highpoints of this site include a polished quarterly results index with a wide range of resources, including Excel financials, transcripts and podcasts; plus an exceptionally elegant and well-executed webcast service.

Joint-fourth: Air Liquide and L’Oréal

Standout features here include...

·      An engaging ‘Why Invest in Air Liquide?’ section – a particularly sensible provision for firms that do business in areas that might not be self-explanatory (like ‘liquid air’).

·      Intelligent and effective use of video on L’Oréal’s Shareholders Corner landing page, in which private investors say ‘what they like about their relationship with L’Oréal’.

Conducting the research for this ranking uncovered some other interesting trends among French firms’ online estates.

For example, unconventional navigation systems are unusually common on French corporate websites. In some cases even the primary menus break with convention. Four of France’s biggest 20 companies have no visible primary menu at all, opting instead for a mobile-style hamburger menu even in the site's desktop ‘mode’. This undermines usability by ‘hiding’ a crucial navigation tool.

Tablet/mobile investor apps also remain more prevalent on French corporate sites. Four of the top five French companies in our IR ranking continue to offer an investor app for phones and tablets (L’Oréal, Air Liquide, Sanofi and Total), bucking the global trend away from corporate app development due to disappointing uptake among investors and others.

HTML annual reports also remain more common in French IR sections than elsewhere. Five of our Top 10 companies offer an HTML version of the annual report (Orange, Vivendi, Air Liquide, L’Oréal and BNP Paribas), even as many companies have been moving to abandon such services, to save money.

This may be a yet further sign of a very French devotion to relationship building with private shareholders. Though Bowen Craggs’ research – and that of the Financial Reporting Lab at the UK’s Financial Reporting Council – indicates that private investors actually prefer a simple, hyperlinked PDF to a whizzy HTML report. So when you’re trawling through French IR sections looking to cherry-pick ideas, it’s probably worth thinking twice before adopting all the fancy features you’ll find there.

Sue Harding, director of the Financial Reporting Lab at the Financial Reporting Council, kindly joined us in Paris for a panel discussion about what investors and analysts really want from companies’ online IR communications. Her team’s report on current use of digital media in corporate reporting is interesting and useful. Download it for free here.

Here’s our French online IR ranking in full:

Scott Payton


 

 

 

BC tip: UniCredit - Another left menu variation

A responsive site’s expandable left menu does not resolve ‘the navigation challenge’.

The Site

UniCredit, the Italian banking giant, has introduced a modified version of left menu navigation on its responsive corporate website.

Unusually, the menu is introduced on the home page, with primary icons and links listed in a narrow strip – About us, Governance, Investors, Press & Media, etc. On click, the menu expands to the right and secondary options appear. The menu automatically collapses again when landing on any of the primary or secondary pages. Tertiary and deeper links do not appear in the menu, but are handled via in-page links and the breadcrumb trail.

On a mobile screen, the menu is collapses behind a clickable hamburger icon, but the functionality is the same.

The Takeaway

The expandable left menu is UniCredit’s answer to what we call the ‘navigation challenge’ – creating a responsive, modern-looking site that is also usable on a desktop screen. It is a less innovative solution than it first appears, performing essentially the same functions as a mega dropdown panel.

The panel itself is tidy, but there is no option of keeping it open, which would function more like a real left menu. Instead, to move from one page to another, even within the same section, users must make another click – to expand the left menu to see the options again or by using the breadcrumb trail to get to the previous level. The menu might be more useful if tertiary links were included, but it is probably impractical without changing the design.

A wider point is the constant experimentation with navigation on corporate websites shows that digital teams know they’ve created a problem by getting rid of left menus, and have not found an consistent and effective replacement.

https://www.unicreditgroup.eu/en.html