Corporate videos online – seven of the best, two of the worst

Most corporate videos are mediocre and forgettable, but on occasion we come across ones that rise above the clichés and grip us to the end. Here, Jason Sumner provides a round-up of some of the best videos on the corporate web, and two that stand out for all the wrong reasons.


Imaginative. Memorable. Watchable. These are words not usually associated with corporate videos.

That is why it is a surprise and a delight (for those of us who spend our days evaluating the quality of online corporate communications) to find corporate videos that are genuinely engaging. The best corporate videos also have what we call editorial impact – putting across a key strategic message – whether it’s about innovation, nurturing employees or the company’s commitment to the environment.

Here are seven of the best online corporate videos that our consultants have seen recently, and two that are firmly in the ‘what not to do’ category.

Ørsted – ‘Home. It’s not what we think it is’

Currently available on the Danish energy company’s global home page, the 3-minute video has a clear purpose – to introduce the company’s name change and new business strategy, which focuses on renewables. It is also moving at times (for this viewer at least) – a rarity for corporate videos.

Ørsted – engaging, with a clear purpose

Ørsted – engaging, with a clear purpose


IBM – ‘First AI Companion in Space’

Filmed from a unique perspective, this imaginative video strongly puts across the message that IBM is at the forefront of innovation, and is a commercial for IBM’s artificial intelligence product, ‘Watson’. The absence of narration across just over a minute of video works well when the ‘AI point of view’ is so well realised.

IBM – showcasing innovation

IBM – showcasing innovation

Nabors – ‘Meet Dave, Floorhand, Big Piney’

Nabors is an US-based oil services company that has a range of global office-based positions, as well as a number of jobs on its fleet of land-based drilling rigs. In the corporate world, employee profile videos rarely venture outside the office environment, which makes this 2-minute video so refreshing. Dave is remarkably open about the benefits and drawbacks of life on a rig, but ultimately concludes – ‘I could never see myself doing an office job now’. It provides authentic insight for people considering the same work. Dave also manages to include an endorsement of Nabors’ commitment to employee safety.

Nabors – refreshingly open about working on an oil rig

Nabors – refreshingly open about working on an oil rig

Lilly – ‘Sweethearts in Science’

A clever and fun take on ‘The Newlywed Game’, where couples who also work together at the US-base pharmaceutical giant talk about their ‘worst date’, ‘best trait’, ‘irritating habit’ etc. The tone shifts halfway through, with the couples discussing why Lilly is a great employer.

Lilly – clever and fun

Lilly – clever and fun

LVMH – ‘In Situ’ videos

An oldie which we have written about before, but still a goodie. The luxury goods maker invites users to ‘take a glimpse at the daily lives of our employees’ with short, fly-on-the-wall films following a range of activities across the company’s brands. They range from a press team meeting at Paris department store Le Bon Marché to a morning briefing at cosmetics brand Sephora in New York.

BAT – ‘This is the man’

A 5-minute YouTube film that has been signposted from the British American Tobacco site for some time, but which is not any less memorable for that. It is the only corporate video that we know of with a murder in it. (And a bomb going off, and an age-appropriate warning).

BAT – the only corporate video we know of with a murder in it

BAT – the only corporate video we know of with a murder in it

PBS – ‘Value PBS’ films

PBS, a public television network, is loved and hated in the US, but it is tapping into the love for fundraising. These short films (scroll down the page for the videos) come from outside the conventional corporate world but are worth looking at for ideas about subject matter and keeping to a consistent theme.

PBS – lessons from outside the conventional corporate world

PBS – lessons from outside the conventional corporate world

Two of the worst corporate videos we’ve recently seen come from Danaher, the US-based industrial equipment and healthcare conglomerate, and Softbank, the Japanese telecoms giant.

Danaher – ‘Our shared purpose’

At first this 3-minute video (scroll down the page) appears to be a fairly conventional (and mediocre) effort. However, if you watch it all the way through (which we do not recommend) it takes all of the weaknesses of conventional company films to new lows. It is full of visual and editorial clichés: ‘Our shared purpose is in everything we are, and everything we do’; ‘It’s why we view every challenge as an opportunity’. It also lapses into jargon – ‘(our shared purpose) is operationalised through DBS’; and over-statement – ‘For us, (our shared purpose) is our greatest reason for being’.

Danaher – full of clichés and jargon

Danaher – full of clichés and jargon

Softbank – ‘Softbank’s Next 30-Year Vision’

This 2 hours plus film must be seen to be believed, and we confess to only having watched parts of it. Technically this is a webcast, not a film, but it continues to be promoted on the company’s online ‘Vision' pages, despite being 9 years old. Although there may be cultural differences at work, to Western eyes it is odd, rambling and offputtingly long.

Softbank – odd, rambling and offputtingly long

Softbank – odd, rambling and offputtingly long

- 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.

Facebook – Dark arts cast a shadow online

Facebook’s corporate online newsroom has shown an unusual willingness to tell the world what the company is doing to fight fake news and Russian trolls. Too bad the messages do not necessarily match the reality, says Jason Sumner.

Spend an hour browsing Facebook’s corporate online newsroom, and even the most ardent Facebook sceptic could experience a wobble.

Here the company has built a formidable resource to convince the world that it is doing all that it can to fight fake accounts, fake news, election interference, privacy breaches and misuse of data:

  • ‘News’ promotes positive features but currently shows Facebook mostly in defence mode, and you can trace the history of recent scandals by some of the links: ‘Response to Six4Three Documents’; ‘Elliot Schrage on Definers’; ‘New York Times Update’ (in and amongst more fluffy titles, ‘A New Way to Share Gift Ideas on Facebook’).

  • ‘Inside Feed’ is Facebook’s attempt to let us peer behind the curtain. ‘With Inside Feed, we aim to shed more light on the people and processes behind our products’. And the section is effective at doing this, with well-made videos showing real employees doing real things to ‘make advertising transparent’, fight child exploitation on the network, hunt false news (‘both those we caught, and some we caught too late’), etc. One video, ‘Facing facts’, is particularly persuasive.

  • ‘Hard Questions’ is a forum for Facebook, and external contributors, to explain the company’s approach and thinking about controversial subjects, such as ‘Who Reviews Objectionable Content on Facebook – And Is the Company Doing Enough to Support Them?’ or ‘How Does Facebook Investigate Cyber Threats and Information Operations?’ The section appears to steer away from specific controversies, leaving that for ‘News’. We praised ‘Hard Questions’ in a BC tip, for allowing and responding to criticism in comments below these pieces.

Facebook’s ‘Hard Questions’ puts across the company’s case persuasively

Facebook’s ‘Hard Questions’ puts across the company’s case persuasively

The articles and videos are full of facts, to their credit. An article published in November by Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy said the company, in the previous week, had removed ‘36 Facebook accounts, 6 pages and 99 Instagram accounts’. Another article by the vice president of product management said that in ‘Q3 2018, we took action on 15.4m pieces of violent and graphic content… more than 10 times the amount we took action on in Q4 2017’; they also took down 800 million fake accounts in Q2 and 754 million in Q3.

Even if you disagree with some of the above, or all of it, it is hard to come away from the site arguing that Facebook is ignoring its problems. It is unconventional, unusually open and thoughtful, acknowledges criticism and does not try to shift blame. For those reasons, it is a largely successful piece of online digital communications.

The problem is that anyone who has been on the internet or near a newspaper recently will know that what the company is saying in its online newsroom does not necessarily reflect what was happening behind the scenes.

Facebook’s travails show that it doesn’t matter how sophisticated the online communications are, when the message does not reflect reality, companies are going to be caught out.

- 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.

What does digital comms think of chatbots?

Jason Sumner reveals what corporate digital communicators think about this much talked about emerging technology

I don’t have many conversations with chatbots on corporate websites yet, but I’m certainly talking a lot about them at the moment.

Digital corporate communicators, perhaps having just seen a shiny pitch from a software company, are asking us – do they actually work? Is anyone else using them? Should we believe the hype?

Actual chatbots in use on corporate websites are few and far between. They are so unusual, and there is so much interest, that we try to write about them when we see one.

Enel, the Italy-based power company, has a Facebook Messenger news bot on its corporate site, as we noted in this recent piece. It is called ‘Elen’ and helps visitors find news, press releases and stories, and introduces the company’s sustainability activities. The bot shows some promise, but those wanting detailed information are better off sticking with the corporate website.

Tying the bot to Facebook Messenger could be risky too, since not all corporate website users will have it installed. Enel may just be following the path of least resistance, however, by relying on Facebook Messenger, which had 33,000 active chatbots as of January 2018, according to IBM.

We’ve seen other examples, focused on careers: T-Systems, a Deutsche Telekom subsidiary, has a German-language bot called ‘KATY’ on its website careers section. UPS, the US logistics company, has one on its careers site, as does US telecoms giant Verizon. These three are not very helpful and a little cold (the Verizon one keeps answering questions by referring people to the careers website, but at least it does that much); they do not perform nearly as well as a good online FAQ, for example.

That’s what we’ve found, but what are digital communicators saying about them? There are more questions than answers, but our clients see the potential to save money on admin and deflect queries, with the following caveats:

  • Chatbot success depends on the quality of tagging, metadata and taxonomy working in the background. Artificial intelligence should allow systems to ‘learn’ and improve results. Eni’s sophisticated search engine also relies on complex tagging in the background, and indeed, chatbots can be seen as another form of search (It is worth pointing out that sites have had years to get tagging and metadata right for internal search, but it still doesn’t work very well on most sites.)

  • They work best in a limited context, so the possible range of questions and answers are contained; in corporate communications terms, this means interacting with a specific set of stakeholders with easily predicted queries (hence the focus on jobseekers) or telling customers where a petrol station is; rather than an all-purpose ‘ask me anything’ bot.

  • If chatbots become more widespread, the technology will raise new reputation risks. Companies, for example, will need guidelines for appropriate tone of voice, race and gender.

Finally, no one we have spoken to has launched a chatbot, yet. But there are some interesting things happening internally – eg, one has launched chatbots for employees, with a view to rolling them out externally when the technology is proven.

Jason Sumner

The theme of our annual conference on June 18th and 19th 2019 in Berlin will be ‘Online communications, tomorrow and today’. We’ll be doing many more pieces on the future of online communications in the next weeks and months.

Heard the one about the scientist and the start-up?

A new enthusiasm for science and innovation stories is good news for corporate digital communicators, Jason Sumner says.
 

Scientists are being widely encouraged to use the ‘tools of narrative’ to grab the attention of general audiences and communicate findings to their peers, according to a recent piece in the Guardian.

Stories are also enjoying a renaissance in the world of entrepreneurs and disruptors. The Harvard Business Review has taken start-ups to task for wanting the world to understand their brilliance, while at the same time weighing down press releases, brochures and online articles with jargon and technical language written by PhDs.

McKinsey made a similar point recently to the entrepreneurs it works with – ideas need an engaging storyline to get noticed.

Our clients in corporate digital communications are also increasingly asking us how they can communicate the message ‘we are innovative’ across the corporate website, social media and other online channels; which is really about telling good stories in the first place, and then promoting them effectively.

GSK, with its ‘Behind the Science’ online magazine, is an example of a company doing this well. Abbvie has some gems, including this feature about one of its chemists. PMI has a well-produced and engaging video about why its scientists choose to work in the tobacco industry.

Many more companies are failing though, not for a lack of interesting stories to tell or even a desire to tell them, but because of ingrained cultural barriers and outdated approaches to public relations. One big problem is that risk-averse large companies rarely want to publicise the elements that make for good drama – such as conflict, complications, or a ‘hero’ trying to accomplish something difficult.

Danaher, an American medical and industrial diagnostics giant, is an example. It must have many, many good stories lurking in its laboratories, and the management certainly wants people to believe the company is innovative. We know this because the corporate website repeatedly makes unsupported claims to being innovative; without taking the risk of telling a good story to demonstrate it. Its ‘Feature stories’ in the news section are really glorified press releases. This closed ‘tell don’t show’ approach is unlikely to convince many people.

The pieces from the Guardian, HBR and McKinsey which I’ve cited above are worth reading even if they are targeted towards scientists and entrepreneurs – there are some good ideas that could be adapted to the corporate environment. An example is McKinsey’s categories of stories to look for – ‘serendipity’, ‘perspiration’ the ‘underdog’, etc.

More importantly, if the idea that good stories are worth investing time and money in gains broad acceptance among scientists, engineers and technical experts working in big companies, it can only be a good thing for the people often tasked with creating them – digital corporate communicators.

- 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.

What are your challenges with… serving customers on corporate sites?

The final session of our annual conference in Lisbon three weeks ago was called ‘Talking tables’. These were breakout sessions in which delegates discussed some of their most pressing challenges as digital corporate communicators, facilitated by a Bowen Craggs consultant. Here, Jason Sumner, who facilitated the ‘challenges with serving customers on corporate sites’ table, reports on the issues shared and solutions identified.

Getting your colleagues to believe

Customers are not ‘supposed’ to visit corporate sites, yet they do, often in great numbers. According to anonymised data from the Bowen Craggs library of 400,000 corporate website visitor surveys, customers are the second-biggest visitor group – behind jobseekers – accounting for nearly a quarter of all visitors. When we run surveys of corporate digital communicators asking them to tell us their biggest challenges, ‘customers on corporate sites’ is consistently at the top or near the top of the list.

Your colleagues outside digital comms may still have trouble believing it though; partly because they need and want customers to be somewhere else – on the brand or retail site, or country site, or anywhere else actual sales happen; and definitely not on what is thought of primarily as a ‘communication’ platform.

Although some delegates at our table have moved beyond this stage, getting colleagues to acknowledge customers visit the corporate site is still an issue for others. One delegate put it this way: ‘we are still at the stage of convincing internally that customers are a group to be served on the corporate site‘. Of course, ‘serve’ can have many different meanings – all the way from actually closing a sale, to quickly routing a customer elsewhere, or showing them an interesting story about your company; but that is where the complexity comes in, and the need to tailor an approach that works for your company’s unique situation.

Complex challenges without simple solutions

Other challenges the table identified were wide-ranging, including recognising that customers come but there is nothing tangible on the site to ‘sell’; having different combinations of product and services available across countries, making it hard to explain on the global site; dealing with multiple sites, even at country level; lack of processes to pass on contacts and a poor working relationship with sales and marketing; multiple social media channels in different languages; lack of tie-in with back-end CRM systems, etc.

After a useful discussion, the table managed to reduce a long list of issues to five main challenges (apart from convincing colleagues that corporate websites should be addressing customers):

  • How to talk to customers when not selling something tangible

  • Dealing with the disparity of products and services across geographies

  • Understanding who our customers actually are

  • Managing the disconnect between the web and social media channels

  • Difficulties in organizing cross-functional teams

And six suggestions for improvement:

  • Serving customers more via social media channels

  • Conducting surveys to capture more data

  • Identifying customers and personalising content for them

  • Having better relationships between comms and marketing

  • Having more clarity and direction on user journeys

  • Acquiring more resources and skills for serving customers within web teams

Each approach opens up a Pandora’s Box of new challenges

The approaches identified above would certainly resonate the clients we consult with; but each one opens up another Pandora’s Box of challenges. For example, serving customers more on social media could be a good idea, but it raises new questions about content and governance: for example, which social channels are for customers, who owns them (and if multiple owners how can these teams best work together), and what do you want customers to do when they read a post?

Personalisation, as noted in bullet three above, is growing in interest again. We are sceptical about purely technical solutions, when good navigation and structure can go a long way to routing customers accurately (but that is a subject for another article).

Surveys, customer journeys (and best practice) are crucial

Surveys and user journeys are crucial, from our point of view. Surveys give you important data to help discover who your customer visitors are and what they want; but also to prove to others in the organization that customers are coming and something must be done with them. We find that in running surveys for clients, it is important to ask questions that have the right level of detail, so ‘customers’ groups can be further segmented into sub-groups. It is also important to measure whether customer goals are being fulfilled and whether their impression of the company is positive or negative. Movement in the ‘net promoter score’ – the difference between those with a positive versus negative impression of the company – can be powerful evidence to convince colleagues.

Along with surveys, mapping authentic customer journeys (which can be built from survey answers to develop detailed and accurate personas) is a way for our clients to cut through complexity to find big-picture problems as well as quick fixes. These should include all possible starting points for your customers, the corporate site, country sites and Google.

The big-picture insights can often be surprising. One client we worked with had the stated aim of doing next to nothing for customers on the main global site (fair enough) because all selling happens at country level. However, only a few minutes of testing revealed that there were big problems with signposting on the global site, and it was failing even in its one job – to get customers to country sites as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Conducting detailed journeys can also help you venture into areas rarely visited to make quick fixes – finding multiple 404 errors in links product finders; uncovering a useful but largely hidden Ukrainian history section; or discovering product literature five years out of date on the France site (all real-world examples we have come across).

Adding research on best practice in the industry and wider online world can inspire improvements, and also help convince colleagues if the service on your site falls short.

Two other solutions our table raised have to do with internal politics – having better relationships with marketing, and acquiring more resources. These are certainly not quick wins, but arming yourself with data from surveys, and evidence from customer journeys and wider best practice will put the digital comms team in a stronger, more useful – and respected – position within the organization.

- Jason Sumner

Register for the ‘Best of WEC 2018’ web meeting on September 26th, 2018

Were you unable to join us at our Web Effectiveness Conference in Lisbon last week? Did you attend and are keen to share the learnings with your team after the event? Join our web meeting and relive the Best of WEC 2018.

To register, visit our events page (and scroll down to September events)

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.  

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.

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’

 

 

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

Looping video on the corporate web – the best and the rest

In the past 12 months, the fashion for short, repeating videos on corporate sites has gone from unusual to mainstream. Jason Sumner highlights the best uses of this still emerging feature, and points out some pitfalls to consider as the trend spreads.


So-called looping videos – short, usually soundless clips that play automatically on web pages – have been a positive development for corporate sites. When done well, they are eye-catching, stylish and add visual interest; they help draw readers into accompanying magazine-style material; and, for the moment, signal that a company is innovative and in touch with modern web trends.

Leading media sites such as the New York Times have been experimenting with video for some time to add impact to stories. It is encouraging to see that corporate website designers have by and large taken this thoughtful approach (with a few exceptions), as opposed to gimmicky, GIF clickbait that is so prevalent on Twitter.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve been evaluating the best companies in the world at digital corporate communications for our latest Index of Online Excellence (scheduled to be released next week). We have seen the fashion for looping video take off during that time; so we thought it would be a good time to point out a few of the best examples so far, as well as highlight risks as the feature gains even more traction.

Verizon – getting the home page moving

Verizon, the US-based telecoms giant, uses a vertical carousel to automatically scroll visitors through a series of banners on its corporate home page, most of which use looping video. There are a variety of styles and subjects – covering responsibility, careers, innovation. My colleague David Bowen has pointed out before that the ‘moving eye’ video is one of the most interesting uses of the feature – literally ‘eye-catching’ (see below). On the whole, Verizon’s creative and actively edited approach is worth emulating.

A still shot from the  Verizon corporate home page

A still shot from the Verizon corporate home page

Estee Lauder – a landing page with talent

Estee Lauder Companies, the US cosmetics manufacturer, also uses looping video to good effect on its corporate home page, but the most unusual use of the feature is on its ‘Talent’ (careers) landing page. The banner is a grid of looping video clips, in monochrome, showing a diverse range of employees in mid-interview. A jobseeker already interested in working for Estee Lauder and landing here would likely find it hard not to click on at least one of the profiles.

Maersk – appropriate balance

The Danish transport conglomerate’s looping videos fit seamlessly with the site’s polished visual style. Maersk limits the number of videos it uses, which makes them stand out more. When we checked the site this week, it was using looping video on the home page and only two of its six primary section landing pages – ‘Business’ and ‘About’. In the case of the landing pages, the theme is shipping and transport, a theme that lends itself to stunning imagery, as the Maersk site proves.

The cutting room floor: staleness and cliché

The best looping videos use good practice principles for any type of visual – variety, originality, appropriateness to the rest of the site’s look and feel and sharp editing.

The risks for looping video are the flip side of the above; and I would categorise the main ones at the moment as staleness and cliché.

BASF and Facebook – when should a good video be changed?

At some point even a great image goes stale, and the same goes for looping video. Some sites avoid the question by changing up their videos frequently, but for others perhaps with less budget and time, the question is harder to answer.

BASF, for example, has had the same looping video on its home page for several weeks. It depicts a man (we assume an engineer) inspecting a server stack. There is a lot to like about it on first watch – it is brief and on point (the feature being promoted is about a super-computer), and unlike many other looping videos, it ‘ends’ with a close-up of the server lights flashing, rather than starting again.

I happened to have returned frequently to BASF for my job in the last few weeks (reviewing the site for the Index), and I was thoroughly tired of it after a while. However, many, if not most, visitors to corporate sites are new and will not linger on the home page for long. So the balance is how much you will bore returning visitors versus impress the new ones. There is no right answer.

Facebook is another example – it has had the same looping video (also featuring servers) on its sustainability microsite for more than a year, raising the question of whether it can or should be retired.

Netflix – careers clichés

It seems odd to talk about cliché for such a relatively young feature, but we have noted a few already (servers and wind turbines are on the borderline, for example), but a certain kind of Careers microsite video may already qualify.

The Netflix careers microsite is one example (and probably not the worst) of a ‘type’ – wide shot of the workplace, followed by employees walking and talking; in meeting rooms; ‘collaborating’ next to walls, etc. These are beginning to look like they came from an agency cookie cutter.

A still shot from the looping video on the  Netflix Careers microsite

A still shot from the looping video on the Netflix Careers microsite

The conventional ‘corporate video’ is a fertile ground for visual clichés, so it is interesting that looping videos so far have avoided most egregious of these. That may reflect the attention being given currently to making them stand out.

As they become easier and cheaper to produce and attention moves to the next new thing, then over-use and corporate clichés, as with more conventional types of imagery, will become bigger dangers not to be repeated.

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.

The five biggest performance gaps in corporate digital communications

Corporate digital managers at 25 of the world’s largest companies have told us their teams’ top priorities for the next 12 months and where they think they are falling short. Jason Sumner and Lisa Hayward share the five biggest performance gaps across the group.
 

The Bowen Craggs Club, a new networking and research community for corporate digital managers, launched over the summer. As a first step in joining, we asked club members to sit down with us for in-depth conversations about their teams’ priorities, strengths and weaknesses in a number of core performance areas such as content strategy, measurement, relationships with internal stakeholders and managing high-performing digital teams.

We’ve had 25 conversations so far, and it seemed like a good time to share a little of what we have learned (on an anonymous basis of course). We asked members to score their teams on a scale of 1 to 5 across a number of skills and competencies, and then identify which of these skills and competencies they most want to improve on.

As a result, we were able to identify the areas where there were the biggest gaps between desired performance and self-reported outcomes. Here are the top five:

1. Failure to set or consistently use key performance indicators (KPIs)

‘Measurement’ is regularly near the top of digital manager challenges whenever we’ve run short surveys in the past. This time the long-form interviews allowed people to expand on the reasons good intentions so often lead to frustration when it comes to KPIs. Even in otherwise top-performing organizations, we found that the barriers are deep-seated, company-specific, political and even psychological. Three of the most interesting were:

  • In one organization, KPIs are applied in an ad hoc way because, ‘Stakeholders don’t understand how to translate business goals into KPIs and the digital team isn’t pushing them.’

  • Another organization said their ‘standard’ KPIs are not good enough. ‘They need to be more channel specific.’

  • Fear of linking metrics to goals is a factor for one organization, despite the fact that communications leadership is already convinced of the value of measurement. ‘They are scared of setting KPIs and failing. Failure needs to be seen as an opportunity to learn.’

2. Lack of a content strategy for different channels and screen sizes

The proliferation of digital channels and devices over the last few years has also kept ‘content strategy’ (which we define as having a defined process to produce and publish content across differing channels, devices and geographies) at the top of the priority list. Our interviews found digital managers planning to do a lot of work on the device and channel side over the next 12 months – particularly in developing multi-purpose content. Said one, ‘The leading channel is the website. Content published there is repurposed for social media use, and some content is created first for social media. We don’t plan ahead.’ Said another, ‘We have an editorial group managing content across platforms, but can sometimes think offline first. There is room for improvement to help educate employees and agencies to change this mindset.’

Rounding out the top five: Roles and responsibilities, agency relationships and usability testing

There was a three-way tie rounding out the top five performance gaps:

  • Who owns the channel? Given the above work on content strategy, it is not surprising that digital teams are still working out the right relationship with internal stakeholders and local teams over who publishes what, and when. ‘A grey area exists in the mind of the content owner about who owns the page. Internal stakeholders think the digital team. A roadshow is planned to educate and keep reinforcing.’ Another interviewee said, ‘We are trying to create combined and shared content plans rather than work in silos.’

  • Getting the most out of agencies: The difficulties mentioned included a lack of corporate and industry expertise, and an assumption that corporates don’t want to be seen as creative. Another organization does not use agencies currently but wants to bring in fresh thinking from outside.

  • Finally, usability testing was seen as a priority by many of our interviewees, but it is not widely used at the moment. Several companies are taking first steps and sounding out experts. ‘We are testing new designs, a team member is doing a master’s degree in user experience and we plan to focus on it in the next 12 months.’

- Jason Sumner and Lisa Hayward

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

Taking a stand online

There was an unprecedented reaction from American CEOs after the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jason Sumner also found a surprising number of companies willing to address the controversy on their corporate websites and social media. Does this signal a new approach to managing corporate reputations online?
 

We often look at corporate websites after a crisis hits to see if companies are doing anything to put their side of the story across online.

Usually we find little or nothing, not even a press statement in the News area. We put this down to risk averse lawyers and conventional PR wisdom – don’t mention it too much and hope the media moves on, which it usually does. This has probably been sound advice.

I expected to find the typical online silence when I started looking at the websites of companies whose CEOs had resigned en masse from Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council following the president’s controversial comments about events in Charlottesville, Virginia– which eventually drove the US leader to disband the panel.

There was the usual reticence on the part of some, but a surprising number of CEOs and companies spoke out on their official digital channels about what led to their decision to quit.

Merck’s CEO, Kenneth C Frazier, was the first to go. There was an announcement on the pharmaceutical company’s Twitter account on August 14th, but we could not find any reference to the resignation on Merck.com.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 09.54.19.png

Intel also had nothing on its main website, but announced its CEO’s resignation from the panel on a policy blog. (We wrote a recent BC tip about it here.)

On August 14th, the same day that Mr Frazier resigned, clothing company Under Armour tweeted a statement from its CEO, Kevin Plank. ‘We are saddened by Charlottesville. There is no place for racism or discrimination in this world. We choose love & unity.’

The next day the company issued a statement in its website’s media section saying Mr Plank had resigned, and the statement still remains at the top of the press releases list on the site. The statement was also tweeted on the corporate Twitter handle.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 08.59.07.png

The Campbell Soup Company also released a statement on August 16th from its CEO, Denise Morrison, on its corporate home page and Twitter. It was still the top feature on the home page nearly a week after Ms Morrison resigned. ‘Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,’ the statement said. ‘I believe the President should have been - and still needs to be - unambiguous on that point.’

Unusually, Campbell’s opened the statement to comments from readers. There were 145 comments when we checked the site – many in support, but some promising to boycott the company’s products.

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 15.05.12.png

Several companies took the usual route of saying nothing on official channels, including investment management company Blackrock. Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi tweeted from her personal account – ‘Hatred and intolerance are a betrayal of what we stand for as Americans.’ - but we couldn’t find any statements on the website or corporate social media

Walmart’s CEO made his announcement in an internal note to employees – we did not find anything on official public channels.

Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schulz got a lot of attention in the media for his statements on the violence in Charlottesville, although he was not part of the president’s manufacturing council. This did not stop the digital team from promoting his stance heavily on the website. A town-hall style meeting he had with employees on August 15th was being promoted heavily in the company’s corporate newsroom, with a feature story titled ‘Hate has no home here’, photographs and short video.

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 15.21.19.png

The mix of approaches to presenting the controversy online reflects a wider uncertainty about how best to manage corporate controversies when the combination of social and traditional media can create an ongoing storm of bad publicity that does not 'just go away’ but takes on a life of its own. Unprecedented times could mean more unprecedented communications tactics from corporates - at least in the US.

Indeed, for the moment, this has been a very US-centric debate. An interesting question is whether European or Asian companies will eventually find themselves under similar levels of scrutiny and feel the need to speak out in this way.

Another interesting question arises too. This controversy was external – something the US president said, rather than a home grown scandal, such as the Volkswagen emissions fraud, or Wells Fargo’s fake loans. Will CEOs of larger corporates continue to make the calculation that online silence is the best approach to these kinds of controversies or will the old rules apply?

- Jason Sumner

The power of persuasion: Six lessons from the 2017 Web Effectiveness Conference

There was a rich mix of presentations at our annual conference in Barcelona two weeks ago, covering a diverse range of issues facing corporate digital managers. Here, Jason Sumner and Scott Payton share six quick takeaways from the event.
 

In the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing more posts about the event – including insights from usability clinics that delegates participated in and a guest blog from one of our speakers, Tim Clark of SAP.

1. Make sure your boss trusts you (and does not know much about the internet)

Simon Saville, head of Shell’s digital communications from 2000 to 2016, had 11 bosses during his tenure running Shell’s online presence. They were senior, powerful people in the organization who could influence the executive management. Crucially, they knew little about the internet, but trusted Simon. ‘That was a huge benefit to me,’ Simon said. ‘If you could be trusted in your field by your boss, then you could get things done.’

2. Choose your words carefully

A number of this year’s speakers emphasised the power of sharp headlines and punchy prose in online communications. SAP’s ‘brand journalism’ is an example of the trend, helped along by former journalists writing stories for companies. ‘Content is front and centre again,’ said Tim Clark of SAP, who sources articles from the technology company’s nearly 90,000 employees.

‘The sheer power of words is really important,’ said David Bowen, in his review of what has got better on websites in the last year. ‘The quality of editorial is being given a lot more emphasis.’ The best headlines, for example, aim for the unexpected – see tobacco giant PMI’s home page headline, ‘Designing a smoke-free future: How long will the world’s leading cigarette company be in the cigarette business.’

3. Persuading writers takes fewer sticks and more carrots

If ‘content’ is front and centre again, then digital managers will need to recruit writers. A few employees are keen to help, but some of the most interesting stories are in the heads of employees that are a) not professional writers; and b) are too busy with their day jobs to worry about what goes on the website.

Tim from 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 its 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.

Scott Roane of Aegon 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 helps motivate contributors.

4. Connect with hearts and minds

Persuasion is an art, according to Lee Warren, a magician and motivational speaker, who closed out the first day. His formula for persuading people, ‘HAM PIE’ (‘Hearts and Minds; Picture. Interest. Enthusiasm’, prioritises emotional connections over cold facts. ‘Data on its own is rarely persuasive.’

5. Use pictures to bring data to life

Proving Lee’s point, Miles Tomlinson from GSK revealed how his team is using data visualisation techniques – charts, diagrams and infographics - to make statistics about the performance of his firm’s online communications easier to digest and more relevant to the goals of people across the business.

6. Keep an eye on the ‘internet of things’

The ‘internet of things’ (IoT), promises to connect everyday objects and machines, such as cars, dishwashers and jet engines, to the internet, allowing them to talk to each other, predict behaviour and collect useful data. While this emerging area is yet to be realised fully at the business-to-consumer level, Michael Schmidtke of Bosch believes it will create ‘new touch points and bring digital communications to the physical world’. As the industry develops, it is worth thinking about how these new ‘smart things’, such as connected cars, could change corporate digital communications. Or, as Michael asked, ‘When things become smart, will our websites stay dumb?’

Why waste the media's time when you don't have to?

An online press release archive should be a useful tool for journalists to do their jobs. So why are companies complicating things by separating press releases into different buckets that might be clear inside the company but make little sense to anyone else? Jason Sumner looks at a handful of the worst examples.
 

There is a lot of confusion at the moment about what should go in media sections on corporate websites, which reflects wider doubts about the purpose of company press offices when anyone with a smartphone can be a ‘journalist’.

My colleague David Bowen has written about this dilemma recently, concluding that press offices don’t know exactly what they are for any more, and so their online media sections don’t either; and suggests some sensible remedies.

The confusion about online media sections could help explain a trend I’ve spotted on a few corporate sites recently: separating press releases into two or more categories, for reasons that may be clear internally, but do not make sense to anyone else.

Three of the most puzzling examples are from French luxury goods maker LVMH, US-based Campbell Soup Company and Allianz, the Germany-based insurance giant.

LVMH – distinction without an obvious difference

A journalist unfamiliar with LVMH’s site but who wants to look for the latest release or search the archive, will need to decide whether to click into ‘News’ or ‘Press releases

Both are separate pages within LVMH’s media section, and they are given equal billing on the section landing page. Having two areas to search is already potentially time-consuming and frustrating for journalists, even if they might eventually work out the difference between ‘news’ and ‘press releases’.

But is there a difference? Not one that I could tell for sure.

The latest items on the ‘News’ page yesterday were about LVMH being ranked the most attractive employer in France by LinkedIn; several stories about LVMH’s brands, Loewe, Benefit Cosmetics and Louis Vuitton, etc; and a partnership between LVMH and Central Saint Martins, a London art school.

On the ‘Press releases’ page, there were releases about financial results, dividends and mergers, and the top story was about LVMH making a bid to take full control of its subsidiary Christian Dior.

So maybe the distinction is about ‘financial news’ and the rest? Except that in ‘Press releases’ there was a story about LVMH launching a cultural centre in Paris, in a ceremony attended by the mayor of the city and the French president at the time, Francois Hollande. Two other ‘press releases’ were about the company launching an innovation award and a prize for young fashion designers. All of which seem appropriate for ‘News’.

Perhaps the difference is about news about the wider group versus the brands? Or maybe LVMH sees ‘News’ as exciting and ‘Press releases’ about the boring stuff? Or maybe it is because of internal divisions within LVMH.

Hard to tell for sure, and there might be a perfectly logical set of criteria, but why should journalists have to work this out? The point is that the distinction is unclear enough that journalists will need to spend time clicking on both pages, when one page (perhaps with a set of filters) would be easier.

Further adding to journalists’ confusion, and potential frustration, is that the filters offered in each sub-section are different. Neither set is comprehensive, but journalists searching ‘News’ are given year and month filters, in addition to those for ‘All business groups’, LVMH and several of its business divisions such as ‘Fashion & Leather Goods’, etc. Journalists searching the ‘Press releases’ page only get year and month filters.

The Campbell Soup Company – baffling division

In Campbell’s ‘Newsroom’ section there are different pages for ‘Campbell News’ and ‘Press releases’, immediately confronting journalists with the same problem as on LVMH.com, where to click?

While there appears to be some kind of internal logic in the LVMH example, the distinction between releases is even murkier on the Campbell’s site.

When we looked, both ‘Newsroom’ and ‘Press releases’ led with the same release about the company’s third quarter results. The second release on each page appeared to be about the same story, the installation of a solar array at the company’s headquarters in Camden, New Jersey, each with a slightly different take. Then, further down, the release that appeared on ‘Press releases’ also turned up in ‘Newsroom’. Add to this the fact that the filters are different in each section, and the overall experience is baffling.

Allianz – filters across five pages

Allianz has one page for ‘all’ press releases – although it is badly labelled ‘overview’ in the mega dropdown menu under ‘News’. So far, so much better than LVMH or Campbell’s. However, the subject filters to help narrow down the list are on separate pages – ‘company’, ‘studies’, ‘financials’, ‘commitment’ and ‘business’, each with separate links in the mega dropdown panel, and on the media landing page. Clicking on ‘financials', for example, leads to a page with the original list filtered for finance-related releases. If and when journalists figure out the unusual system, they will potentially still need to click in and out of five pages, if they are searching for more than one release.

The above three are not the only examples. Caterpillar, the US-based farm equipment company, has ‘Caterpillar news’ and ‘Corporate press releases’. Another company divides theirs between ‘group’ and ‘trade’.

One deep, searchable archive

All of the above online press release services could be improved by thinking about how journalists actually access press releases from a website – or speaking to them to find out. In our experience, the best services are simple but highly useful – well-labelled, well-signposted, deep, searchable archives (with keyword search and relevant filters). Coming to that conclusion is probably the easy part. The difficulty comes in overcoming the internal politics – governance, in our terms – that are likely to have led to the separate buckets in the first place.

- Jason Sumner

Cultivating your careers section

Jobseekers are usually the biggest single group of visitors to corporate websites. Yet there are many Careers sections that are uninspiring and unlikely to motivate talented people to apply. Here, Mali Perdeaux and Jason Sumner present some of the best recent innovations in corporate online recruiting.

The seamless job search

Innovating the job search engine is not necessarily about bells and whistles, but providing a straightforward way to see every job available in the company across the globe; and a seamless path to create an application from scratch or upload a social media profile. It is surprisingly difficult – we know this because relatively few companies manage it.

The prevalence of ‘Taleo’-style application management systems has not helped. The worst of these can – with one click – take visitors from a recently relaunched, responsive and superbly designed Careers section straight back to the early 2000s in terms of functionality and look and feel – clunky usability, tiny type, restrictive response fields, no flair and zero corporate branding.

Verizon: Customising the third-party site

There are signs that companies are moving away from this approach and bringing job search mechanisms, even those provided by a third party, more in line with what jobseekers might be used to seeing elsewhere on the modern web.

Verizon is a slick example – it uses company branding, allows users to upload their CV or import one from social media, has simple, pared back forms (on a single page or click-to-expand menus), and takes applications via mobile.

Nordea: Speaking your language

Local language application tools are still unusual – but Swedish bank Nordea offers a job search in all five language versions of its corporate site (English, Danish, Norweigan, Suomi, Swedish), with job descriptions are listed in the language most relevant to the role. Also of note: the service is neatly integrated into the main corporate site, and is responsively designed.

AstraZeneca: Where in the world

AstraZeneca has integrated location information into its job search. From the Careers site home page, jobseekers have the option to carry out a conventional keyword search or browse jobs by location. Brief country summaries help to contextualise the company's operations in the given country, and there are photos and descriptors of some of the company's key facilities (in Gaithersburg, Cambridge and South San Francisco) as well.  

Selling the company to jobseekers

Success at using online channels to ‘sell’ the company is more intangible than a slick application tool, but as important.

In Situ at LVMH

LVMH is superb at this, with an innovative approach to employee profiles, case studies and ‘in situ’ films, well-produced mini fly-on-the-wall documentaries that give a sense of what working there might actually be like.

Practical information

‘Selling’ the company also means providing detailed practical information about career paths, training, locations, work-life balance, etc.

ConocoPhillips’ country specific pages

ConocoPhillips’ benefits area in its global Careers section includes several country-specific pages dealing with things like holiday time, insurance and other benefits in each country. It is a more meaningful approach than the typical watered down global information offered by many companies on their global websites.

Inditex’s job glossary

On the Inditex Careers microsite there is a useful 'Job Glossary' that explains, in simple terms, the different roles throughout the company. Individual roles are presented in four dropdown menus under 'Stores', 'Products', 'Logistics' and 'Offices'. For example, under 'Product', there are 14 roles. Clicking on 'Art Direction' for example, calls up a window with an explanation of the role. The feature will be especially useful for young jobseekers who are new to the job market, what is likely to be a key audience for Inditex's Careers material.

Best of the rest – social media, chats, ‘vlogging’ and new platforms

We think innovation in serving jobseekers is so important, we give it its own metric in our benchmarking methodology – ‘added value features’. This is where we keep an eye on how well companies are using social media – LinkedIn and other platforms – to engage with jobseekers, and anything else that looks new and exciting.

LVMH and LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the most prominent social media channel for recruitment, but it is still under-utilised, and often run in competition to the website rather than as a complementary channel.

LVMH has more than 500,000 followers on LinkedIn and makes effective use of the channel. There are frequent and relevant posts for jobseekers, including reports and photos from job fairs; personnel announcements across the group; the launch of awards, for example, 'The LVMH Innovation Award', etc. There is a comprehensive 'Overview' section, jobs listing and a section on 'Life' with prominent links back to the LVMH website.

United Health Group: Online chats

United Health Group’s recruiter chats offers jobseekers an opportunity to connect directly with the company’s recruiters and ask questions about the company and recruiting process. Specific times are set aside each week for different job types. A good way to make the company seem friendly – perhaps giving recruiters a chance to cherry pick especially promising talent.

‘Vlogging’ at GSK

As we noted in a recent BC tip, GSK has taken the trend for vlogging, popular among internet marketers and millennials, and adapted it effectively for the corporate web. The pieces to camera effectively blend communications for current employees and future ones. There are signs companies are beginning to see the benefits of combining communications in this way, by using public channels to communicate with their employees, knowing that it makes a good impression on jobseekers as well.

New horizons? Instagram, Medium, Flipboard and Glassdoor

Finally, a few channels have been used sporadically, but not enough to declare a trend. Verizon and Syngenta Canada have pages on Instagram, but they are currently cut off from what is happening on the main site.

L’Oréal frequently uses third party sites such as Instagram, Medium and Flipboard, in what seems an effort to attract users to its coporate site; and to reach jobseekers on platforms where they already are, with minimal overhead.

L’Oréal also uses Glassdoor, a US-based website where employees and former employees can post anonymous reviews of their experiences, trade salary information and share gossip. We have seen only a few (mainly US-based companies) maintain their own pages on the platform, presumably because they believe US jobseekers will seek them out on the platform anyway. The channel may be better known stateside at the moment, but it will be interesting to see if its popularity migrates to the corporate web in other parts of the world.

- Mali Perdeaux and Jason Sumner

BC tip: BMW Group - A hamburger that should be off the menu

The German carmaker’s odd variation on the hamburger menu requires its own instructions.

The Feature

There is an unusual-looking hamburger menu on secondary and tertiary pages on the BMW Group’s corporate website. The three lines of the ‘hamburger’ are partially overlaid by right arrow or ‘greater than’ sign (>).

Clicking the icon (or the accompanying heading itself) collapses all of the tertiary or deeper level headings contained on the long-scrolling pages into a menu of ‘jump links’. For example, if you click on the icon on the ‘Company Portrait’ page, all of the tertiary options on the page collapse into a menu – ‘A consistent focus on the premium segment’, ‘Our strategy’, ‘Board of management’, etc.

On a smartphone, the menu comes with its own instructions: ‘Show an overview of the topics on this page for selection,’ which were absent from the desktop version.

The Takeaway

The designers of BMW’s variation on the hamburger menu make the mistake of assuming visitors to corporate sites want or need to take time to learn specialised navigation. Many users of corporate sites come too infrequently for it to be worth the effort, and will likely just be confused and frustrated. Even for frequent visitors, the mechanism is still fiddly. And the instructions on the smartphone version are unclear.

Maybe there should be a rule of thumb – if your hamburger needs instructions, take it off the menu.

www.bmwgroup.com

Jolly green tech giants

Apple, Facebook and Google get ‘A’ grades from Greenpeace for advancing the cause of renewable energy. The way they promote their renewable credentials online deserves top marks too, Jason Sumner says.
 

Earlier this month, Greenpeace, the environmental campaigning organization, came out with a report giving ‘A’ grades to Apple, Facebook and Google for leading the way to a ‘green internet’, powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.

According to the report, Clicking Clean: Who is winning the race to build a green internet, the technology sector – with its data centres, factories, networks and devices – will likely soon account for 12 per cent of global electricity demand and is growing fast. If the IT sector were a country, it would already be the third-highest electricity consumer in the world, behind China and the US.

Although the three California-based tech giants, Apple, Facebook and Google, all reach the A-grade threshold in the report’s Clean Energy Index, Greenpeace also assigned them individual scores. Apple has the highest, at 83 per cent. Facebook is on 67 per cent and Google on 56 per cent. Percentages were judged based on five criteria – transparency, commitment to renewable energy, mitigation, renewable procurement and public advocacy.

We decided to check in on what, if anything, the companies are doing online to promote their renewable commitments, which have so impressed Greenpeace.

As far as the report itself goes, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, tweeted a CNBC story about it on the release date, January 10th, to his 4m followers. And Facebook promoted the report in a post on its environment page on January 11th. Facebook also has a link to the 2015 Clicking Clean report among a list of external resources on its sustainability microsite, so the new one may make its way on the list in the future.

In the environmental sections of their online estates, all three companies devote considerable space to describing their work on renewables, much of it worth emulating.

Apple

‘Apple has remained among the most aggressive in the sector in its efforts to power its online platform with renewable energy,’ Greenpeace says in its report. The NGO also likes the way Apple is pushing suppliers to go green.

Apple’s ‘Environment’ section is signposted via a tiny link in the footer of Apple.com, but rewards visitors who find it with a visually striking landing page. The slogan – ‘Our planet deserves our best thinking’ – is neatly tied in with the brand, and the stem of the familiar white apple icon is coloured green.

Apple's Environment section

Apple's Environment section

Scrolling down the page, Apple’s renewables commitment is the second item: ‘Using 100 percent renewable energy is a lofty goal. In 2015, 93 percent of our energy came from renewable sources. And we’re constantly looking for ways to reach 100 percent.’

This links to a ‘Climate Change’ page, a scrolly but informative excursion through Apple’s many renewables initiatives: its carbon footprint calculations, green-friendly aluminium sourcing, supplier policies, energy-efficient products, data centres, etc. As might be expected from Apple, the layout is clean, the language clear and convincing, and data is cleverly used to reinforce the story.

Facebook

The king of social media channels, says Greenpeace, ‘was the first major internet company to commit to be 100% renewably powered and continues to play a leadership role within the sector. Showing strong transparency and a track record of its five latest data centres sited in locations that allowed them to be renewably powered.’

We looked at Facebook in depth just last month and were impressed with the strides it has made in promoting its environmental initiatives across the board. The ‘Clean & Renewable Energy’ page on its sustainability microsite, while not as detailed as Apple’s ‘Climate Change’ page, does do a good job of setting out the company’s goals:

‘In 2012, we set a goal of reaching 25% clean and renewable energy in our electricity supply mix in 2015 for all data centres – which we exceeded. In 2015, we doubled that target – and are now aiming to have at least 50% clean and renewable energy in our mix in 2018.’

There is additional detail in ‘Our Footprint’, including interesting real-time dashboards tracking ‘power usage effectiveness’ and ‘water usage effectiveness’ at Facebook’s four data centres.

Facebook Clean & Renewable Energy page

Facebook Clean & Renewable Energy page

Google

Greenpeace criticises Google on data transparency, saying it ‘still has significant room to improve in regards to transparency, however, lagging behind Apple and Facebook… in providing facility level energy demand data.’ But it does enough to get the overall ‘A’ grade: ‘Google took several significant steps forward since our last report toward a renewably powered Google Cloud,’ Greenpeace says, ‘building on its strength of advocacy and renewable procurement, but also improving its renewable energy deployment in new markets to keep pace with its rapid growth.’

The top feature on Google’s environment microsite highlights its renewables pledge: ‘100% renewable is just the beginning,’ and links through to a first-person feature by Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure. ‘I’m thrilled to announce that in 2017 Google will reach 100% renewable energy for our global operations – including both data centers and offices,’ he says. ‘This is a huge milestone.’

Google Environment microsite

Google Environment microsite

The page has fewer visual bells and whistles than Apple’s or Facebook’s environmental pages, but a direct message from the executive responsible is effective. The top post on Google’s Environment blog from Dec 6th, also carries the message from Mr Hölzle. There are plenty of hyperlinks to PDF documents with an exceptional level of detail, including a 13-page white paper, ‘Achieving Our 100% Renewable Energy Purchasing Goal and Going Beyond’.

In our Index of Online Excellence, which evaluates the online communications efforts of the biggest 200 companies in the world, US tech companies have usually done well in our metric covering ‘reputation’ – or how they communicate their efforts to be good citizens. So it is not surprising to us that Apple, Facebook and Google excel at putting their case across about renewables to generalist ‘non-expert’ visitors.

Where they have not done so well in the past is in the metric covering provision for CSR ‘professionals’, which include NGOs such as Greenpeace. These organizations are interested in hard data, and that has been lacking from Apple, Facebook and Google in the past, something they share more widely with all US-based companies. But there are signs that is changing. Apple, Facebook and Google have all recently and for the first time released sustainability reports that contain detailed environmental data, of the kind CSR professionals take seriously. Other US companies, such as Ford, are also doing better in this regard.

The tech giant’s online comms on renewables still have weaknesses, but they do not have anything to do with content. They are – as ever with US tech companies – to do with navigation and fragmentation. On all three estates, it is harder than it should be to find the environment pages. And the positive stories found there are siloed, when, as the Greenpeace report attests, they deserve to be more widely shared.

- Jason Sumner

BC tip: Volkswagen AG - Discouraging contact?

The German car manufacturer fails to transmit openness by burying the contact page on its corporate website.

The Feature

During our recent review of the Volkswagen group site for the Index of Online Excellence, we could not find links to a contact page in any of the conventional locations – headers, footers, primary or secondary navigation. The only link to a general contact page we could find was buried at the bottom of the media landing page.

The link is small, and in German on the English-language site (‘To Kontakt page’); it also requires a few clicks to reach. The Contact page itself is an e-mail form that appears to be outside of the site hierarchy.

The Takeaway

It is not an auspicious time for Volkswagen to have one of the only corporate sites in our Index without clear paths for getting in touch with general queries. The company, under fire for the emissions scandal, may not want to be bombarded by comments from angry diesel owners. Maybe the thinking is that Volkswagen AG is a corporate site and not customer-facing, but we know from our research that customers will find their way there.

One of the public aims of Volkswagen AG, following the scandal, is to convey transparency. Burying the general contact page and relegating it to an email form, does the opposite.

www.volkswagenag.com

BC tip: GSK - Volunteer vlogs

The pharmaceutical giant has successfully adapted the ‘video blog’ trend to the corporate web.

The Feature

GSK has created a series of video blogs – known as ‘vlogs’ – featuring an employee who spent six months on a company-sponsored volunteering programme in Kenya, which finished in December 2016.

Vanina Kacheva, an area marketing manager for Central and Eastern Europe in GSK’s healthcare business, created five vlogs during her stint advising Save the Children on its communications.

They are two-minute to three-minute video diaries, in which Vanina speaks directly to camera about her experiences, in the style of popular video blogs on YouTube. The vlogs are located on the corporate website in the Responsibility section, and on YouTube. GSK promoted Vanina’s final vlog on Twitter in December.

The Takeaway

GSK has taken the trend for vlogging, popular among internet marketers and millennials, and adapted it effectively for the corporate web.

A volunteer programme, which gives employees interesting new experiences to share, is a natural application. You need an employee willing to go on camera, but an advantage is that with vlogs, lack of high production values or professional presenting skills is an advantage, and adds to authenticity.

Vlogging could have a number of uses in the corporate context – employee profiles are an obvious one, but there are surely many others.

http://www.gsk.com/en-gb/responsibility/our-people/volunteer-stories/#vanina

Facebook beyond the feed

The social media giant’s web estate is fragmented and often frustrating to navigate. However, there are pockets of brilliance and originality; and signs that the company’s approach to online corporate communications is maturing, Jason Sumner says.
 

In the last few days, we’ve been doing our annual check of Facebook’s web estate to help keep our Index of Online Excellence up to date. Since we last looked in detail at the firm’s online presence in 2015, the all-conquering social media platform has become one of the world’s 10 biggest companies by market capitalisation and now has 1.8bn monthly users. 

We think it’s unlikely that Facebook will break into our top 30 ranking though. It has too many weaknesses, the most obvious of which is fragmentation, something that it has in common with a lot of US technology firms’ online estates. Journeys to information for anyone who is not a signed-in ‘user’ are often difficult, with an array of dedicated Facebook pages and microsites that have different navigation systems and do not always link up neatly.

But Facebook has online communications strengths in a few important areas that make it worth watching: 
•    It is highly effective at providing online information for its customers (advertisers and potential advertisers), an issue that is front of mind for digital managers we speak to. 
•    Careers pages are at global best practice standards.
•    Visually speaking, much of the estate looks elegant and parts are outstanding. 

We also saw signs that the company thinks ‘corporate’ online audiences such as investors and CSR professionals are worth trying to serve better too. 

Facebook.com/business is the gateway page to resources for advertisers. The material here is clear, straightforward and well-targeted to the audience. The calls to action anticipate some ignorance about the basics of Facebook’s business model and address it – ‘How Facebook adverts work’ – or, for those already in the know, ‘Create Advert’, which leads to a step-by-step process to set up an online campaign. There is abundant and useful supporting content, including clear, succinct video tutorials, FAQs, case studies, pricing information, metrics, etc.

How-to video in the business section

How-to video in the business section

Careers information on Facebook.com was strong when we looked in 2015 and it is strong now. On digital careers metrics alone, we rate Facebook among the best online estates in the world, and well worth emulating. Jobseekers receive a top service, with the global vacancy mechanism and careers information provision at global best practice levels. The online application form is excellent - elegant, streamlined and appropriately targeted at digital natives. The ‘Careers hub’ provides a very effective pitch to prospective jobseekers, positioning the workplace as a lively environment in which staff are encouraged to pursue their ideas and make a real difference.

Careers landing page

Careers landing page

Facebook has made some improvements in the way it communicates with traditional corporate stakeholders such as investors and CSR professionals. In 2015, we noted that their investor landing page stood out for its boring conventionality (even if their recent quarterly information was very well organized). Since then they have launched a modern-looking microsite for investors that is much more in tune with the company’s visual style. Although it falls short of best practice (we could not find a quarterly results archive, for example), the microsite is a step forward.

Investors landing page

Investors landing page

In 2015, we could not find any CSR data. In our most recent visits, the Sustainability microsite had a long scrolling page of creative data visualisations, housed under ‘Our Footprint’, covering carbon emissions at data centres, the energy mix between renewables and fossil fuels (including its goal to be using 50 per cent renewables by 2018), and water usage. The site provides a PDF download of all the data and a useful list of links to external resources about Facebook’s environmental performance. The page has links to interesting real-time dashboards tracking ‘power usage effectiveness’ and ‘water usage effectiveness’ at Facebook’s four data centres.

Sustainability landing page

Sustainability landing page

Real-time energy and water usage dashboard

Real-time energy and water usage dashboard

The Sustainability microsite is a good example of the site’s often striking visuals. It uses (currently-trendy) looping video on the landing page, original photography, clean fonts and colours to tell make the company’s case that it is a force for good in the world. 

‘Facebook Stories’ are another example of professional visuals combined with high-quality editorial. Housed on a microsite, they are a set of well-produced videos that cover what ordinary people have accomplished by setting up Facebook groups. Many of the videos have CSR and community-based themes, including 'Homeless in Seattle' about an architect who has a page 'Facing Homelessness' and 'Save the Monarchs', a group in Iowa dedicated to butterfly conservation. The production values are high, and may well be outside many firms’ digital corporate communications budgets, but the way the videos are summarised on the page, and the way the videos are subtle about connecting Facebook to the groups doing the work, could be a model for other corporate 'story' videos.

Facebook Stories microsite

Facebook Stories microsite

Overall, we were struck by the imbalance between how frustrating it can be to find specific information on the estate, and then being impressed by the abundance and detail when we got to the right places. It is a good thing for Facebook, given how frustrating our journeys were, that the estate tested very well for visibility on search engines. Users starting from the home page could struggle, for example, to find the links for journalists, investors or sustainability, but putting these terms into Google returned the exact destination at the top of the results every time. 

- Jason Sumner

Your guide to cracking measurement

Our new free report, based on several years of advising large companies on their digital communications measurement, has advice and best practice on analytics, visitor surveys, strategy, and more, says Jason Sumner.
 

Measurement is routinely cited as a top priority and challenge in Bowen Craggs's annual ‘Digital Manager’s Agenda’ surveys. In 2015 it tied with customers as the number one concern and in 2014 it was number two. A separate Bowen Craggs survey in 2014 showed that only one in three respondents had identified key performance indicators (KPIs) and routinely reported against them.

Over the years, through the research we conduct and the advice we give corporate digital teams, we’ve established a framework for measuring online communications – one that evaluates how well all of your company’s online channels are serving business goals and audience needs.

Measuring what matters in digital corporate communications gives practical advice on implementing the framework. It also presents the key points from our ongoing Google Analytics benchmark research, best practice in creating visitor surveys and a case study on the ‘Insight Hubs’ at pharmaceutical giant GSK.

Here are a few other highlights to whet your appetite:

  • Survey data on ‘visit reason’ (why people come to your site) is especially useful when broken down by visitor type: For example, our research shows that one of the main reasons investors visit corporate sites is to find out about the company. They do not only visit to find financial information, which demonstrates the importance of website structure, signposting and easy navigation between website sections, something the methodology for the Bowen Craggs Index of Online Excellence has always emphasised.

  • Visitors who do not achieve their goals on corporate websites often leave with a lower opinion of the company: For example, in our visitor surveys 19 per cent of respondents who did not achieve their goals leave with a worse perception of the company, compared with only 7 per cent of all visitors. Although there is considerable variation in goal achievement between companies we advise, the correlation between goal failure and a worsening opinion of the company is universal, and therefore statistically significant.

  • Insight Hubs at GSK: ‘Insight Hubs’ are monthly, two-hour in-person meetings with the central GSK digital communications team and additional ‘content owners’ (about 10 people in total). A wider group of people, each of which are responsible for a section of the corporate website (Investors, Careers, Media, Research, etc) or a piece of content, receive the ‘Insight dashboard email’, which comes out of the meetings. The Insight Hubs sit alongside a wider and longer-term ‘strategic’ review of the website and other online channels.

  • Social media and traffic acquisition: Our Analytics benchmark (which collects the Google Analytics data for 27 major corporate websites) suggests that social media is driving very little traffic to corporate websites overall, but that there are isolated examples of success (one company in the benchmark acquired almost 4 per cent of visits from Facebook). Sponsorship plays a role in this. Facebook and Twitter make it difficult for users to leave their platform - these platforms restrict distribution to a small part of a company’s audience, unless the link is sponsored. Timing and subject matter are also important. One of our clients’ tweets were 100 times more successful in driving traffic than normal when they were tied to an external, live event. However, not every tweet is about driving traffic to the corporate website; it could be about getting retweets, gaining more followers, driving visitors to a blog post.

You'll find much more in the full report.

- Jason Sumner