When ‘best practice’ is no longer the best practice

Posted: September 15, 2010 in Corporate website, Digital strategy

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Over the past few years there has been a subtle yet significant change in the communications agenda.

Taking a look back, it seems clear that many successful corporates have been busy understanding how to communicate their successes online; and from this, a form of ‘best practice’ approach has been created. Stakeholders sit at the heart of this approach. Just take a look at the similarities at the Bowan Craggs Index of Corporate Website Effectiveness Top 5Shell, BP, Siemens, Roche and Rio Tinto to see what I mean.

Whilst I don’t think that there is anything wrong with addressing investors, press, careers and communicating the business successes clearly (hell, one of those top 5’s is our doing!), I do think that change is upon us. In part this change is being driven by businesses starting to ask “where’s the ROI in spending on our online strategy?”.  But it’s also being driven by the good work that communication teams around the globe have been doing in implementing the best practice approach and are now all starting to ask “where to from here?!

So, where to from here indeed! Things like Social Networking and the CSR agenda have proved to be interesting interludes, but interestingly it’s the recession that has brought the next real agenda to the table – true alignment with business strategy.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why we are here too. After all how many CEO’s and executive boards really understand the benefits that online can bring to their businesses? How many agencies have even bothered pushing this angle? Knowing that it would fall on deaf ears, falling back to the common line – the stakeholders – has clearly been the easiest door to push against. Coupled with strong design and clarity of message, you can begin to see where todays best practices have derived from.

The recent downfall of a major UK company, Connaaught serves as a perfect example of this. They too have gone through the journey from poorly communicating their business to a place where their business is being very well represented today. Now, I’m not professing that ‘online strategy’ would have changed the outcome of their recent issues but certainly looking at their website today does give an indication of what they could have done differently online and indeed provides lessons for others to learn from.

Previous Connaught Website

The Connaught Website as it was just a few years ago

Connaught website today

Connaught website, as it is today - a much clearer presence, but is that what it's all about?

Being a company that services a diverse mix of end customers with a range of different services, Connaught spent little time leveraging their online presence to … SELL.

The site does ‘best practice’ very well – branding – tick; successes shared – tick; industry talk – tick; CSR agenda – tick! But this is yesterdays agenda drafted in a time when business was flowing. Today it has be about clarity and alignment with the broader business strategy. Selling and selling more must sit at the heart of this. Demonstrating your services and value. Leveraging your customer base to cross sell. Translating interest in your business into tangible business leads.

And this is the agenda that we see many more large businesses defining for their digital strategies. Taking it beyond the stakeholders. To focus less on delivering investors with new tools, communicating the latest CSR agenda or the organisational structure (after all, this is now simply – best practice!); and to focus more on bolstering the bottom line, turning interest in the business into interest for the business!

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