Archive for the ‘Corporate reputation’ Category

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This is taken from a recent article I wrote for Business Review Australia – the original article can be found here.

The evolving landscape

It’s amazing to think how much has changed in the way we communicate over just the past decade alone. The pace of change only gains momentum as new innovations and ways of using them fall into ever welcoming hands.

Investor Relations is (sometime unfairly) seen as one of the last bastions to adapt to the ever changing communication landscape. After all, servicing a complex stakeholder group, who are often seen as the ‘no-nonsense’ type, is not easy. Whether it’s analysts, private or institutional investors, regulators or internal stakeholders, Investor Communications need to be clear, direct and to the point – fluff free. So it’s no surprise perhaps that when scanning the websites of some of the ASX top 50 companies there are plenty of examples where investor and corporate information is presented in a lacklustre way, being defined simply by regulatory requirements.

Consider however that we live in a day and age where people are collaborating in ways like never before. Sharing things which they would have never shared, with people they would have never considered ‘friends’ or being ‘LinkedIn’ to just a few years ago. This is not just a phenomena, indeed we are living in a time which is regarded as the sixth great communication revolution. Companies like Facebook and LinkedIn going public serve as a perfect example for how rapidly innovation is becoming mainstream today.

As the way people communicate changes, expectations from corporates are changing too. What worked just a few years ago is no longer seen as meeting the needs of the audiences who consume corporate information today. A company that fails to embrace innovation and present itself as a cohesive organisation working to common goals and vision is seen as a company that is falling behind.

Staying ahead

Companies at the forefront of understanding how best to leverage the tools available to them, have embraced the concept of integrated reporting. Integrated reporting stems from an understanding that stakeholders have a wider interest than they did just a few years ago. This change is partly driven by the fact that information has become far easier to find, receive and share, increasing the desire for knowledge before making decisions – such as whether a company represents a sound investment or not. But it is also driven by the fact that companies are recognising the value in taking an integrated approach to their communications – one that is underpinned by a common understanding of what the business stands for and the goals that are being focused on.

With all this in mind, it is clear to see that the tired and tested approach of presenting investor information in isolation of the broader business strategy while ignoring new channels and technologies is no longer acceptable.

So what can be done?

Working at an agency, it would have been all too easy to write about the merits of introducing more innovation into corporate communications. Launch an app. Get onto Facebook. Tweet more often. And while you’re at it, make it all work on an iPad! But the point is really that every business needs to identify clearly who their stakeholders are, what would be relevant to them and how best the information can be delivered.

There are plenty of great examples out there, which reflect the results of taking a more integrated approach. Bowen Craggs & Co (www.bowencraggs.com) uses a tailored marking system in their FT Web effectiveness index which has allowed them to rank the top global organisations use of digital. Shell and Unilever who appear in the top 5 have embraced investor apps, making their key highlights available to stakeholders on the go. BP’s on-going use of social media to manage stakeholder expectations (in particular through the Deepwater disaster) continues to serve them well and earn them praise; And Siemens (who top the charts) lead their investor section with a ‘Siemens at a Glance’ section providing a clear overview to their company in conjunction with the facts and figures. All of these companies have recognised that taking an integrated approach and leveraging innovation is key to managing their stakeholder needs and expectations effectively.

Taking action

Whilst the examples covered all make great use of digital in different ways, they represent the end result of a process. The process starts with achieving clarity of vision about the corporate ‘mission’ and making sure this is communicated in a clear, engaging and consistent way to both internal and external stakeholders. Once these basics are in place, the process extends to understanding clearly who your stakeholders are and what is of relevance to them. Once you have established these things it becomes far easier to look at the ever changing innovation landscape and decide what will work best for your company and stakeholders.

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]In general, the debate of online copyright is not new – it’s probably one of the longest standing debates in regards to issues which the internet has given rise to (though one of the least contentious).

The discussions recently flared up again here at View when one of our client sites became the subject of ‘online plagiarism‘. The screenshots below show the original client website www.petrofac.com and the latest offending site www.leadoil.eu.pn (yes, it’s not the first time) which is nothing to do with them … oh … click at your own risk!

Petrofac homepage

Petrofac homepage - as designed by View

Leadoil homepage - as stolen by ???

Leadoil homepage - as stolen by ???

What can be done to avoid it?

This hits to the heart of the online copyright debate, because indeed what can be done? Well, the good news is that offenders are in breach of numerous copyright laws in almost every region of the world. So some things that you can do:

  • Do a whois to find out which ISP hosts the site and send them a letter letting them know of the offence. They should take the site down fairly quickly.
  • Monitor your site regularly. There are free services like Copyscape which will attempt to locate copies of your site.
  • Take your site down!! Ok, it’s not really a suggestion – but clearly information in the public domain is going to be susceptible to plagiarism – plain and simple.

There are technologies that will make it more difficult for the offenders to copy your site (e.g. which disable the ability to right click your website pages to ‘view source’ or ‘save images’), but they are by no fool-proof.  In fact, many of these technologies obscure (hide) your website’s HTML using JavaScript code – which basically is only a minor nuisance for someone looking to copy your content, but a major nuisance to you websites SEO and accessibility (making it practically impossible to view by those with visual impairments / using browsing aids).

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false] For the past few years corporates have been rethinking their online corporate presence. In many cases taking their sites from looking like the poor sibling of their more invested in B2C initiatives, to being the ‘best practice’ corporate websites they need to be – with a solid IA (i.e. about us, CSR, investors, media, careers, press etc), strong creative (show cases, success stories etc) and very much on-brand. Yup, that is what we’ve been doing at View – along with our competitors – and doing a good job of it.

But I know I’m not alone when I say that this approach is no longer working – or rather is not enough – for many corporates. As digital lifestyles and general stakeholder expectations change, more and more organisations are starting to look at their broader digital communications strategy wondering where do we go from here?

Best practice is no longer good enough

We’re all stakeholders, in one way or another – so we all know how our online habits have changed over the past few years. Whether it’s our increased interest to read personal views, share our thoughts, expectation for greater transparency or the way we consume information, there isn’t just one answer for where the corporate website is going to go. But clearly ‘best-practice’ approach is no longer sufficient.

Clients that share this view are already working with us to evolve their online engagement – a broader mobile strategy and access to content, social networking strategies or better integrated technical solutions, but it’s by no means joined up thinking at the moment. The stakes are high – and we need to identify what the next 5 years will hold in store for the corporate website and their digital communications  (instead of sitting on the sidelines ignoring it, or waiting for others to define it).

For us at View, the risk is that other, non-B2B agencies will start to move into our space. With their customer driven insights and engaging use of creative and today’s latest technologies, they are perfectly poised to do so. And for our clients, the risk is as ever, their corpotate reputation are becoming more and more vulnerable.

Update: (27/07/2010) we’ve just held our internal innovation brainstorm to start the process of formalising the trends we feel that are emerging and will become more prevalent in corporate websites in the years to come. Some pretty fascinating ideas – from personalised content aggregation (considering how stakeholders will be accessing content over the next few years) to touch screen interfaces and devices.

Looking forward to the event in September where we’ll share some of the thinking and will also have a couple of client speakers too.