Archive for the ‘Corporate website’ 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]There is nothing more disheartening when a client relationship takes a turn for the worse. It happens. Being the person who ends up taking ultimate responsibility for things, I do take it personally when these instances arise. Whether due to poor communications, over commitments, under delivery – mishaps are a reality that comes with agency life.

But, when things go right the feeling is ever so much the opposite! When you can look back and “WOW” yourself at what’s been achieved in partnership with a client,  you’re reminded why you work ‘agency side’. And that’s what this overdue blog post is all about (I’ll save the disaster stories for another time!!).

Our relationship with Thames Water started over 3 years ago, when we helped them launch their new corporate website. We won the competitive tender  off the back of our solid corporate experience; and since that launch the website has stood alone as Thames Water’ main digital asset.

Fast forward to today however and both our understanding and that of Thames Water’ for  how  digital strategy can serve to dramatically improve  their customer engagement, has without doubt developed greatly.

Thames Water - the new customer website

Thames Water - the new customer website delivers a far greater user centred experience

But the new customer website is just the start of it. Whilst  the new site delivers a far more user centric IA and task focussed design, the site now sits at the heart of what is far more widespread digital strategy, aimed at increasing direct engagement with their customers and winning advocacy as well increasing transparency and creating brand affinity. Take a look at just some of the results which the broader digital strategy has achieved and I’m sure you’ll agree – utility companies don’t need to be boring!

tw_live

Interactive roadwork

Thames Water - Twitter page

Over 2,000 followers

Thames Water - mobile site and app

Soon to launch mob' site

Thames Water - Waterwisely

Waterwisely

Thames Water - water saving calculator

Water saving calculator

Thames Water - facebook virals

Facebook viral

Thames Water - one safety hub

One safety hub

Thames Water - interactive maps

Interactive maps

Thames Water - digital guidelines

Digital guidelines

[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!

[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.

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false] I just came across these guys Mind Valley after installing some of their educational  iPad apps for my young kids. After reading through their site, it turns out that they actually have some pretty strong (and inspiring) visions about how to grow their start-up business, with a big focus on getting the right talent.

Most interestingly, they don’t accept standard CV’s, rather they take online applications via video interviews. They ask candidates to upload their ‘cover letter’ by video to YouTube.

Fascinating stuff! Not sure how this would / could work for bigger corporates (I can also see this raising all sorts of other issues) but it definitely demonstrates a novel and different way to make online recruitment more interesting!

RTL|LTR

Posted: June 15, 2010 in Corporate website, Right to left
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[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false] It’s actually quite surprising how much conversation went into considering how to handle the right to left languages on the Philip Morris website. Do we mirror the whole site, just the content areas or leave the layout as is and translate content only? Needless to say, cost plays a factor in the decision and to the benefit of the site PMI didn’t skimp out opting for a full mirroring of the site – the results are very pleasing … especially to readers of the native language which is what it should all be about right?

PMI right to left (Arabic)

Philip Morris Arabic