People usually think of major companies as large, monolithic entities, with massive momentum and a lot of muscle-memory, making it difficult for them to weave gracefully around the dangers of modern media, or to dance with the speed of new technologies.
However, some companies do manage the trick of fire-dancing with their corporate websites, staying alert to the danger while creating something innovative and interesting, even beautiful to see.
For an agency view on corporate websites, and on how best to use new technologies and trends to communicate with visitors, we recently interviewed Mark Hill and Frank Harkin, both from The Group. For those of you not based in the UK, The Group are a surprisingly low-key agency providing very high quality websites for many of the biggest companies here in the UK.
Why do I say surprisingly low-key? Well, as they modestly say on their website: you may not have heard of them. Of course, if you’re in any way responsible for a big corporate website, you’ll know who they are…
Do listen to what they have to say: this is a wide-ranging discussion, covering everything from content curation to social media, crisis comms to video, smart phones to personalisation.
I’ve broken the interview down into bite-size pieces, so that you can quickly find particular points you’d like to hear about, but I’ve also included the whole interview and a transcript.
Part 1: Corporates getting social
Frank Harkin recently published some research on the take-up of social media by FTSE 100 companies: do go and read it if you haven’t already seen it.
- examples of companies using social media in a crisis
- corporate concerns: change and compliance
- changes being seen in corporate communications teams.
“There will be more and more of these types of events where crisis communications requires a social media communication strategy… the world expects corporates to have conversations online, and they’re not ready to go there yet”
Download: The Group interview: part 1
Part 2: Tools for transparency
- executive blogging and authenticity
- XBRL and integrated reporting
- the authenticity of many voices
“Social media and corporate blogging are a way to bring transparency and authenticity to corporate communications… people will want to see chief executives blogging”
Download: The Group interview: part 2
Part 3: Governance on the corporate website
- breaking down the silos: governance, risk, responsibility
- using third party material to add credibility and context
“More and more corporates are looking at the sustainability angle of their comms as part of their brand… an issue that many corporates face is that they’re having to figure out where this responsibility stuff fits, and how it should be articulated as part of their story”
Download: The Group interview: part 3
Part 4: Importance of video
- the power of video: production values matter less than the content
- video keeps visitors longer on the corporate site
- visitors get a clear idea of who you are and what you stand for through video.
“Not enough corporates are looking at their sites and saying to themselves “We’re kind of a mini TV channel”, and they need to think about themselves like that”
Download: The Group interview: part 4
Part 5: Annual and CSR Reporting
How are annual and CSR reports going to evolve?
- powerful graphics, video and tools should push story-telling online
- there will be a trend towards continuous reporting
“The issue that many corporates are grappling with is that they’re doing tons of stuff each quarter, each six months, that needs to flow into the website”
Download: The Group interview: part 5
Part 6: Investment cases and Investor sections
- making the investment case easy to understand
- providing resources which the investor/analyst wouldn’t be able to find themselves
- making the corporate website more enjoyable and engaging.
“This is the lost opportunity, in terms of having a proper valuation of your company… there are a lot of companies that are cheaper than they should be”
Download: The Group interview: part 6
Part 7: Impact of mobile devices on the corporate site
- there’s more to life than an iPhone app
- audiences expect your site to behave gracefully on a smartphone
“Corporate websites in effect are country cousins… people will have to make corporate sites more engaging, more fun, simpler, easier to use, with better tools”
Download: The Group interview: part 7
Part 8: Accessibility
Are companies treating accessibility as less important now?
“Accessibility is part of the process, like the content is part of the process, so it’s not such a big deal”
Download: The Group interview: part 8
Part 9: Working with agencies
- the average age of a corporate site is 3-4 years
- the better the initial architecture and strategy, the longer the site will grow and evolve
- importance of a strategic roadmap: research, audit and compare to best practice
“We like to engage in conversations with people who are interested in online corporate communications; we want to share our knowledge and learn from other people, so bring it on – come and knock on our door”
Download: The Group interview: part 9
Here’s the whole interview, for you to listen to while driving home, or while jogging in the park; and the transcript, for those who prefer to read.
Many thanks to Mark and Frank for taking the time to talk to Paul.
Who were we speaking to?
Mark Hill founded The Group, which is one of the UK’s leading agencies providing online corporate communications services and consultancy advice: corporate websites, marketing and campaign sites, blogging and brand management portals and online annual and corporate responsibility reporting. The quality of the company’s creative offering has been recognised with more than 200 industry awards, both in the UK and internationally.
Mark graduated in 1980 with a business degree in marketing and accountancy from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. Subsequently he worked as an equities analyst for a major insurance company and spent three years as a financial public relations consultant.
Before establishing The Group, Mark worked in London for Georgeson International, the investor relations and shareholder services consultancy.
Frank Harkin is part of the editorial team at The Group, having studied Communications at Dublin City University before moving to Spain where he worked as a copywriter for an American start-up during the heady days of the dotcom boom. On returning to London, he worked as a freelance copywriter and web editor, counting BSkyB and AOL among his many clients, before joining The Group in November 2007.
Frank has a Masters degree in Latin American Studies from the Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London.
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