Aviva have had one of the top corporate sites for many years with the team led by Stuart Bartram. He’s recently left Aviva, and we were delighted to have the chance to interview him.
He reflects on how he caught the digital wave, which corporate sites he rates, and offers some key lessons in getting into social media from a corporate perspective.
Do take time to listen. It is a long and discursive interview with some great tips, well worth listening to in its entirety.
I’ve broken the interview down into smaller pieces, so that you can quickly find particular points you’d like to hear about. I’ve also included the whole interview and a transcript.
Part 1: Looking back: junior reporter to digital leader
- Learning lessons from newspapers
- targeting content for specific audiences
- building content on a schedule
- storytelling and simplicity
Taking advantage of technology shifts
- text editing to desktop publishing
- internal comms: print to intranet
- external comms: product focus to strategic editorial management
“We started with a site which was a niche product for PLC stakeholders, and what we have now is the company’s biggest storytelling machine… The majority of the audience now, which is quickly growing, is not your shareholders, or your analysts, or your fund managers, or your city journalists: it’s everyday customers who come into contact with Aviva and want to know more about us”
Download: Stuart Bartram interview: part 1
Part 2: What characterises the best sites today?
- role of content in transparency and trust
- releasing corporate content into the wild
- connection of trust with social technologies
- a content strategy that helps elevate the content
“We did some user experience studio stuff with a fund manager. He was asked “How do you use corporate websites?” … He said “My team, that’s their job. I used to do it. We pore over sites like this because that’s where the information is. And we make judgements about how successful it is, and whether we can get the information, and things like that, which gives us a barometer on how healthy we think the company is”
Download: Stuart Bartram interview: part 2
Part 3: The websites that stand out
- significance of the peer group – and eating each others lunch
- comparison across industries, and in different countries
- best big companies…
- …and learning from the little ones
“Major companies get stricken sometimes by this legacy. They’ve been around a long time…”This is the way we do it round here”… When you look at these new companies, they’re not often hamstrung by this… I am fascinated by the way they would tackle similar things, the agility of flexibility they’ve shown… Those are real rich pickings for learning, education, knowledge”
Download: Stuart Bartram interview: part 3
Part 4: Social behaviour, and the need for future planning
- the internet in your hand
- expectations of the future
- significance of individual’s choice in communications
“The real big ticket thing is actually planning about 3, 5, 7, 9 years time. Because my daughter, if she goes into further education, by the time her and her ilk come out into the big wide world of ugly work in their early twenties, say, they are going to be bringing a technological driven level of expectation that’s unbelievable. So they’re going to be saying:
- “I want to be a customer of yours and I do things like this so what have you got? How can I do it?”
- Or “I want to be part of the community so I’m interested in these things so how do I….?”
- Or “I’m going to be working for you so what kind of tools have you got that can help me do my job for you better?”
- Or finally “I might be a shareholder, so… I don’t want to turn up physically. I don’t ever want to walk in your office but I want to be part of your business and have a connection with you.
- So what have you got? Oh you haven’t got that. Well perhaps I’ll go over there because they seem to have got it and that fits with me.”
And I think every business should be thinking about this change that’s happening.”
Download: Stuart Bartram interview: part 4
Part 5: How Aviva built up experience in using social media
- experimentation and courage
- getting it right… and wrong
- understanding the sense of connection and passion
“We had the opportunity to support a round the world sailor called Dee Caffari … we used what was then called the Aviva Challenge as our laboratory… an opportunity to understand how this thing worked, why people find it interesting, why they engage with it and its implications for more corporate communications through your dot-com.
…The other thing I think is just being brave”
Download: Stuart Bartram interview: part 5
Part 6: Communicating with shareholders
- the next step online for retail shareholders
- webcasts and transparency
- expanding the appeal of the corporate investor site
“Retail shareholders are one of the areas that companies can really mine and I think they would like to take part in this as well…The Holy Grail is that someone recommends you to their friend or family. A shareholder might say “I really like this company because they keep me informed, the share price is good, the dividend is good…” – all these other things that are the decision maker – “But actually I really like the way I feel engaged in with the company, communicated to, part of it, opportunity to vote online for the AGM, see the workings of the meeting, do anything really.” And I think that’s a potential growth area”
Download: Stuart Bartram interview: part 6
Part 7: Selling the social media strategy
- “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”
- learning from companies outside the industry
- increasing time on site…
- …or making it easier for them to get what they need and leave
“We started to think about Twitter and in 14 months we’re now just hitting through the 1,000 [followers] mark. And then you look at the make-up, who’s bothering about this? Why would we do it? Well because other people, whether it’s analysts or journalists, are electing to get their news like this. They might have RSS, they might have signed up to our email drop from dot-com. But their behaviours are perhaps changing.”
Download: Stuart Bartram interview: part 7
Part 8: Getting into Facebook with a major brand campaign
- raising brand awareness
- connecting with key influencers…
- …but enabling everyone else to participate
- connecting social networks and big business
- interesting tools that may – or may not – be the next big thing.
“For a company like Aviva and its 53.4 million customers around the world (quite a sizeable number in the UK), it’s not too much of a stretch to work out that many of them will be on Facebook. So thinking about “Right, are we ready to have, say, an e-commerce motor and household page?”, perhaps Aviva is not, and many insurers might not be ready for that, but thinking about “Well where we should be in three years with this?” If we’re seeing this growth and Facebook are pretty definite they want a billion subscribers within perhaps another two years and given their current rate of progress would you bet against it? No. ”
Download: Stuart Bartram interview: part 8
Here’s the whole interview, in case you’d rather listen to it end-to-end; and the transcript, for those who prefer to read.
Many thanks to Stuart for taking the time to talk to Paul.
Who were we speaking to?
Stuart Bartram led the development of Aviva’s online corporate estate for 11 years.
The global insurance company has been considered among the leaders in FTSE 100 digital corporate communications. Its online communications challenge is a complex one, balancing the demands and opportunities of a dynamic consumer brand and an extensive global portfolio of websites.
Over recent years Aviva has embraced social media, personalisation and specific content for mobile devices within its evolving digital strategy.
Reporting to Aviva’s global brand development director, Stuart was at the heart of this strategy with his team also playing a key role in developing the digital presence for Aviva’s first global brand campaign: You Are The Big Picture.
Before joining Aviva Stuart spent 10 years as a journalist.
Married with two daughters, he lives in Norfolk and is a governor at Norwich University College of the Arts.