The devil is in the detail of the FT Bowen Craggs Index. Here are some of the specifics that struck us during our analysis.
Siemens has reinvented the homepage – again.
In 2007 the German group spawned a host of imitators by turning its homepage into a self-contained multimedia microsite, which changed every month to an editorial schedule.
Now it has done something almost as radical by replacing this approach with a series of short films, shot by well-known directors and avoiding obvious marketing messages.
Presumably, it hopes the YouTube generation will take to it and it provides plenty of icons and links to encourage them.
Will Siemens change the corporate website game again? It is too early to tell, but it is nice to see a huge corporation prepared to take risks.
Then there is confusing the public by a piecemeal relaunch. This approach illustrates the dangers of updating your site bit by bit, as done by Hewlett-Packard and BNP Paribas.
HP has become remarkably muddled, with different templates fighting each other, while BNP appears to have two careers sections – it does not in fact, but there is plenty to baffle jobseekers.
Some sites are kings of content. If you have to be stranded on a desert island with only two corporate websites, take General Electric and Google. They have more interesting stuff on them than any others.
GE impresses with videos, its Ecomagination site and its lively GE Reports newspaper-magazine-blog.
From Google.com, find your way to Google.org and see how its technology has been used in Japan, analyse the environment with Google Earth Engine and track disease with Google Flu Trends.
Yet neither site is at the top of the Index because their management is weak – no one is trying to make them work as smoothly running machines.
Sites can also be used as tools to defend reputations. BP.com did not rescue the group’s reputation in the Gulf of Mexico, but it must have limited the damage.
Backed by social media and a jointly-run crisis site, it acted as an information machine. It gave a blow-by-blow account of what the company was doing – it provided a mass of practical information: for example, the ability to download a fisherman’s claim form in Vietnamese – and it spawned state-specific sites.
It is one of the few aspects of crisis management that BP got right.
More on reputation: General Electric used its GE Reports site to give detail on the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, correcting what it saw as flaws in newspaper reports.
Chevron continued to wage war again Ecuadorians suing it for environmental damage, using its website and YouTube in powerful tandem.
British American Tobacco popped up from the usual lying low approach of its industry with a hard-hitting web film on black-market cigarettes and organised crime.
Investor relations is an area where “we’ll use what we’ve got”’ seems to trump the more rational “we’ll give users what they need” approach.
Innovations driven by supply include a plethora of flashy online annual reports, a surprising development given analysts’ insistence that they prefer documents in PDF format.
An example is the technology Microsoft uses to display its earnings announcements.
Moving on to social media, we classified 22 of the 75 sites as “social media friendly”.
IT companies have a natural community of experts, so can easily exploit the social media side – see Cisco’s Newsroom to see how far that can go.
Elsewhere, most companies limit themselves to displays of icons, plus some Twitter feeds perhaps.
Where there is closer integration, it is concentrated in careers sections, where Facebook’s demographic makes it a very obvious choice.
Otherwise, spot Siemens’ brave decision to show how many social media comments have been posted about its homepage videos, and Walmart Stores’ coverage of social media channels in its search engine.
This last is a significant development – let us see if others follow.
David Bowen is senior consultant for Bowen Craggs & Co.
For more detail, including the full ranking by different metrics, visit www.bowencraggs.com/ftindex
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