Brand minutiae hold interest.

Emily Chang’s book Brotopia digs into the history of a male-dominated IT culture in Silicon Valley. Way back, as seen in mid-60s editions of Cosmopolitan, programming did have a gender bias. Women were best at it – the original ‘computers’. But two researchers, Cannon and Perry, concluded from a new aptitude test that the happiest programmers would most likely prefer objects to people. Cue fifty years of self-fulfilling prophecy and an assumption that really great programmers need to be anti-social, and therefore usually blokes. The kind of blokes portrayed by Wayne Knight as Dennis Nedry who ended up inside a Dilophosaurus in Jurassic Park. Does this mean anything? Some would say a lot and they are trying hard to rebalance things. IT, coding and gender can easily become a branding story of sorts. Emily Chang’s book will continue to reinforce everyone’s efforts not to be the new Dennis Nedry on the block.

What kind of dresses was Marie-Ann Banham selling, where on earth was her shop and why did she change from selling frocks to selling locks? Walking into a Banham showroom today makes you appreciate foundation values. What needs to happen in your life to make you design and build such robust contraptions? Being constantly robbed is going to do it.

“If we concentrated on coming up with catchphrases rather than slogging over a ‘corporate signature’ we might find it easier to get across our ideas.”

Finally to a delightful piece of pomposity-puncturing with a searingly relevant message. Branding is an elemental profession. Once you have enough of the elements you can create a tasty picture and strut outside with confidence. There is then only the need to refresh one’s garb from time to time. Going tieless, dropping the waistcoat, wearing coloured socks, these kinds of things. So much so is this the case that all the elements in the branding repository have a formal name – and the corporate signature, tagline, payoff, strapline or support phrase is paramount. What a delight it was then to hear this finely-crafted element being referred to recently and in all innocence, as a “catchphrase”!

That’s a TV show isn’t it?

If we concentrated on coming up with catchphrases rather than slogging over a ‘corporate signature’ we might find it easier to get across our ideas.

Abram Lyle was pious. He explored The Book of Judges for his catchphrase and lo it revealed itself: Out of the strong came forth sweetness. What a triumph. Try getting away with that conundrum today. Try also getting away with a dead lion and bees as your trademark.



How can you tailor your content to deliver your message and communicate more effectively?

Join our breakfast seminar at the Zetter Town House on Thursday 3 May to find out (see details below).

“62% of companies said a lack of content strategy across their organisation, prevents them from achieving content maturity and 70% of marketers lack a consistent or integrated content strategy.” (Curata)

We believe that a content-first approach to developing your website highlights real world requirements early. It is content that connects design, user experience, devices, technology and your organisation’s own capacity planning. It is the catalyst for getting audiences talking, sharing and taking action.

Aimed at web managers, content owners and corporate communications professionals, we will share insights and guidance to help you better implement and deliver digital content that meets your audience and business needs

Our seminar will cover:

  • Tailoring a strategy to match in-house resources, ambitions and budget
  • Developing a content plan to help you manage content in the long run
  • Balancing mandatory corporate stakeholder content with more customer facing features
  • Managing engagement of returning visitors, as well as impressing new ones
  • Empowering your teams to own your content strategy

Into the future

Our Virtual Reality partners Uniq will do a live demonstration of their web apps on iPad Pro tablets at the end of the session and you will also be able to try out their Samsung Gear Virtual Reality headset experience.

When: Thursday 3 May 2018
Where: The Games Room, Zetter Town House, 49-50 Saint John’s Square, London, EC1V 4JJ
Nearest tube: Farringdon (2 min. walk)
Start: 8.30am arrival for 9am
Finish: 10.30am

Clare Bennett
Digital Strategy Director (Shell, Syngenta, Glencore, Rio Tinto, Laing O’Rourke)

Clare Bennett
020 7014 3325

We look forward to seeing you there.


In recent months, there has been a groundswell of grassroots activism that is helping women unburden themselves from the shackles of being treated as secondary to men.

In business, the lack of women in positions of leadership has been a talking point for years. Even with the UK’s second female Prime Minister currently in office, seeing women in positions of power is almost a novelty and at Board-level can sometimes be seen as nothing more than a box-ticking exercise.

In a former life, I’ve even been part of conversations that talk about how a company might be able to make it less obvious that most of their senior management team is male, or how they might include a secondary tier of management to paint themselves in a better light. “It’s about the optics” is an all too common attitude.

The fact of the matter is that, for too long, the value of women in business has not been acknowledged. They still fall prey to unfavourable gender stereotypes and in every walk of life they are rewarded less for their efforts in carrying out the same or similar tasks as a male counterpart (‘equal pay’). However, the debate about gender pay has now extended to address something more pressing – the gender pay gap. This is the difference in average pay between all men and women in a workforce.

Now, this conversation isn’t about female empowerment. And this blog is certainly not intended as an essay about feminism and how to shatter the glass ceiling. However, it is here to serve as a reminder that, as society and government increasingly look to eliminate pay disparity between men and women, companies are legally obliged to stand up and take notice.

Since 6 April 2017, all companies with more than 250 employees have been required to disclose six metrics that help calculate the gender pay gap across their business on the ‘snapshot date’ [1]. An implementation period was provided for companies who may not have the data readily available, but the deadline is now fast approaching and all companies that are considered ‘relevant employers’ must publish their metrics on their public-facing websites and the Government’s website [2] no later than 4 April 2018 – 12 months since the snapshot date. In addition to the data, companies must also provide narrative to explain why there may be disparities and what they intend to do to rectify and close the pay gap. Both the figures and narrative must be signed off by an ‘appropriate person’, most likely to be the CEO.

Whilst it is undoubtedly important, in its own right, that the gender pay gap conversation is held, companies now also face added risks once they publish this information. For example, they are liable to be sued for back pay in class action suits (as the current case brought against Tesco shows), or receive negative publicity that harms their recruitment prospects and damage to their reputation with customers and suppliers.

In a world that’s constantly driving towards ever greater transparency, it is more important than ever that organisations are honest about the challenges they face, but also demonstrate their proactive efforts to close the gap. Only by doing so will they foster a sense of value and loyalty from their employees, and demonstrate to investors and other stakeholders that they are ready to tackle difficult challenges that, in the long term, will continue to generate value for all involved.

[1] The snapshot date is the specific reference date in which the Gender Pay Gap needs to be calculated. For businesses and charities this date is 5 April.



Websites are vital to businesses for different reasons. They are built with different functionalities and different goals in mind. So, how do you measure and regulate the impact that your website has on your business?

Google Analytics is the most popular tool for website tracking and reporting. It is very often utilised by agencies to offer valuable insights for their clients. However, what these insights actually measure and whether they are valuable to your specific challenges are very important questions for you to consider.

Take the following analogy:

I am interested in purchasing tickets to a show. I go to a website advertising tickets for the show but can’t immediately see where I should click to start the buying process. I click through several pages searching for the tickets wasting almost 5 minutes before I give up and go to Ticketmaster.

Let’s imagine that this website only had the standard analytic tracking code implemented. At the end of the month, when the analyst is wading through the data collected, they might look at the number of pages visited and length of time spent on the site and conclude that the users are ‘highly engaged’ with content on many pages due to the ‘average session duration’ and ‘pages per session’ data. Agencies are always keen to prove how they have added value so these broad analytics provide the opportunity to put a positive spin on generic data that, in reality, tells quite a different story.

If this company were in business they probably wouldn’t stay that way for long, despite their website analytics suggesting their digital channels were performing as expected. It is clear to see that in this instance the main KPI would be ‘completed sales through the site’ and associated ecommerce revenue. In the corporate space, the KPIs can be a little more ambiguous.

Context is so important when interpreting data. General analytics, such as the number of sessions, session duration and average time on page, will give a very broad overview of trends but to truly understand the role your website plays within your business you will need to dig a little deeper.

Creating a measurement plan and identifying KPIs are the first steps. Ask yourself, why you have a website and what you want to get from it.

A new year. A new conversation about the role of the annual report; a new set of ideas and regulations for companies to understand, process and implement and less money to embrace more scrutiny and judgement.

In corporate comms, the discussions about annual reporting are as nailed into the corporate calendar as personal New Year resolutions. All over the country people will be returning to work, rolling their eyes, saying “here we go again” because their company has a December or March year end. The annual report will fill diaries, and heads, for up to 6 months dealing with internal audiences, lawyers, photographers, auditors, designers, regulators, printers, the board, writers and distribution houses.

Everyone will have a view on every page and every piece of content. The plucky few will navigate the obstacle course with their vision intact but many reports will lose their way under the weight of compromise and practicality. Things will reach fever pitch as the mailing deadline approaches, a period of time very similar to the panic that last minute swotting for a vital exam generates.

The total cost of reporting for the constituents of the FTSE 100 including executive time, accountants, lawyers, designers, printers and mailing houses is probably an average of £200,000 per company at least or £20,000,000 in total. That’s a lot by any standards.

But the most amazing thing about this figure is that there is little audience  research about how all the hard work influences audiences, changes perceptions and contributes to reputation. Even though the annual report, and its contents and narrative, are still one of the most important communications a company creates, little is done to understand and provide insights on their impact on stakeholders.

So often I hear in meetings that no one reads the annual report, they are out of date on the day they hit the newsstand, if not before, and they are boring, really boring. Rarely is this assertion supported by evidence. Often the comment is anecdotal or intuitive.

More research, quantitative and qualitative, would lead to evidence based decision making and over time this would make reports more readable and worthwhile and the content more fitting to need. I think that can only be a good thing for stakeholders and corporates because in the age of super scrutiny and the global megaphone of social media, the more we know and understand about companies and their behaviours, good and bad, the more informed our decision making and choices will be.

And that can only be a good thing for us all.


Over the last 10 years the banking sector has had a tough time in the arena of public opinion. This is in part due to its visibility and economic importance, as well as a perceived reluctance to accept more responsibility for the financial crisis. As a result, the sector is under constant scrutiny and pressure from customers, regulators, media and new entrants into the market.

Given that good communication is the cornerstone of any successful business, we recently completed a research project analysing how banks are using their corporate websites to attract and engage corporate stakeholders and customers alike. We selected a mix of challenger, traditional and mutual brands to gather a broad viewpoint across the sector.

Overall, we found that the finance sector could be doing a better job of telling their story effectively, by using their mission and values, business model and history to help create a more in-depth and immersive experience. As it stands, we found 58% of companies clearly present their mission and values and only 25% use business models or heritage hubs to better tell their story.

The look and feel of the websites tend towards an older looking design layout, with lots of content vying for attention on landing pages and calls to action easily overlooked due to font size or the sheer number of links provided. Whilst we found corporate video used across 75% of the sites, only 25% employ other interactive features such as timelines or flipbooks – otherwise static infographics are used to help illustrate content. As expected, it is the challenger brands that move away from the norm, with strong, visually bold design appealing to a younger, more diverse audience.

In terms of engaging key corporate stakeholder visitors on site, we found that investors are the best served audience, where a range of investor and shareholder tools are available. However, only 25% provide an investment case – a piece of content which is increasingly included across FTSE 100 corporate websites which will only grow in importance following the introduction of MiFID II regulations. An investment case not only serves investors and analysts, it also engages employees, government bodies and sustainability professionals alike.

The sustainability audience are the least well catered for, with 33% of the sites hiding useful content such as impact stories and links to charitable foundations. Only 25% link their impact on the environment to Sustainable Development Goals and 58% provide insufficient detail on the initiatives put in place to manage their sustainable footprint.

In summary, we found that only a few companies – a mix of heavyweight bank establishments and the new challenger brands – provide a good range of content and interaction for most stakeholders. However, across the board, there is room for improving the design to make their websites easier to navigate and consume; along with more tailoring and transparency of content in order to better serve their audiences.

In light of Brexit and the financial crisis that has brought about the new financial regulation MiFiD II, now seems a good time for the finance industry to explore how they can deliver more effective online communications that will support their business growth and ongoing brand reputation. As a FTSE 100 Finance Director said to me: “Show me a well organised website and I’ll show you a well organised company”.

For a presentation of the findings – and our recommendations – email Clare Bennett, Digital Strategy Director at or call 020 7610 6140.

Have you seen the ad campaign for the Daily Telegraph? ‘Words are powerful’, it says, ‘Choose them well.’

Oxford Dictionaries’ 2017 word of the year was ‘Youthquake’. Easy to understand and evocative, it was coined by Vogue editor Diana Vreeland in the 1960s to describe the impact of a young generation on fashion, music and attitudes. However, ‘Youthquake’ was back in frequent use again in 2017, as people tried to capture the tremendous spirit with which 16-25 year olds were finding their political voice.

Eighth on the Oxford Dictionaries’ list was the abstruse ‘Milkshake Duck’ – a phrase being used for phenomena initially perceived as positive that are subsequently revealed to be deeply flawed. Its etymology is equally obscure. It comes from a joke written on Twitter in June 2016 about a duck that drinks milkshakes and is subsequently discovered to be racist.

‘Milkshake Duck’ is now often used to describe ‘hero to zero moments’ on the internet. Remember the video from the US that went viral featuring a small boy’s anti-bullying plea? Initially support came from all over the internet and included some celebrities. But the tone rapidly changed when his family was pictured with a Confederate flag.

Commentators say ‘Milkshake Duck’ is perfect for today’s age. A completely random nonsense phrase that’s being used to describe a rather bleak, dystopian view of society. One that says you never know how the information you put on the internet is going to be used – for you or against you.

Light hearted and cynical, ‘Milkshake Duck’ has instant viral potential and is perfect for a world awash with polarised public opinion. Anyone can become a public figure overnight – but this also means an increased likelihood of discovering that a new favourite has a chequered past.

Words are indeed powerful, as the Telegraph campaign suggests. Whether deliberately coined like ‘Youthquake’ or starting out as nonsense, like ‘Milkshake Duck’, they do more than just convey meaning. Their real power is in summing up the zeitgeist.

In the server room and the board room, it’s time to get GDPR prepared.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will soon be here. Replacing the Data Protection Directive, its primary purpose is to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union. It will apply whatever kind of Brexit we have – hard, soft or positively runny.

From 25th May 2018, organisations holding personal information (pretty much anyone with a database) will be more accountable and responsible for ensuring that they have a lawful basis for processing it. ‘Personal information’ is described as anything from a name, photo, bank details, contact details or even biometric information (e.g. fingerprints and retina scans). ‘Lawful basis for processing’ basically means the consent of the data’s subject.

The first step for any company is to make sure that any current systems for gathering and processing personal data are fully compliant.

This involves:

  • Checking that consent is the most appropriate lawful basis for processing
  • Asking people to positively opt in
  • Not using pre-ticked boxes, or any other type of consent by default
  • Using clear, plain language that is easy to understand
  • Specifying why you want the data and what you’re going to do with it
  • Naming your organisation and any third party controllers who will be relying on the consent
  • Making it clear they can withdraw their consent
  • Ensuring that the individual can refuse consent without detriment
  • Keeping a record of when and how consent was given and what they were told at the time

The biggest task facing organisations looking to become GDPR compliant is the retrospective delve into their databases. This will determine whether they have consent for the data they control or not, and if so, where it came from. This is what you will need to know and show:

  • Name and contact details of Controller
  • Purpose of processing
  • Description of categories of data subjects and data
  • Recipients to whom data will be disclosed including third parties
  • Transfers of personal data to another country
  • Time limits for retention of data
  • Security around how data is held

Investor communicators must be careful to separate investor communications from marketing communications.

This is not new and corporate communications managers are hopefully well aware of the consequences of straying into marketing areas such as soliciting other investment or further investment. In August 2016 Flybe sent an email with the title ‘Are your details correct?’ advising recipients to amend any out of date preferences with a view to becoming more compliant with data regulations. However, Flybe also said that, by updating their preferences, users may be entered into a prize draw. Because of this, rather ironically, Flybe were fined £70,000 for breaking the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations.

It’s clear that regulators are starting to catch up with anything that looks like direct marketing and the consequences for stepping out of line will become costly.

So, yes compliance with GDPR is an IT issue. But it also one for the boardroom.

For more information contact Mike Riches:


Emissions reporting; It’s a legal requirement of the strategic report, but it doesn’t have to be independently audited.

Since 2013, the UK has required listed companies to publicly disclose their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Considering this has been part of the reporting landscape for the last few years, it’s almost become second nature and one of those things that nobody ever really stops to think about any more.

Many corporates, including several of our clients, automatically assume that third party verification is a necessity, when in fact it’s not legally required.

Within the Government’s official guidance there is a section dedicated to the question of assurance and verification. The official position is that “Assurance and verification of reported sustainability and environmental data is a component of a responsible reporting approach […] There is no statutory requirement to have your environmental information audited. ”  (Environmental Reporting Guidelines: Including mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reporting guidance, June 2013)

The legislation does go on to say that companies do, however, need to collect their data via widely accepted methodologies, and disclose said methodologies in their annual reports.

Now, it might be easy to read the above and think ‘well that’s that, we can save paying yet another agency to do something we don’t have to do’. But look at that word staring back, responsible. In this position, it carries an incredible amount of weight. After all, if a company misrepresents data, of any kind, they put themselves at great reputational risk and break the unspoken bond of trust with their investors and other stakeholders.

Ultimately, any third-party or independent data or verification that an organisation can provide only helps to enhance and reaffirm the quality of the information they are presenting, and it shows a clear commitment from leadership that they take into context a wider world-view when making strategic decisions.

In October 2017, the Government sent out a green paper for consultation on the potential for streamlining energy and carbon reporting. Among other things, an aim of the consultation is to measure the value of the current GHG reporting approach and its role in helping companies actively monitor, transparently report, and potentially reduce their overall energy usage and GHG outputs. The consultation is due to close in January 2018.

So, there it is. Verification is highly recommended by the Government, greatly valued by all stakeholders, and it provides a significant layer of reassurance, both internally and externally, that what a PLC is saying is appropriate and materially significant to the continued, sustainable future of the business.

Independently audited sustainability and environmental data may not be a statutory requirement. But the better the evidence you can provide, the more responsible your reporting approach.

Companies in the construction and engineering sector are already under huge pressure from changes in contracting, technology and compliance. There are small signs of optimism (a boom in August in London, for example), but many commentators believe the sector is on the brink of recession. For these companies, being clear about who they are and where they are heading on their corporate website matters more than ever.


Our benchmark, based on criteria we specifically designed, comprised 10 companies of various sizes across the globe involved in different aspects of the industry.

We focused on three key areas that we identified as being important, in our experience, to meeting stakeholder communication demands, as well as being useful in building a company’s reputation.

Stakeholder engagement

We looked at how well these companies are serving their stakeholder needs, alongside evidence of investment in infrastructure and technology and collaboration with partners and suppliers. Criteria we used to assess effectiveness included evidence of brand story, values and purpose and the future strategy of the business.

Content experience

We looked at the general presentation of content and the experience for all corporate stakeholders. Judging criteria included design, imagery, interactivity, signposting and structure.

Sustainability and governance

We looked for evidence in operational setup, of business impact and how labour relations are managed. Judging criteria included health and safety, green building techniques and reporting.

We used this methodology to compare and contrast corporate websites and describe some of the things that they do well and not so well.

The results

Overall, we judged that construction and engineering companies are telling their story effectively, with 70% using values, ethos, history and their ‘people’ as tools for creating a more immersive experience.

Stories and values are highly visible on these sites, with many claiming that sustainability is core to their operations. There is some evidence of tone of voice delivered in words and imagery in order to enhance messaging and add depth.

Perspectives on the future, and on the impact of innovation and technology are presented on only 60% of sites – and with mixed success. Often, for example, this content is hidden within the Sustainability section, with only a scant mention of BIM technology (Building Information Modelling).

Many of the sites we looked at are dense, with labelling and navigational systems confusing the user-journey and obscuring content. Those with more contemporary designs, still failed to provide the right balance between telling the company story, creating content engagement and delivering a good user experience; with dead ends, error pages or just missing content.

Calls to action and related content help to move users through the site, however, they are not always used to best effect; linking users to content already promoted elsewhere and usually channelling users to more static content.

Whilst sustainability is covered by 80% of the sites, we found content depth and features varied dramatically, and that often governance was covered only loosely.

Health and Safety is the number one priority for the sector, yet we found the content presented on the subject across the sites inadequate. The same goes for Labour relations with some companies only providing a link to their policy.

Overall, we found that only a few companies, mainly the larger ones, provide more curated and useful content for different stakeholders, but they still fall short of utilising digital design and content to effectively bring their site to life and make it easy to navigate.

As the spectre of recession looms, it seems that now is a good time for construction and engineering companies to explore how they can deliver more effective stories and content tailored to key audiences.

For a presentation of the findings – and our recommendations – email Clare Bennett, Digital Strategy Director at or call 020 7610 6140