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 email@example.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7610 6140
In May 2015 the Financial Reporting Council issued a Lab report which outlines investors’ views on digital communication. Although it concludes that investors prefer a PDF for an online annual report, they do believe that the medium of digital should be better used for wider investor communications, maximising the output through other channels including; video, social media and delivering the annual results presentations.
The recently published 2017 Lab report builds on the 2015 findings and seeks to identify the mediums and technologies that can make the most of the digital opportunity for investors.
“Technology has the power to significantly change the way that companies communicate with investors and other stakeholders, improving both the usability and timeliness of what is reported and providing new opportunities to engage.”
But in a corporate sense, technology is not reaching its full potential.
The FRC believe the future of digital reporting will be successful providing it is able to satisfy the following criteria. It must be free and easy to understand, timely and accessible, credible, usable, contextual and engaging, compatible, cost-efficient, prompt and compliant.
Wrong. There is a balance to be struck between providing investors with the material that they want in a format that they want to receive it, whilst regularly communicating to the wider business world through immediate channels.
The annual report is no longer just for investors, and as such digital reporting should reflect this, it should consider how digital technologies can be optimised for all stakeholder audiences that are interested in the annual report (and other) content.
In our opinion the success of a digital annual report (in any format) depends on how well the business story is executed and optimised for digital. As video content is the most effective digital communication medium and easily consumed across multiple channels, this should be the primary tool used. Consideration toward developing other interactive content, should be lead by the complexity of the information being relayed, as well as how else this information might be used. Business models, operations maps, distribution chains or strategic roadmaps are obvious candidates for interactive content, as they will not only be used on the website, but also distributed across other channels and investor presentations.
Here are some examples:
“Content” is everywhere. It’s ads and long form copy, images and videos, stories and metadata. But what’s the point of it all? That depends on the content strategy. Content strategy plans for valuable, findable, meaningful content.
For many people, content seems to begin and end with publishing. But for a content strategist, content begins with defining requirements, and identifying user needs. Before writing a word, content strategists outline the brand’s message, and the organization’s goals. If the project is a site redesign, they might audit and review the pages currently on the site. If the project includes a new site backend, they might research and develop a migration plan for a content management system. The ultimate goal? To have flexible, searchable content that appears to the right people, in the right places, at the right time.
Content strategy basics
Content strategy focuses on the planning, creation, delivery, and governance of content. Content not only includes the words on the page but also the images and multimedia that are used. Ensuring that you have useful and usable content, that is well structured, and easily found is vital to improving the user experience of a website.
Creating a comprehensive strategy and governance
The goal of content strategy is to create meaningful, cohesive, engaging, and sustainable content. Throughout her book, Content Strategy for the Web, Kristina Halvorson discusses in detail the benefits of and how to create your content strategy. It reiterates that your strategy helps you to identify what already exists, what should be created and, more importantly, why it should be created.
There are broadly four components that come together to help you create a successful strategy and governance which breakdown into content and people oriented components:
(1) Identify goals and substance
Focuses on what content is required to successfully execute your core strategy. It includes characteristics such as messaging architecture, intended audience(s) and voice and tone.
(2) Determine structure
Focuses on how content is prioritized, organized and accessed. Focuses on the content itself, including mapping messages to content and creating detailed page tables.
(3) Roles and Workflow
Focuses on how people manage and maintain content on a daily basis, including the roles, tasks and tools required throughout the content lifecycle.
(4) Policies and standards
Focuses on the policies, standards and guidelines that apply to content and its’ lifecycle, as well as how an organization will sustain and evolve its content strategy.
Producing compelling and sustainable content means that you need to understand and follow the content lifecycle which usually includes the following:
Several of the deliverables related to each of those phases overlap with the deliverables of other fields, including brand development, information architecture, user research, project management and web analytics. Instead of thinking of who owns each deliverable, it’s important to think of who contributes to each and how those different contributions come together to define the final product. There’s value in including multiple perspectives on deliverables.
Best practices for creating meaningful content
We have identified these best practices to help you create meaningful and relevant content. Each piece of content should:
In general, understanding content strategy practices – and, where possible, adopting them – will help you in one or both of these ways:
Getting your content to the right person at the right time and having teams that work efficiently don’t need to be “someday” ideas. If you educate yourself on the topics discussed here – and partner with one or more content strategists – you can work toward those goals today, transforming not only your audience’s experience of your content but your team’s experience as well.
If you are interested in finding out more about content strategy and how Gather can help your organisation, please contact Mitchell Kirkham-Cooper at email@example.com
The hardest part of a successful digital transformation is the cultural piece. Like the proverbial journey of a thousand miles, it begins with small steps.
One of the elements that is misunderstood about a digital transformation is that it’s typically a Trojan horse for a much broader business transformation, a time to review many aspects of a business’s operations from top to bottom—the talent, the organisational structure, the operating model, products, services, etcetera. Some of those are hard changes that need to be made, and some are softer, like language or culture.
Culture is the hardest part of the organisation to change. Shifting technology, finding the right talent, finding the right product set and strategy—that’s all doable, not easy, but doable. Hardest is the cultural transformation in businesses that have very deep legacy and cultural roots.
The power of words
The language that’s used internally in the organisation—around products, around the customer, around opportunity—and how you translate that externally to your customers or clients can have a very powerful impact on how you conduct your business and the outcomes you can deliver.
For example, at a financial-services company, the kind of language that’s used internally to talk about the customer experience is often peppered with three-letter acronyms that are just “management speak.” There’s an opportunity to completely change the game and to think differently by focusing the language around what you’re actually delivering for your customers and then rethinking the way the business operates along those lines. It can be a very powerful shift in culture and in the way people think about what they do.
Three steps for getting digital transformation back on track
Any change process starts with an awareness that there’s an issue in the organisation. There are many ways to address those issues, but the “softer” things that signal change, such as altering the language used, are important. Some organisations even change dress codes and the office environment, break down silos between organisations, and make certain senior managers more visible. Leadership starts to be seen more around the office and to be more open to more junior levels of the organisation than they may have typically been in the past. There’s a more informal, if you like, style of management.
Then you start to move into the ways the company judges itself—the key performance indicators (KPIs) and the measures you use, for individuals and for teams and for the wider organisation—to try to drive real change. How high up do those new KPIs need to be on a dashboard that otherwise may have been rather traditional and may not have changed much for a decade or more?
And thirdly, it’s the actions you take, whether it’s putting a designer on your executive team, like at Apple, or even making a designer your CEO, as Burberry has recently done.
So there are a number of quite significant changes you can make to send a signal through the organisation. It’s not just about a chief digital officer or a chief data officer or a chief analytics officer. Actually, this digital thing becomes everybody’s job, everyone’s responsibility. You need to inculcate that change across the organisation, and you need to take many small and large steps to do that.
Building a culture of constant change
Businesses need to be in a state of constant revolution. You don’t make a change and then just sit back and wait for the next five years of business as usual. You need to build a new momentum and rhythm in your business that reflects the new reality of the industry in which you are operating.
Many companies already have a strategy of continuous improvement in their businesses and in their operations globally. You need to instill a culture of continuous change and evolution in how things work.
Some changes are gradual and evolve toward an end goal, which becomes clear over time, and you need to make a number of small steps to do that. Sometimes you do this through external actions, such as acquisitions, investments, partnerships, or other external activity or statements. Or sometimes you do this through internal activity, such as the people you promote or the way you talk about the company and its customers and mission. Some people will be taken a little outside their comfort zone, but that’s OK, so long as you give them the permission to take small risks and fail quickly if they can.
The board’s role in the digital age
The role of the board in a digital business is quite different from the role of the board in a legacy business. One of the challenges many legacy companies face today is that their boards are not really ready to challenge them and to support and encourage their digital transformation.
If you think of the average age of most board members around the world—and, frankly, of their backgrounds as well—they are not digitally ready. A recent Russell Reynolds survey suggested, that only 4 percent of global 500 companies truly have a board that’s digitally ready, even fewer in Asia–Pacific, and under 25 percent in the United States. So there’s still a long, long way to go.
To make a digital transformation happen, you need complete alignment—from the board through the executive team through the whole organisation. Without that “air cover” from the board and from shareholders who understand the change that you’re taking the organisation through, it is very, very hard to do it successfully.
For example, many board meetings are backward looking in their approach. The data they’re looking at is often a little old. They’re not looking at live data. Many board members are often not active customers of the company’s products or services. There’s a new generation of board director emerging that is much more hands-on, with a more entrepreneurial background. You mix that with some of the more traditional board profiles and you get greater diversity on the board.
If you would like to find out more about how we can help you on your journey to digital transformation, please contact Mitchell Kirkham-Cooper firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in May 2016, I wrote an article putting the spotlight on the FTSE companies that had not yet launched mobile friendly websites. You can follow the link for the full article but I will give you the headline:
In May 2016, 84 constituents of the FTSE 250 did not have mobile friendly websites. That is 34%.
This is a very high number considering mobile friendly website design is by no means a new phenomenon. In fact, the majority of digital media consumption now happens on mobile rather than desktop and has been this way since the ‘digital tipping point’ in 2014.
Over half a year on from my initial blog post I have reviewed the 84 non-responsive companies again and found the following:
of the 84 now have mobile friendly websites
(25.2%) of the FTSE 250 still have non-mobile friendly websites
Predictably, the FTSE 100 has a lower percentage of non-responsive websites with just 17 failing to adjust for smaller screen sizes.
When combined together the overall number of FTSE 350 companies without a mobile friendly website is 80. That is 22.9%.
Although slightly better than it was six months ago, the corporate world is still generations behind the rest of the internet.
Unresponsive seems a suitable term to describe how reactive some organisations have been to the change in user preferences when, in truth, a website built with purely desktop experience in mind is not fit for purpose in 2017.
Interested in finding out how we can help you? Please contact our Business Development Manager, Mitchell Kirkham-Cooper email@example.com
The way some digital agencies talk, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only focus for a digital project should be the end-user.
But as a digital project manager, I see it as my job to make sure the websites that Gather produces meet the objectives of our clients as well as the requirements of their end-users.
Too often, the emphasis put on the end-user is to the detriment of clients’ needs. This leads to a very rigid website, with little room for flexibility or future development.
Back when the internet was an unknown quantity, content management systems were more prescriptive and clients were generally happy to leave all website updates to their tech team or agency.
Now, everyone is more digitally literate and the power over website management has shifted from tech teams towards the client side. Agencies should not fight this but facilitate the transition as it will allow them to be involved at a more strategic level.
In order for this shift to be a success, the website needs to be built in a way that allows future development and a part of that is giving the client team proper training on how to use it and make the most out of its capabilities. (The old adage about giving a man a fishing rod rather than a fish seems to ring true.)
This shift should also signal the demise of in-house content management systems as clients expect more flexibility. Flexibility that can only be provided successfully by well established tech giants like Adobe or open source development communities like like Drupal or Umbraco.
Of course, not every client has the time or resource to employ such a hands-on approach and this is where consultancies like Gather can draw-up bespoke ongoing maintenance and support packages.
If you think you could benefit from a more flexible content management system or support package then please contact our Business Development Manager, Mitchell Kirkham-Cooper on firstname.lastname@example.org
The first in our ‘Breaking down the barriers to digital’ series.
The term digital strategy is commonly confused with a mish-mash of social media tactics or technology infrastructure. Digital Strategy is developed for the business as a whole – not just for marketing and not just for IT. We prefer to call it digital business strategy – because it is the business strategy that’s important and we view the business challenges through a digital lens. Digital business strategy is also the starting point for Digital Business Transformation.
Digital business strategy is a process of diagnosing and eliminating near term challenges using technology, in order to progress a business towards its stated vision.
What is a business without a digital business strategy?
It’s like a road trip without a map or GPS. You drive for days on end. Your petrol and lodging bills are piling up. Cheap accommodation, bad coffee and lack of sleep are getting to you. All this just to find out that you have been driving in the completely wrong direction and now have to backtrack, costing you double the time and money.
Most likely, your digital and business objectives are out of alignment – you need a digital strategy. This most likely happens because of one or some of the following:
This produces a poor return on investment and results in serious waste and inefficiency. As the first step, you need a business plan, and it must be on paper. You can call it a plan, a strategy, a business charter, or anything you like. It doesn’t have to be a fifty-page document. Most business models can fit on one or two pages. This document should cover such sections as mission, vision, objectives, core values, value proposition, and short- and long-term goals. It can be in bullet form. You should also do a detailed SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). The process of putting this on paper may bring unexpected clarity and help you stay focused. You should be prepared to share this document with the world because trust and transparency are key motivation drivers in our digital age.
Developing your digital strategy?
Once you have this information, we can help you work through your problems and develop a digital strategy. For all of our projects, we do the following:
Very often, the most obvious problems and solutions can be more easily spotted by an outsider, even without expensive research. We can scale the work to fit your needs and budget, but we won’t cut corners. We firmly believe that it’s impossible to build an effective website without getting to know your business and the playing field.
In conclusion, when you have a moment, answer these questions:
Did you take the time to understand your business and competitive environment, and does your website reflect that?
Have you done a 360 SEO analysis to understand your digital competition?
Does your digital presence have a solid relationship with your business objectives? Or, have you ever established succinct, measurable business objectives?
Interested in finding out how we can help you?
Please contact our Business Development Manager, Mitchell Kirkham-Cooper on email@example.com
“Good corporate governance is about having the right checks and balances within big business to strengthen decision-making and accountability”
The Prime Minister has made it very clear this week that she will continue to pursue the proposed corporate governance reforms in a bid to moderate executive pay and introduce a governance framework for private companies. The UK has always been praised for its strong and rigid governance procedures, it seems therefore only appropriate to maintain these standards and continue ensuring that business is not only succeeding in the economy but is also following appropriate practice.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have published a consultation paper outlining a number of options relating to the proposed reforms. The paper addresses three areas:
It sets out a number of other options in relation to the role of the remuneration committee, transparency on executive pay and long-term incentive plans, and has requested feedback by 17 February 2017.
Shareholder voting is currently advisory, but remains an area of significant public concern as executive pay becomes even more disconnected from the average employee and long-term company performance. The BEIS Green Paper suggests a number of options to address the problem, including subjecting elements of remuneration to a binding vote, introducing stronger consequences for companies whose remuneration report is rejected, encouraging a limit on total annual pay, holding a regular binding vote and strengthening governance to better engage shareholders.
Many businesses are faced with the challenge of overcoming the disconnect between employees and the board, and need to establish a stronger stakeholder voice. Potential reforms include the introduction of a stakeholder advisory board, designating non-executive directors to ensure the employee voice is heard, appointing a stakeholder representative to the board and strengthening stakeholder reporting requirements.
As we seen before, in a bid to prevent any future scandals of a BHS or Sports Direct magnitude, the Government has chosen to regulate again. Now the Prime Minister’s is suggesting that large private companies should be required to meet a minimum corporate governance standard. The standards for public companies are in place as a measure of reassurance to shareholders that companies are being operated in an appropriate way. Despite the differences in the shareholder-management relationship, there is a public expectation that companies will be run in a responsible way, but it seems that left to their own accords, this isn’t always the case and other stakeholders tend to be the most affected. Ultimately, this reform would see the introduction of enhanced standards to ensure that private companies are applying the principles of the UK Corporate Governance Code (the Code).
Following the publication of this report, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) have revealed that they will also consult to update the Code in 2017, despite their earlier announcement this year that further updates to the Code are on hold until 2019.
Now, more than ever companies should be considering how they are communicating their corporate governance practices, establishing how they can go beyond compliance and demonstrate that they are taking it seriously.
‘Transparency sends out a strong signal about what is important to you as a business. It makes us all accountable…’
Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO, Virgin Money
The communication of governance and how boards are engaging and understanding the business is critical, ensuring that all the right checks and balances are in place does not just promote good governance, but also strong and sustainable performance.
It is important to note that governance is not just a hygiene factor and regardless of the steady stream of scandals, boards need to remember the responsibility for a company’s success starts and ends with them. A company’s reputation is hinged on transparent behaviour and communications. Boards should ensure that their disclosures are transparent in a meaningful way, not just for the sake of it and not just to shareholders.
To learn more about our approach to corporate governance and ensuring clarity and transparency in your disclosures, download the latest papers in our governance series. The series seeks to help companies respond to the evolving requirements and navigate the complexities of best practice and regulation.