What to expect from corporate communication and corporate websites in 2016
What were the main digital corporate communication trends in 2015?
The same as the year before: mobile-friendly websites, social media development and story-telling. Each of these three trends involves a mix of technology, design, content creation, communication formats and strategies. However:
- “Mobile friendly” has become more an issue of technology than of content. The point is that anything you read when sitting at your desk in front of your laptop has become easier to read when displayed through smaller screen (responsive design). Companies are not providing their audience with specific content more likely to be read while standing on the underground.
- Stories are often a world apart. In corporate websites, the separation between institutional information and emotional content happens in two ways: either by creating two separate menu bars or by creating a specific container (“Stories”). Very few companies make storytelling THE way of telling their story by fully integrating it across all platforms (Maersk is one example).
- Social media flows are more integrated than ever before into corporate website homepages or media sections. This is a first step to presenting a more uniform digital identity to all stakeholders - but a shared editorial plan and content guidelines are a different story. The headache for digital and communication officers remains the governance of all people involved in the content management process and channel coordination (content owners, content producers and content publishers).
So my first digital content resolution for 2016 is: Develop an integrated multi-channel content plan
Is the classic corporate website (about us, our business, investors, media and innovation) dead?
No. Companies still feel more at ease with a representation of their organisation that reflects its functional areas and departments (marketing and products, investor relations, media and communication, research and development, human resources and so on) rather than with a dynamic explanation of how the decision making process works, how strategic plans are implemented or how the company positions itself in the competitive arena.
My second digital content resolution for 2016 is: More integrated thinking - get inspired by the integrated reporting frameworks not only for annual reports but also for the content structure on your corporate website
How strong are the connections between values, principles and mission statements on one side, and delivery of products, customer relationships and business practices on the other? In other words, is there a gap between what companies say on their website and reality?
We don’t really know, but we are tempted to answer “yes”. What we know for sure is that 2015 was another generous year in corporate scandals showing deliberate wrongdoings and unethical corporate behaviours both by big international brands (Volkswagen, FIFA, Toshiba, Nestlé) and by smaller local operations.
Companies are still reluctant to use their corporate websites for voicing reputational crisis. This goes together with lack of coordination in managing the corporate website and social media accounts when facing unexpected dramas.
My third digital content resolution for 2016 is: Make sure principles become facts by producing engaging content (i.e. more examples, more stories, more case studies) and prepare a digital content plan for bad times (thinking that your website is your exclusive digital journal)
A sustainable future and a better life: this promise appears on many corporate websites. At the same time, 2015 brought us the human tragedy of migrants and refugees, shocking terrorist attacks and increased worries about climate change. How close are companies to social transformations, individual fears and environmental impacts?
In general, current events and social issues are better dealt with on social media channels, online corporate magazines or thematic websites while corporate websites tend to stick to “business-as-usual” news and obligatory disclosures for investors.
For international groups with operations and subsidiaries in many countries, these worrying factors should push towards a shift in communication focus and move social and environmental topics beyond their CSR section limits.
As an individual who is at once citizen, consumer and shareholder, I would like to know more on how migratory movements, international political instability or the failure to meet emission reduction targets impacts on the performance of the company I work for or I have invested in. So I would expect topics such as type of worker involved in the production cycle, technologies and raw materials used, logistics management or supplier labour practices to surface instead of remaining hidden in CSR reports. What are the risks, the threats or even the opportunities that these events of historical significance are bringing?
My fourth digital content resolution for 2016 is: Connect the editorial plan with external social evolution and reposition non-financial information in a more central role