The corporate website story

Once upon a time... in the Compliance Era, there were listed companies creating compliant websites. At that time, websites were pale, dull, static and suffering from a widespread disease called “Compliance Syndrome".

Once upon a time...

in the Compliance Era, there were listed companies creating compliant websites.
At that time, websites were pale, dull, static and suffering from a widespread disease called “Compliance Syndrome”. 

Market regulators were forcing companies to publish price-sensitive information and companies were strictly following these rules.
Transparency was an obligation and not a spontaneous act.
Information was compelled to stay inside the pdf and never allowed out for a breath of fresh air.
Investor Relations was a new section added at the very last minute to already existing company websites.

It was a new section, this is true, but it was the last to come, so it had to obey the product and business websites who were the kings of the online communication realm.

One day there was a big storm, and a series of disasters that would change the behavior of listed companies and their stakeholders forever.
In the year 2.000.000  the burst of the bubble caught everybody by surprise. What was called the “new economy” revealed itself to be only a fantasy, a sandcastle. Stock markets collapsed.
The following year Enron, one of the top energy companies at that time, and Arthur Andersen, one of the top five public accounting firms, were caught in a corporate fraud scandal that led to the bankruptcy of Enron and dissolution of Arthur Andersen.
That same year there was another tremendous shake: the huge 9/11 terrorist attack, and two years later the War on Terror was launched in the oriental part of the planet.
Financial and politic earthquakes, hurricanes and freak waves went on for centuries, up to the year 2.800.000 when a company called Lehman Brothers, who had been investing heavily in mortgage debt, was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The collapse triggered a global financial market meltdown.

People began to realize that there was a big gap between what listed companies, through its billionaire managers, were saying and what they were actually doing. 

Investors were shocked, millions of money savers started running away from stock markets, searching for new territories in which to establish their financial village.  However, through this dark and fearful forest, investors were able to glimpse weak beams of light. 

It was the dawn of the INFORMATIVE ERA.

In this era numbers, tables and information began coming out of pdfs and wearing new html clothes.
Innovative applications called interactive tools, yet to be seen on this side of the galaxy, were displaying data such as share and economic performance allowing investors to analyze and compare, something they had never done before… 
Pictures of managers, no longer in hiding, were published on company websites. They had decided to face the camera and yes! They were human beings, just like us, although people had always envisaged them as alien commanders giving orders from interplanetary castles. 
Strange informative monsters such as Strategies, Remuneration policies, Debt and Investments appeared from faraway lands on the surface of corporate websites. One of them was particularly new and scary. Its name was CSR, and it is still terrorizing the IR and Top Management population now. 

Companies were now awarded for building complete, transparent and interactive websites. Corporate websites awards, annual report awards, international rankings, digital awards… Listed companies were fighting fiercely to reach the top. 
Still, there was something unclear and somewhat misleading to it all.
After a few centuries, corporate websites were looking all the same: top banner, content in the middle and footer… and, no matter what sectors companies belonged to, identical menus were displayed: About us, Activities, Investor Relations, Media, Careers.
Investors were rather confused as all listed companies were saying exactly the same things: that their mission was to create value for their shareholders, that they were leaders in their market segment, that they reached their targets, that they were respecting the environment.

What was really missing in the Informative Era? 
What was it that made corporate websites act like a bunch of monkeys?

Companies were publishing but not creating content, information was there but the heart and the life of people working in the company and with the company were elsewhere, like distant stars not bright enough to illuminate the corporate websites. 
In brief, corporate websites were compliant, complete, transparent, informative, and interactive, but at the same time were like entities lacking a memory, with a story neither behind nor in front of them.

It was when companies realized all this that we entered the STORY-TELLING ERA in the middle of which we now find ourselves.

Like ancient minstrels, listed companies are now singing their story, their equity story, the stories of their projects and achievements, the stories of employees and clients. 
Videos, case studies, “news and views” pages, global environment issues sections, social media hubs are now springing from corporate websites, spreading their human perfume across the boundless prairies of the web.
After centuries of one-way communication, new digital connecting devices are helping (maybe pushing?) companies to engage in a dialogue with their audience. Listed companies now have an amazing array of tools and channels at their disposal which they can use to make the brand experience a live experience.

Creative visual design, photography techniques, info-graphics, web illustrations are rescuing corporate websites from the monotony, dullness and formality of the Compliance Era.
Drawing, illustrating, narrating, debating, connecting.…. Isn’t this where history and civilization began? 
Story-telling is taking investors back to the very essence of corporate communication, to a land where strategies, governance, organization, market environment, economic and social performance are all connected and part of the same tale.

Multimedia formats, video stories, online reportages, web articles…..wait a minute….aren’t these the weapons and tools in the hands of TV networks, online magazines, internet newspapers, e-book writers?
Are listed companies changing their skins yet again and following the same path as media companies?

Where will the Story-telling Era take us next?  

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