We held our first Web Effectiveness Conference in London last week. Lots of interesting people and contributions. Too much to describe in detail, but here are some of the things that made me sit up:
- Shell’s head of web, Simon Saville, went through the process that has led to the creation of a new corporate site. It’s quite startling because it throws many navigation conventions out of the window. One of our mantras is that when it comes to navigation, stick to convention – you’ll only confuse people if you don’t. But Simon’s line is that the navigation is necessary to make the site get the proper messages across. I need to look at it more carefully, but I’m certainly intrigued.
- Médard Schoenmaeckers, head of media relations at Syngenta, told us what journalists really want online in the previous post’s video. At the conference he recounted a hair-raising tale showing how a story can swirl out of control in no time at all.
Syngenta always has its share of controversy, being involved in genetically modified crops, but it ran into real trouble when a farm it owned in Brazil was occupied by protesters. The security guards, who worked for another company, came back and in the ensuing fight two people were killed. The story spread around the blogosphere and by the evening headlines were pretty much accusing the group of murder.
The first result if you type ‘Syngenta Brazil’ into Google is still the uncomfortable ‘Syngenta shoot-out in Brazil leaves two dead’. Another first page result is headed ’Syngenta’s crimes in Brazil continue unpunished’. Syngenta does have a statement on its site saying that the security firm had a ‘strict contractual obligation not to bear or use arms’, but that is not what is making headlines on Google.
What’s the answer? To use the corporate site, but to use it very fast indeed – mainstream journalists will head there for instant reaction, and if there isn’t any (maybe it’s a Sunday), they will draw their own conclusions. Incidentally Syngenta doesn’t have a search engine on its site – that will drive those journalists to use Google, with the results I’ve already described.
- Florian Hiessl of Siemens explained how the group has devised a method for putting a financial value on its corporate website. As economies slow down, demonstrating an ROI will surely become increasingly important. It’s something we’re examining very closely.
- There was an interesting discussion about the importance of editorial on the site. The most important words on the site are probably those in the links – because they help you find what you want. But if you think of a corporate site as a giant magazine (the home page is the front cover), those links become the headlines – but the quality of the pieces are also critical. I’ve written a piece in our latest newsletter about Berkshire Hathaway. This must be the least pretty big company site in existence yet the words – written by the famously brainy and even more famously wealthy Warren Buffett – are beautifully polished and often very funny. I think Mr Buffett should seriously consider spending an extra few dollars in making the site a better visual advertisement for his group – but as a demonstration of the power of good writing, it is hard to beat.
- Web governance is what got the delegates talking, and talking, and talking. That’s not going to change.
Posted on June 16, 2008 17:56 by David | 2 comments
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