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Corporate Websites: Dead or Alive?

Posted by Sheila Shayon on December 9, 2013 04:03 PM

“The corporate website is dead and 'press release PR' is on its way out,” proclaimed Coca-Cola last month, as they unleashed their story-driven new website, Coca-Cola Unbottled, that mirrors “a modern election campaign…Every day you have a choice of what to read and what to drink. Every day is election day, and our team will be here - working hard to get your vote.”

As content once again surfaces as king in the battle for audience and ad dollars in the digital cornucopia of Facebook, Google+, Twitter or Flipboard, brands are jockeying for position and advantage with increased social across the Internet landscape – and corporate websites are the new calling card.

Story + search + syndication is the latest Holy Grail as brands strive to deliver currency, entertainment and connection and the best websites are evolving to ersatz publishing models more akin to The New York Times, USA Today or the Huffington Post than traditional push, PR engines.

Coca-Cola is “clearly displaying how the art of storytelling not only can influence our preference for a brand or product, but surely their intent is to also reach a search engine position of respect and power,” writes GeekWire

Coca-Cola says “content is social at the core, digital by design, and emotional.” The real-time marketing conversation changes the thrust from PR to attention gained with content that actually resonates.

GM set a milestone back in 2005 when Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman, made it the first non-tech Fortune 100 company to blog by launching FastLane. “FastLane represented a new way of directly engaging with consumers about our products and services.” The site "helped open a dialogue between the company, our customers and car enthusiasts,” Lutz wrote.

FastLane quickly became the first poster child for executive blogs. “What's especially impressive is here is one of the most senior and influential corporate leaders in any industry who clearly sees that his investment of time and energy into regularly and consistently writing in a public blog and engaging in dialog with visitors has huge potential benefits in building relationships with a wide range of very interested (and often vocal and critical) people,” Neville Hobson enthused

GM recently enhanced FastLane with Our Voices, a sort of op-ed podium for senior management to sound-off and engage. 

Forbes’ list of “The World's Best Corporate Websites” cited Bowen Craggs & Co.’s annual index of corporate web effectiveness putting BP at the top of the list – in part for its dramatic recovery from the May 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill – by making its site a repository for news about the spill and clean-up efforts. “At one point BP.com became one of the most visited sites in the world on Gulf spill news, competing with CNN.”

Tied with BP for top rating, Italian oil and gas company Eni “is aware that the image of Italian companies is often of people who cut corners, and it wants to make absolutely sure it doesn’t come across that way,” according to Forbes.

Giant German enterprise software company, SAP also ranks No.1 for standing out amidst tech sites “so packed with information, they tend to be poorly managed and disorganized,” and for giving users a “breadcrumb trail” to simplify navigation.

Fourth on the list, Forbes found Siemens “worth mentioning because it is the only company of the 84 that has decided to tell stories about itself by hiring professional filmmakers, who produce elegant four-minute films where Siemens equipment plays only a small role, noted almost as an afterthought.” 

It’s a win-win for all concerned as companies increasingly turn their websites into working extensions of their brands and corporate ethos, taking their place in a disruptive social media marketing conversation being held every day online. 

“If Coca-Cola is an example of corporate Web sites being dead, then long live the new corporate Web site,” proclaimed GeekWire.

Comments

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Coca Cola lives up to its promise with a website rich in content and relevance to its customers and various stakeholders.  However, let's not write an obituary for corporate websites.  Corporate content provides valuable information to important stakeholders and Coca Cola's corporate content is both rich and relevant.  Ironically, some of the worst websites are those of major ad agencies.  Eager to demonstrate creativity, agency website designers often sacrifice corporate information that is important to customers and stakeholders.  A company looking to hire an agency would find a frustrating minimum of content amidst beautiful design and a lot of creative chest thumping.

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