MOST corporate websites today are managed by different departments with different audiences and sometimes even completely different technical platforms.
A big problem with this approach is that internal departments often don’t talk to each other. The problem is even worse when, as with many IR sites, outside vendors don’t talk to the company’s internal technical people.
We see this playing out in public all the time when we visit companies’ websites. We find sites with really good Media sections, but poor Investor Relations sections, or great IR sections that are undermined by bad Corporate Governance sections.
These sites are run by different people in different departments that obviously don’t talk to each other. It sticks out like a sore thumb and probably leads many users to perceive the company as being poorly managed. If you can’t manage a website, how can you be trusted to manage a complex business?
Corporate Web departments needed
There are a number of ways to address this shortcoming, ranging from more frequent cross-departmental contact to regular site reviews by an independent firm such as ours.
However, one approach I think companies need to seriously consider is to set up an inter-disciplinary corporate Web communications department that has responsibility for all web-based corporate communications.
The corporate Web communication department should be staffed by a mix of content experts and web designers and developers. These people need to have a general interest in technology and communication while being specialists in their own right.
The team’s content experts or editors should come from all the corporate departments that use the Web in their communications, including investor relations, media relations, internal communications, human resources, sustainability and the corporate counsel/secretary.
I’m excluding marketing and sales people who work on commercial or e-commerce sites from this team because they need their own team in most cases.
Any and all activities on the company’s corporate website properties should be the sole responsibility of this team. At many companies, the team’s main client is likely to be the investor relations department, followed by the HR and PR departments.
Put content and web specialists on same team
I know of a few companies that have adopted this approach to some extent. They have exceptional websites.
Often, however, the missing ingredient is content expertise. The Web team typically includes people with Web development expertise, but not IR, PR or HR communications expertise.
This isn’t ideal because it leads to a break down in communication and a lack of innovation and creativity. The Web developers are hamstrung by a lack of confidence in the content they are working with, while the content experts are uncomfortable with technology.
By putting them together in the same room and forcing them to play nice, I expect wonderful things would follow.
Web communications is so important today that it cries out for this type of approach. Funding it will be made easier as expensive paper-based communications like annual reports are no longer required.
Is this an idea whose time has come?