IF you read the major news services yesterday, you might have seen the big news from BP plc (NYSE:BP), the troubled oil giant that has suffered a slew of negative news over the past year or so.
I was trawling Bloomberg and spotted an article headlined BP’s Hayward Will Cut Jobs After `Dreadful’ Quarter. The word “Dreadful” drew my attention because it’s unusual for a CEO to be so blunt.
My interest was piqued even more by the second paragraph in Bloomberg’s story:
“BP’s performance has materially lagged our peer group in the last three years,” [BP's new CEO Tony] Hayward said today in a statement. “It has been poor because we are not consistent and our organisation has grown too complex.”
Wow! That’s some impressive straight talking from a CEO. But knowing that journalists like to cherry-pick the juiciest quotes for their stories, I thought it best to read the company’s complete statement for myself.
So I did what about 90% of web users do when they want the full statement from the company: I went to BP’s website. The homepage loaded and since I’m an investor, I immediately clicked on the “Investors” tab at the top of the screen.
On the IR homepage I looked for anything about a statement being released earlier in the day. I couldn’t find anything remotely relevant.
A few clicks later, I did find the news release — but in the “Press” section. But now instead of wanting to read the statement, I was starting to wonder if I should bother.
Was this really news relevant to me as an investor, or was it just a PR pitch, or one of those sermons that new CEOs do to signal their agendas to employees?
Apparently, the IR department doesn’t think investors need to know about it. If it is important, then it would surely be on the Investors homepage.
So as an investor I’m confused. And I’m sure that’s not what BP was hoping for on the day the company unveiled its “turnaround plan,” as Reuters calls it. If that’s indeed what it is.
Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m calling out BP for any special reason. They just happen to provide the most recent example. The same kind of thing happens at about 35% of the companies in our global IR website survey. And BP has done some terrific things on the Web that I really like.
But the lesson here is simple and significant. If you’re going to offer a section on your website labeled “Investors,” then it should contain everything relevant to investors.
How do you make sure that it does? First you design the site around the needs of investors, then you make sure you have someone on the team to manage the site as an advocate for the site’s users.
Until this happens, IR departments will continue to look as if they don’t talk to other people inside the company and investors will continue to get mixed signals.