It may surprise some working in the industry, but pharmaceutical companies, in particular those in Europe, rank among the world’s best online corporate communicators, writes David Bowen.
Big Pharma has emerged as among the top online performers in the latest Financial Times–Bowen Craggs Index of web effectiveness, which examines the ‘web estates’ of 81 of the world’s largest companies.
The Index provides a profile of corporate web performance against a range of criteria, such as quality of website construction, level of integration of social media channels, how well corporate messages are presented, investor relations content, accessibility and content for journalists, and quality of content aimed at customers.
It revealed that six of the top twenty companies are from the pharma industry, which places it not only ahead of sectors such as financial services or retail, but also technology. Beating companies such as Google, Apple, HSBC, Samsung Electronics and Coca-Cola, pharma now appears to be setting the benchmark for global conglomerates’ digital strategies.
Roche rated as having the most effective web estate of all the pharma companies, coming fifth overall in the Index. The company was praised for the style of its websites and their attention to detail, and was found to be particularly good at conveying the company’s messages online, clearly and concisely laying out its ethos, aims and strategies.
Novartis came second to Roche and eighth in the Index overall. Novartis.com was hailed as an effective hub for the global estate, with good signposts to other sites and contact information.
BASF was ranked third, and ninth overall. The company has created a new social media subsection to replace its old rather and confusing one. By replacing the microsite with a simple dashboard and directory of its social media activity, it has eliminated duplication and mitigated the risk of confusion among media professionals and other visitors to its News & Media Relations section. In doing so it has issued a reminder to others that simplicity and clarity trump complex ‘bells and whistles’ when it comes to integrating the corporate website and social media content.
AstraZeneca’s top twenty website has grittier, more realistic images of people on their homepage, creating an authentic feel, which is so far rare in pharma. Sanofi, also in the top twenty, was rated highly for excelling in its website construction, and also in serving investors.
But Pfizer still has more to do. The Pfizer site has a separate careers section, which means that the tight centrally controlled system of managing digital content has broken down. Previously, people looking for jobs could move seamlessly from the recruitment section to the rest of the corporate site, but now it is much harder to find additional information. It’s a sign that the HR department has acted unilaterally to achieve its goals, and displays a lack of unified decision making within the company.
Nevertheless, the pharmaceutical industry should be commended for its attitude and approach to digital communications and website composition and content. But there is always room for improvement. Web estates help companies to better their reputations. In a world where reputation is everything, effective online corporate communications is no luxury — it has become vital to success.
David Bowen is Senior Consultant at Bowen Craggs & Co, a global web effectiveness consultancy.
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