Ellen West from CAF offers a six point plan to creating meaningful corporate citizenship web pages.
As host of CCInet (www.CCInet.org)), the Charities Aid Foundation has reviewed hundreds of company websites for corporate citizenship content. Check your web pages to see if they contain the following essential ingredients:
1. A clear message designed for a Web audience. Be familiar with the demographics of web users: they are younger, less conservative and have a lower boredom threshold than the audience for more traditional communications media. Identify the key stakeholder groups accessing your company’s website. Target your message and its delivery accordingly.
2. Presenting a complete picture of corporate citizenship. Go beyond simplistic policy statements or lists of grants awarded. Provide information about the wide range of ways your company impacts the community. Tell stakeholders about your environmental, ethical and community involvement policies in a well-designed, integrated part of the website. Don’t bury this information within other parts of your website where it may never be found.
3. Adapted to the medium. Don’t simply post up existing documents on your website. Adapt text specifically for the web and take into account varying levels of ‘web literacy’. There is nothing more discouraging for a user than having to scroll down through endless text whilst paying local call charges for the experience. Use hypertext links to connect related material. Although the technology allows you to add pictures, sound and video, don’t overload the pages with gizmos that slow down users’ access without adding to your message.
4. Using the technology. Get the best out of the new media:
existing documents (annual reports, environmental audits, CCI brochures) should be available in downloadable (pdf – portable document format) files for those who want more information. These save postage and are better for the environment;
make your site interactive by using e-mail response forms for users to request additional information, ask questions or comment on your company’s CCI activities. Use discussion groups to encourage a dialogue with stakeholders;
be generous by linking your website with the sites of your non-profit partners or provide pages for them on your website.
5. Easy to find and stationary. Your corporate citizenship web pages should be easily accessible from your website’s home page, index page or site map. A fixed web address for these pages will allow frequent users to bookmark them for future visits.
6. Monitor, update and improve. Non-profit organisations, activists and the media are providing information about your company on their websites. Your web pages need to be responsive and up-to-date. You should monitor mentions of your company by key groups, many of which are listed in the ‘related sites’ section of CCInet.
In September 1998, CCInet will be launching a ‘hallmark’ to those corporate websites which meet the above criteria for corporate citizenship information. For a look at companies which have created good corporate philanthropy sites, use CCInet to check out American Express, Bell Atlantic (with on-line grant application forms), IBM, Microsoft and Time Warner. Look at British Petroleum, McDonald’s and Nike to see good examples of a broader corporate citizenship perspective. Our vote for best corporate citizenship site, however, would have to go to Royal Dutch Shell for excellent use of technology to present clearly its case and to enter into a dialogue with stakeholders. The company has also pioneered the use of a website, (www.camisea.com), to talk about a controversial development project in Peru.
Ellen West is a member of CAF’s Company Services Team and can be contacted on 0171 400 2309
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 40 – June, 1998