FRIDAY 23 FEB 2018 11:52 AM


Conducted by global digital communications consultancy Comprend, the annual Webranking Report is based on evaluating stakeholder demand and pinpointing how companies can improve communications strategies and output.

This year’s Webranking Report focus is on transformation of the business-stakeholder relationship, importance of accountability and environmental, social and corporate governance communications, and being visible in the digital age. Yet generally stakeholder expectation has risen, while overall corporate transparency is down.

By evaluating 500 companies in 2018, including 128 UK-based, the Webranking Report by Comprend highlights how seismic global change is having a very real impact on customer expectations of the corporate world. With the average score of the UK companies at 42.8 points out of a possible 100, compared to the European average of 45.7, the Webranking Report provides clear insight into how expectations surrounding global digital communication continues to a change at pace.

“For more than 20 years, we have been monitoring the corporate and financial communications of leading European companies on their digital channels,” says Helena Wennergren, client director at Comprend. “By measuring the gap between stakeholder expectations from investors, business journalists, and job seekers to the actual supply – corporate content that meets those needs – our research showcases the state of the art of digital communication at a European level.”

For Wennergren, findings from the 2017/2018 Webranking Report highlight how increasing scrutiny over organisations including charities and government is providing the impetus for businesses to fill the trust deficit. Companies must score at least 50 to have passed transparency requirements; a score of 30 or below is deemed a stress test fail. However, this year’s Webranking Report provides the highest score increase since 2012. Compared to last year, says the report, the average score has improved by three points to 45.7 which is 9.1 points more than 2012.

“As in previous years we’ve looked at 500 of the largest European companies, and the results that we present here are encouraging,” says Wennergren. “Transparent digital communications has the ability to establish trustworthy relationships, and to cement brand reputation. What is important is not only what is being said, but also how it’s being presented.”

Such is the importance of reporting on corporate communications effectiveness that Comprend and Lundquist have released a report every year since 1998. It is testament to how communication in businesses across the UK and Europe has changed, however, that the 2017/2018 report marks 10 years since 2007 – arguably the most turbulent year for markets in recent memory.

“Over the last decade, there have been several companies that have consistently stood out in terms of their consistent high performance in the Webranking Report research,” says Wennergren. “Italian oil and gas company Eni, and Finnish energy company Fortum, have made it into the top ten in Europe for transparency of corporate communications ten years in a row. Italian telecommunications company Telecom Italia has also proven consistent, making it into the top 10 for nine years out of 10.”

In the UK, the Webranking findings show automotive and aerospace components manufacturer GKN, events and publishing company Informa and oil company Royal Dutch Shell score 61.5, 61.2 and 57.5 respectively, and are top performers this year. And this variety in sector is not a trend confined to 2018, says Wennergren. “The top performers among the UK companies over the last decade have been British Petroleum, Aviva insurance company, Land Securities property development company, and Centrica energy services company." 

Thus, a shift in the strategies behind corporate dialogue underpins both the European and UK business environments. Scrutiny abounds, with clarity in corporate messages imperative to establish strong business-client relations. Indeed, the Webranking Report presents a corporate world where transformation is the order of the day. Companies that have this year achieved a high score include the top three Italian utilities companies Snam and Eni, and Finnish goods and services company Wärtsilä. All recognise the importance of transparency; all recognise that accountability and openness at present will help secure company reputation in coming years.

In corporate communications channels, however, underperformance is rife in the investor relations, careers and CSR arenas. All are neglected despite being imperative for attracting future workers and business relationships. CSR in particular is a crucial aspect which companies must now go beyond. It is no longer enough to simply tack on a charitable programme or initiative onto a business strategy; corporate citizenship driven by a sense of purpose is a key thing looked at by those investing time, money or career prospects in a business.

With the launch of Apple’s first iPhone coinciding with the global financial crisis, 2007 marked a sea-change in the importance of clarity of digital communication. But furthermore, the type of communication demanded by customers was also scrutinised, with corporate storytelling and use of visual communication now working to bridge the gap in corporate aim and customer understanding.

A comprehensive overview of corporate digital communications, Webranking Report allows businesses to identify the gaps in their communication strategy which could hinder future development and reputation. And, in a business environment reliant on trust, the index findings are not only more important than ever – the Webranking Report shows that a universal digital model must see companies embrace full transparency in communication.

To see the full report, visit the Comprend website.


Now 10 years since the financial crisis and launch of the first iPhone, Comprend asks, are companies communicating more transparently?

Comprend and Lundquist have tracked how transparently the largest European companies have been communicating for over 20 years. It’s interesting to look back 10 years to 2007, when markets were being rocked by the mounting financial crisis and the first Apple iPhone was launched, and see how much things have changed in the last decade.

Unfortunately, things have not changed enough. In fact, the provision of information on conducting ethical business, access to top management remuneration figures and the quality of financial data is worse off than 10 years ago, whereas corporate branding is flourishing to make easy wins in an increasingly saturated digital landscape. This should be element of greater concern. The credibility of the financial markets go hand in hand with the commitment of companies to provide high quality and transparent first-hand information to regain trust in the market place.

Our research protocol is informed by what the financial market expects, through surveys to the capital market – analysts, investors, financial journalists. Over the last decade we’ve reached thousands of people, and this year we’ve crunched the numbers to see how financial stakeholder expectations have changed over the last decade, and whether Europe’s top companies are keeping up.

In the past few years, the shift to mobile and social channels has thrown up new opportunities/challenges for corporate communications. The little all-in-one-screen launched by Apple changed the way we communicate and work. In fact, back in 2007, we didn’t evaluate areas of corporate communications on what we would now consider indispensable. This includes having a responsive, mobile-friendly website and integrated social media and storytelling with substance. It shows how far the world of digital corporate communications has come.

In the process, however, the basic function of transparency has been threatened. Mobile has forced companies to shrink the size of websites to make them manageable from smaller screens; social has driven a focus on ‘storytelling’ and engagement. This has led to the rise of ‘corporate branding’ and the decline of ‘corporate transparency.’

The Lehman crisis saw stakeholders demanding the exact reverse to happen and expect greater transparency. But while financial stakeholders are increasingly turning to online resources, companies are often-times too focused on telling stories than digging into the substance. This poses a serious problem as the window of opportunity to respond to and generate news is shorter and more immediate, necessitating faster corporate action in the face of breaking news.

It is not all bad news. We’ve seen a surge in the last decade in companies explaining their performance through quality content and they are more open to sharing their vision and how they intend to adapt in the future. We’ve also seen a shift in terms of reporting on non-financial matters, with our protocol growing substantially in the last decade to account for this trend. It’s not only stakeholders that are tipping the scales here, pushing for more information of this kind, but also companies are noticing the advantages and the role they play to contributing to society.

By using the web as an integrated part of corporate communication strategy, companies can meet growing stakeholder demand in a more time-efficient and cost-effective manner. In a world where trust is ever in decline, it is the role of companies to step up and use transparency to re-gain the public’s trust. This can only be a win-win situation.

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