Philip Morris International : Shuffling captions

A problem with microsite integration slips attention.

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The feature

Philip Morris International (PMI), US-based tobacco products company, falls foul of content slippage on its integrated investor relations site.

PMI includes Investor Relations among the eight section headings in the primary navigation bar of its corporate site. In common with the other headings, a dropdown section index panel is revealed on mouseover that carries three illustrated highlights. Each highlight has an image frame sandwiched between its heading and a short summary (in Investor Relations, for example, 2012 Annual Report is captioned ‘Find more information on latest financial information regarding PMI’).

Links in the Investor Relations panel take users to a discrete investors website ( that sits on an identical fully integrated template, opening in the current browser window. Here, the mouseover of the primary headings produces the same dropdown panel but with different and unsympathetic captions. For example, 2012 Annual Report says ‘We are the leading international tobacco company with products sold in over 180 countries. More about our business and performance’. The caption seen on the main site is now found in the panel for the next section, Our Products, under an About Tobacco heading. This displacement of captions is consistent across the range of primary headings.

The takeaway

PMI is one of several companies that not only elects to keep its investor content at a separate location but also uses a third-party provider (in this case Thomson Reuters) to host or manage the site. There are advantages in this for its IR team, such as improved support across a range of tools and services, and help with the build out of the site. But the systematic displacement of highlight captions on the PMI investor site – in which they have slid over into the next section’s panel – shows the need for the home team to have in place a vigilance process that assures the continuity of the user experience and identifies issues that require investigation.

In particular, it needs to anticipate potential ‘underlaps’ in the governance structure. For example, unless the IR team is the owner of the whole corporate site (unlikely) it may not be accustomed to doing regular quality assurance or clicking around the site as a whole. Equally, the corporate owner might not be clicking around the investors section because it is not directly responsible for the content. Where such gaps exist the need for maintenance can all too easily go unnoticed and unattended.
First published 11 February, 2014
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