Apple's crunchy prose, and lessons in content strategy from your fund manager

David Bowen says Apple's open letter defending encryption is a rare model of corporate clarity online; and Jason Sumner finds fund management firms a source of unexpected insight on content strategy.

These two pieces recently appeared on our new blog, Anansi - named for an African folktale character that often takes the shape of a spider. Our contributors, senior consultants at Bowen Craggs, write about how web trends (hence the spider) are going to affect you, how online communications is developing, and our reactions to relevant news stories. Please consider subscribing.

The joys of Apple's crunchy prose, by David Bowen

Not going to dive into the rights or wrongs of the Apple versus Government argument about encryption, but the company has done two things that are undoubtedly right.

First, Tim Cook (or someone on his behalf) has written a 'message to our customers' in crisp, unambiguous English. In a world where most bosses flee clarity as vampires flee garlic, his sharp arguments and short sentences are mercifully easy to absorb. Apple may be all modern, but it understands the importance of that old-fashioned skill, literacy.

Second, the company's home page is promoting the message as one of its main panels - in view without scrolling on most screens. Apple may be rubbish at communicating with non-customers (like journalists), but it knows how to get to customers and Apple.com is one of its big channels. So putting a signpost here makes perfect sense.

Applehomepage.png

There's something else here for other companies (and indeed for Apple at other times). This message has obvious relevance to customers, but so do lots of others things on a corporate site that do not get the same high profile treatment. That the company keep a close eye on its suppliers' labour conditions, that it is amazingly inventive, that its products are made in ways that destroy only a few of the earth's resources, that it is really quite nice to its employees; and so on.

We know that 'serving customers' is at the front of many web people's minds at the moment. It's important to remember that this does not just mean selling them stuff. It means anything, anything, that might make them think more favourably about a company. A lot of that is already on corporate websites. It just needs to be blasted more clearly across home pages.  

Lessons in content strategy, from your fund manager, by Jason Sumner

Instead of asking a fund manager about the Chinese economy, stock market tremors or emerging market risk, maybe you should be asking for advice on your online content strategy.

This article from the FT (may be behind a paywall) shows that some of the top fund management firms have embraced digital communications and social media, and the way they have done it holds lessons for any company establishing (or refining) its online content strategy:

Have a clear reason for doing social media in the first place. Woodford Investment Management, which launched in 2014, went on social media as part of a ‘conscious decision not to pay for advertising’. Other more established fund management firms started to see an opportunity cost in not talking to customers on channels that they were using already. The ‘market insight’-type material that most fund managers have long produced in print and online, are a natural fit to broadcast via Twitter, for example.

Don’t treat every channel in the same way. We think ‘social media’ should not be thought of as one entity, but as individual channels with different audiences. So, apparently, does James Cardew, global head of marketing at Schroders:

‘It is important to engage with clients and customers on the platform they use, rather than attempting to dragoon them all into one channel, Mr Cardew says… “We started out thinking we would use LinkedIn for business, Twitter for journalists and Facebook for graduate recruitment,” he says. In the event, Twitter was the most popular platform for engagement, so that is where Schroders has focused its efforts.’

‘Communications’ can be good marketing. We have been saying that the lines between marketing and communications in organizations are blurring, and that corporate communications can be seen as ‘group-level marketing’ – with customers as one set of stakeholders for company messages and information. Here is Woodford IM’s head of corporate comms: ‘We wanted to use social media to educate and inform, but also to communicate and engage. You can’t get the message across in an ad.’ I take this to mean that fund management clients are not the type to respond well to inauthenticity – they want useful information, about a company they might do business with, about subjects they are have an interest in, etc. Increasingly not unlike the rest of us, I would argue.

Apart from the FT article, a quick trawl of some fund managers’ websites shows that the sector’s reputation for being Luddites may be undeserved. Amundi’s Research Center makes good use of Twitter to promote its thinking. AXA Investment Management has prominent signposts to its social media channels. Many fund managers have YouTube videos of their experts embedded on their websites. And the industry has taken up blogging in a big way to stay in touch with customers – a point raised in the article as well. See for example Fidelity UK and Blackrock.

 

 

First published 24 February, 2016
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