Where in the Marketing-Communications Solar System is the Corporate Website?

Jason Sumner. Jason is a white man with very short dark hair, a short beard and glasses. He is wearing a light jacket and shirt. Jason Sumner | 29 Apr 2024

Two presentations at the Web Performance Summit last month in Berlin* got me thinking about space metaphors and the perennial “frenemy” relationship between corporate communications and marketing. 

One speaker, a director of corporate communications for a European B2B company, said that for him the corporate website is the Sun. Even if many communications directors wouldn’t agree about that central positioning completely, I suspect for most it wouldn’t be too far away – no further than Mercury, let’s say. 

For this director of communications, the corporate website is the essential hub for information and context about the company, its heritage and strategy; the single trusted source for third parties confirming facts reported elsewhere; a home for content that, when amplified on other channels and in the media, builds engagement with stakeholders; and the key channel to counter misinformation and rumours.  

This is all music to our ears at Bowen Craggs of course, but marketing sees it differently, as I was reminded by a B2B marketing specialist who took to the stage later in the day. This speaker showed us an infographic with four circles representing the buyer’s journey from “awareness” as the outer circle, to “consideration” and “purchase”, and then “loyalty and expansion” as the centre, and then various channels plotted on the diagram. The corporate website was on the outer edges, one of the “awareness” channels, along with organic social media; well away from the Sun. 

“Digital” is absolutely central for marketing, it’s just that the website is one of many so-called digital touchpoints including digital advertising, product website content, marketing apps, email marketing, webinars, customer portals, online catalogues, e-commerce and more. Physical touchpoints that still matter include exhibitions, conferences, print ads and product/service dealers. 

So far, so distinct, but I also heard some common themes emerging in these two talks. Although views from marketing and communications will never be identical, and nor should they, there are some things they should be able agree on for the benefit of everyone in the organisation. 

Agree that digital is the most important channel to market, sell AND communicate. The company needs to accomplish all of these goals with digital channels, and the more unified it all is, and the less channels compete with each other, the better. This could mean locating everything on one URL, but there are often practical reasons why corporate, branding, retail, etc might be separate; and in that case it takes work to ensure that everything is linked well and content is not duplicated. It is time well spent to ensure “digital” is working together for visitors and the company. 

Content is vital for marketing and communications, for different reasons. Marketing produces content for campaigns and lead generation. Communications produces content to build trust engagement with all stakeholders, including customers. Could communications do more to build product and service awareness into the material it produces? Could marketing think about how a more journalistic treatment of R&D, technology or products could build trust into the awareness stage?  

Communications needs to speak more in terms of data, process and returns. Realising how the corporate website can build awareness is just the beginning. The next step is to understand the way that marketing thinks about its ultimate goals – lead generation, customer loyalty – and then use data and evidence to demonstrate how communications efforts contribute to different steps along the way. The value of SEO and earned media will get their attention; show how the corporate website contributes to these goals and translate into monetary terms if you can.  

Marketing needs to ensure that campaigns fit the company context. Marketing campaigns should be creative, but not so creative that they undermine trust or even contradict the narrative on other digital channels. A related point is that paid content is laser focused on converting prospects, but a piece of organic content that is shared, liked or goes viral for its authenticity can be just as powerful as a campaign. 

Focusing on areas of agreement is the way that marketing and communications can start to bridge the Sun-Neptune corporate website gap, and get their orbits more closely aligned. 

*The second annual Web Performance Summit took place on March 14th and was a joint production between Axel Springer Corporate Solutions and Bowen Craggs.