October 07, 2020 Webranking

UK companies fail to grasp the importance of corporate reputation

By Chris Henson

This year we reviewed FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 constituents in Webranking's largest study of the UK's corporate websites. Despite a bigger sample, the results tell the same story: UK-listed companies are falling short in their stakeholder communication.

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Webranking is Europe’s leading survey of corporate websites and the only global ranking that is based on stakeholder expectations. Every year since 1997 we've been asking investors, analysts, journalists, and jobseekers about the information most important to them on corporate websites. Based on this annual research, we evaluate of the corporate websites of the largest 900 European companies by market cap to see how these stakeholders’ needs are being met. This year's ranking of FTSE 100 and 250 listed companies shows there's a big opportunity to stand out in the crowd.

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Don't miss the chance to engage with your stakeholders

Your corporate website is a key platform for opening a dialogue about why your company matters. The best websites use these conversations to drive the business and brand forward, helping to build trust with stakeholders. On the flip side, sites that are tricky to use and lack valuable content can hit confidence in the organisation behind them, and a fall in reputation can impact share price.

The trend of decline continues

Despite the risks of poor communication, the average Webranking score for a UK company is 3.9 points lower than last year, and 8 points lower than in 2018. While this year's sample is larger, a widening of the communication gap is still evident. Looking at the largest 20 companies ranked per country, the UK sits a middling 7th of 14, a long way behind the likes of Finland, Italy, and Germany. Year-on-year stakeholders expect more, yet UK companies continue to deliver the same or less.

The disconnect comes down to a lack of understanding, at the highest level, of the purpose and importance of a corporate website. The trickle-down effect of this is a shortage of budgeting resources for communication teams to tackle the gap. You don't need to look far to find FTSE-listed companies with web content that hasn't been updated in many years. Until the penny drops in UK boardrooms, companies will continue to offer a sub-standard, outdated service to their stakeholders.

James Handslip, Managing Director of Comprend Ltd, says:

"Your Webranking score is an annual health-check on the quality of the relationships your content is building with stakeholders. It's surprising that UK companies are not prioritising these relationships by addressing the communication gaps on their websites."

Investor content is still not up to scratch

UK companies perform particularly poorly when it comes to presenting investor content on the corporate website, and this has been the case for several years. Companies are showing far too little progress or interest in capitalising on this key communication channel with the capital market. Yet much of the most important content is contained within reports, so it's not as though UK companies are simply being cautious. Again, it likely comes back to a lack of understanding of the importance of this content for stakeholder groups. For example, forward-looking content like financial targets needs to be lifted directly onto the website to improve visibility, as these figures inform investor judgements. Ranked UK websites contain on average:

  • 21% of the most important Investor Relations content
  • 24% of the most important shareholder information

This puts the UK right near the back of the pack when compared to European peers.

The company with the best IR section in the UK is Ashtead Group. A particular strength of their investor communication is the page on Principal risks and uncertainties. The potential impact of each risk is explained, along with the company's steps to mitigate against it, and how the change has developed over the last year.

UK companies outperform European peers for user-friendly sites

The ease of a corporate website's navigation is important for 97% of capital market stakeholders, so this year's Webranking looked at the user experience (UX) of each ranked site. When comparing the UX of the largest 20 UK companies by market cap to the largest companies across Europe, UK-listed companies outperform every other country on our list.

Rio Tinto are a good example. Their website is clearly-structured, content is organised into clean blocks on each page so it's easy to follow, and the breadcrumb trail makes it straightforward to understand where you are on the site. Of all UK-listed websites:

  • 90% are easy to navigate from section to section
  • 91% have a consistent navigation, so it's clear which page the visitor is on and where they can go next 

All that glitters is not gold, though. UK websites may be nice to use, but they continue to trail European peers for the content within.

The UK winners and the biggest climber

There's a reshuffle at the top of the UK list, where a select few companies clearly do understand the importance of corporate reputation and how the website is a key part of shaping it. BP embody this the best, ascending from 3rd last year to take the top spot for the 2020-2021 season. Royal Dutch Shell and Coca-Cola HBC, who were also near the top spots last year, round off the podium. The Best Climber award goes to Howden Joinery Group, whose new website has galvanised their score by an impressive 15.3 points, which lifts them 123 places in the standings to 49th.

RankCompanyScore
1BP62.2
2Royal Dutch Shell61
3Coca-Cola HBC60.5
4Centrica59.1
5Coats Group56
6Polymetal International54.4
7Anglo American53.9
8British Land53
9TUI Group52.7
10Petrofac52.1


See the full UK results

Helena Wennergren

Head of Research

helena.wennergren@comprend.com

+46 70 971 12 10

John Lovell

Business Manager

john.lovell@comprend.com

+44 (0)20 8609 4914

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