Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Displaying company culture on the wall

Here's a stellar summation of corporate culture:

The Honest Worker

In other companies there are often displayed in places of honor pictures of pioneers and founders of those organizations. An aura of majesty, power and importance generally surrounds such portraiture. At JLM, Inc. we rather dedicate that place of honor to picture that nameless individual -- our typical worker -- who by dint of honest, skillful and resourceful effort has created this great organization and has assured it a continuing and important place in the commerce of this area.

This worker pictured has completed an honest day's work. He has done his job to the very best of his ability, and his entire being reflects the dignity and personal reward of having made his contribution to his family, his employer and his community. He is indeed a happy, confident, strong individual.

We hereby honor him -- a tribute which lives and lasts.

Written decades ago, these words greet visitors to the headquarters of Joseph L. Muscarelle, Inc., a family-owned business in Maywood, NJ, celebrating its 90th year. JLM develops office, industrial, retail, and hotel projects in the northeast and southeast U.S. The family name may be familiar to graduates of The College of William & Mary, as JLM founder Joseph L. Muscarelle (W&M ’27) and his wife Margaret were major benefactors of W&M's Muscarelle Museum (shown here), as well as the Muscarelle Center at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ.

Corporate storytelling and business anniversary tip: Any company can, and should, display its history and corporate culture for all to see. But as always, displaying works only if you walk the talk.

Thanks to Eli Amdur for sharing "The Honest Worker" story via this column in The Record of North Jersey.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ideal Industries: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Ideal Industries, founded by J. Walter Becker in 1916, was by 1949 America’s largest producer of wire nuts. Headquartered in Sycamore, Illinois, the company (still privately owned) produces connectors, hand tools, testers and meters for the electrical and telecommunications industries. Ideal Industries’ main About Us page is here.


Products/Services: B
On the About Us menu, the first item is a page of Featured Stories, which cover the product that brought Ideal Industries fame (wire connectors) as well as more recent innovations (a DC power connector that reduces energy costs). The second page on the menu, Our Story, has a good 2-paragraph summary of the company’s products and the breadth of applications they’re used in. We especially like this crisp example of corporate storytelling: “We’re best known for our wire connectors, which have become the go-to standard for electrical connections around the world, but our innovations also touch the sky -- where nearly every commercial jet flying today was made using IDEAL wire strippers. We’ve reached the moon, as part of the critical equipment on NASA missions. Best of all, we touch the daily lives of skilled tradesmen around the globe….”

Why not add links from there to the various featured stories? It’s such an easy and effective way to guide visitors to other content on the site.

The Our History timeline has a good selection of milestones, including products, awards, acquisitions, and leadership. Each has a logo or another type of illustration.  Well done!

Our Commandment 6 of About Us pages is, “Honor thy visuals.” Why not include images such as those on the timeline on other pages? The first 3 images on the main About Us page (Our Story) seem to be from a school tour of the company’s plant--an odd choice of illustration. One is a link to a video that we’ve never been able to play. Even if it’s brilliant, the other images need to stand on their own, which they don’t.

Personality: A
The company’s founder, J. Walter Becker, is frequently mentioned as being the inspiration for the values that still drive this family-owned business. On the Executive Staff page, each officer has a bio plus a sentence or two on his or her strategy, and a quotation. This is an excellent way to convey the aims and personality of the current leadership.

Accessibility: D
Our Commandment 8 of About Us pages is, “Remember to make yourself and your organization easily accessible.” Because Ideal’s pages stress their commitment to collaborate with the professionals who use their products, we were surprised that the Contact Us page has no email address or online form for contacting the company--just a mailing address and telephone.

As Ideal Industries approaches its 100th business anniversary in 2016, it has a strong history base to build on. But if you advertise yourself as being responsive to customer feedback or proud of collaborating with customers, be sure to make it easy for them to get in touch.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Happy 50th, 1010 WINS

"You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you ... a headache." That's how I twisted the 1010 WINS  tagline when I heard the station booming from the radio in the mailroom of a film company I worked for. The distinctive clatter that ran behind the voices would drift down the hall and upset my train of thought. Well, 1010 WINS has the last laugh. I'm still listening.

This iconic station celebrates its business anniversary of 50 years on April 19, 2015. "You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world" proved such a sturdy concept that it's still going strong. While teletype machines are defunct, the clattery background sound remains. Along with the distinctive voices of WINS reporters, it separates 1010 from other talk stations. The idea of turning a rock music station into a "talking newspaper" was visionary 50 years ago and remains central to 1010 WINS's corporate story.

Like everyone else who relies on "the most listened-to station in the nation," I feel that the people at 1010 WINS are part of my extended family. Here's where you'll find the station's history (page shown above), but WINS or its corporate parent (CBS NY) unfortunately makes it hard to locate. (Remember Commandment 7 of our 10 Commandments of About Us Pages: "Keep Navigation Easy.") I had to Google various phrases in order to arrive at this page and others. Dear WINS friends: Please make it easier for your fans to go straight to your history! It's fun to browse the biggest NY events and celebs of the past five decades. TIP: This chunking by decade is a good idea for businesses seeking an accessible way to celebrate their corporate anniversaries and company timelines. 

P.S. Big thanks for leaving the late, great Stan Brooks in the roster of reporters. I only wish Judy DeAngelis was still with you.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Nikon Corporation: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Nikon was founded in 1917 as Japan Optical Industries. It still specializes in optics and imaging products, notably the cameras and lenses for which the company is now named. Headquartered in Tokyo, it is one of the companies of the Mitsubishi Group. The company’s main About Us page is here.


Products/Services: C
Our Commandment 7 of About Us Pages is, “Keep navigation easy.” We've read many fascinating pages on Nikon’s site, but we’re not at all sure we could find them again, or that we haven't missed important material. The problem begins with the main About Us page, where the above-the-fold space is taken up with the teasers for Corporate Information, Responsibility, and Investor Relations. It’s easy to miss the below-the-fold links to Technology and Feel Nikon, pages where the company’s products and innovations have a chance to shine. Smaller images with more explanatory subheads would work better here.

The navigation problem continues with hierarchy of menus and naming of pages. Who would guess from its title that the Life with Nikon page (under Technology) is an overview of Nikon’s cutting-edge technology? Recollections is a great page, in terms of company history and showing the innovations that Nikon has created over the last 98 years. But from the main About Us page, it’s difficult to find.  (It’s under Feel Nikon.)

Likewise, the company timeline, with its well-chosen illustrations for nearly every item, provides a great overview of products ... but it’s buried under About / Corporate Information / History / Corporate History, without any indication in its title that it is, in fact, an illustrated business history timeline. Once found, it offers a thoughtful touch: the option of seeing all or no images, and corporate events or products or both.

Personality: C
Under Corporate Information, the first teaser is for the Message from the President, which covers (in brisk but informative terms) the company’s goals for its imaging products, microscope solutions, medical, and other divisions. Well done, even if the corporate storytelling aspect is a bit dry. Sadly, the bios accessible through the Board of Directors page are the driest we have ever seen, consisting of a bulleted timeline of years and job titles for each person.

Nikon’s Philosophy page, where one might expect a glimpse of the company’s guiding principles, has vague terminology and graphics that don’t elucidate. What company would not subscribe to commitments to “Be pro-active,” “Seek new knowledge,” “Communicate well,” and “Display integrity”? Our Commandment 2 of About Us Pages is, “Thou shalt not generalize.” Statements as vague as Nikon’s won’t hold the attention of fickle web surfers.

Accessibility: D
The Contacts page (accessible from the footer on every page) funnels visitors to either consumer or industrial products, and then to specific products, each with its own contact information. Although there is a lengthy warning about the risk of transmitting ideas to Nikon (“Nikon Corporation has no obligation for monitoring any ideas, concepts, suggestions or comments you transmit to this Site by electronic mail or otherwise”), there seems to be no way to email the corporate headquarters or any part of the company.

Make sure that your content is great, and then make sure visitors won’t get exasperated and leave before they find it. This is especially important for a company like Nikon, as it presumably prepares to celebrate a centennial business anniversary in just two years. Polish that centennial brand name until it shines!

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.