GSK, Bayer top global ranking for online messaging

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GSK and Bayer topped the list of the 30 best online corporate communicators across all industry sectors, an annual study reveals. (Dizer/CC0)

GlaxoSmithKline is the first pharma in almost a decade to top Bowen Craggs & Co.'s online excellence ranking. Vaulting from No. 5 to No. 1, GSK moved to the top of the chart across all industries in the study's evaluation of online corporate communications by constantly refining and polishing its content, the study notes.

Specficially, strong homepage headlines and images, a vibrant career section, dynamic new history section and convincing transparency across its online presence contributed to GSK’s nine-point growth from the last ranking in 2016. The last pharma company to rank first was Roche in 2009.

“GSK turned what was a good site into an excellent one through relentless polish and refinement,” said Scott Payton, managing partner and a senior consultant at Bowen Craggs, adding, "To get to the top of the ranking, you have to be strong across the board. You need a well-resourced web team focused on, and mandated, to create strong material and constantly [refine it].”

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Bayer, which stayed at No. 2, gained two points for managing to keep its hundreds of sites moving effectively with the brand’s many corporate changes. Bayer also has an excellent internal search engine, the study reports, and showcases innovation well.

The two pharma companies bested BP, former No. 1 Nestle and Italian energy company Eni which rounded out the top five, respectively.  

Other ranking pharma companies include Roche at No. 9, which was down from a No. 5 tie with GSK in the 2016 study, and AstraZeneca at No. 21, its first landing in the elite 30 group. Merck and Sanofi are additional pharmas sitting just outside the top 30, Payton said.

The Bowen Craggs analysis named its top 30 of the largest 200 companies in the world by market cap. Payton pointed to a common media mindset among the premier group: They use narrative frameworks with compelling stories, headlines and images to draw people in. GSK, for instance, was an early adopter of that style, using journalistic narrative techniques to tell its company stories such as its magazine section called "Behind the Science" and that approach continues to grow and thrive.

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“It’s increasingly the case that companies that are doing best at online corporate communications are borrowing, stealing or using many of the techniques from the world of journalism. And not just at the front end with sharp headlines, engaging images and strong stories, but in the back end as well,” he said.

Pharma in particular tends to do well in Bowen Craggs' ranking because many, if not all, regard reputation management as a big deal. As Payton noted, companies that care about reputation management, such as those in pharma and oil and gas, also tend to do well in corporate communications.