European and controversial firms top the online effectiveness league table

The 2013 Financial Times Bowen Craggs Index of Corporate Online Effectiveness, in its seventh year, analyses how well global businesses use digital channels to communicate to the public, investors, interest groups, policy makers, customers and potential employees. Some businesses that receive bad publicity succeed in using the online arena to help to redeem their reputations: energy, tobacco and pharmaceutical businesses make up eight out of the top ten best performers in the index.

David Bowen, senior consultant at Bowen Craggs & Co says: “The importance of online channels has become widely established as a vital way in which very large companies can protect their reputations, impress investors and build goodwill with a wide range of different audiences. Our research and analysis shows that companies operating in industries with a high-risk of reputation-threatening events use web channels more effectively than other sectors. Banks are the exception – our findings show that despite being hit hard by a series of recent crises, the world's biggest banks have yet to master truly effective online communications.”

The 2013 Financial Times Bowen Craggs Index found that European companies dominate the top 20 spots in terms of web effectiveness. The highest ranked US company in the Index is IBM, jointly placed in 17th position.

Bowen says that this is because European companies have a more co-ordinated approach to their online communications, whereas in the US, decentralisation rules: “Reputation issues have tended to focus Europe’s senior managers’ minds on the internet – they have realised that however decentralised an organisation is, it’s a mistake to carry that across to the web.”

Financial institutions live up to their reputations of being slow to embrace the online world when it comes to building their reputations. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia is the highest ranked financial services company, 17th in the Index. Only four other banks BNP Paribas, HSBC, Barclays and Sberbank of Russia (out of 19 on the Index) make it into the top half of the Index. Indeed, Santander is the lowest ranked European company at 72nd in the Index.

The FT Bowen Craggs Index

Source: FT Bowen Craggs Index

One key element of managing your reputation online is to build relationships with journalists. Here tech businesses score well (IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Siemens all have a good ranking of 5).

Keeping in touch with journalists

                                                2013     2014

Gazprom                                   5          4

General Electric                         5          5

Goldman Sachs                        5          5

IBM                                          5          5

Microsoft                                  5          5

Nestle                                       5          5

Novartis                                    5          5

Novo Nordisk                            5          na

Petrobras                                  5          5

Procter & Gamble                      5          5

Roche                                       5          5

SAP                                         5          na

Siemens                                   5          5

Unilever                                    5          5

Wells Fargo                              5          3


And one basic need of a successful online strategy is to make sure you are easily contactable. The top performers at providing contact information are listed below.

Contact Information

                                                2013     2014

Eni                                           11         10

BP                                            10         10

British American Tobacco          10         10

Chevron                                    10         10

Citigroup                                   10         10

Coca-Cola                                 10         10

Novartis                                    10         10

Qualcomm                                10         na

Siemens                                   10         10



The FT Bowen Craggs Index uses a methodology that benchmarks corporate online estates. There are overall and specific metrics. Five specific metrics concentrate on how well the site serves different groups. The three overall metrics cover navigation and coherence; visual and content messages; and ease of making contact and enquiries. Use of social media is considered within the context of each metric. The full 2013 Index table can be found