British Land constructs award-winning website

Jan 26, 2012
<p>Sally Jones, head of IR at British Land, explains the thinking behind her company&rsquo;s corporate site, which picked up two awards from the UK's IR Society last year</p>

When Sally Jones joined British Land as head of investor relations in 2010, she had two problems with the corporate website.

First, it looked very old-fashioned. Second, it wasn’t very useful for investors or analysts. So, with the help of her colleague in corporate communications and design firm The Group, she set about revamping the web presence of the FTSE 100 real estate trust.

How did they do? Late last year, British Land scooped two gongs at the IR Society’s Best Practice Awards: best corporate website in the FTSE 100, and best use of a website to communicate and support a company’s investment proposition.

Old problems

The nicest thing Jones can say about the old site is that it was functional. ‘It did a very basic job of being a website, but it wasn’t particularly useful,’ she states. ‘And if you looked across all the stuff British Land communicated, actually a whole raft of stuff wasn’t on the website.

‘What I mean is that the company received very high marks from the investment community for its level of corporate disclosure and there was lots and lots of information people found useful, but none of that seemed to find its way on to the website.’

To fix this, Jones took all the information available at the time and tried to organize it as coherently as possible for the new site. ‘My original career was as a stock market analyst, so I thought: what would I want to know if I was looking at the business?’ she explains.

British Land's homepage

‘For example, on the debt side, I took all the stuff that was in the annual report, broke it down and put it into an order I thought was more understandable and logical.’

The introduction of a new management team at British Land added to the need for a communications rethink. ‘As the management team was putting its strategy together, I was working alongside it to communicate that externally,’ says Jones.

Focus on property and investment case

The revamped website, which went live in September 2010, features a particular focus on British Land’s property portfolio and investment case, two areas that were neglected by the old site.

For the property portfolio, a new section was developed to showcase projects such as the Broadgate complex near London’s Liverpool Street Station and the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield in the UK.

The investment case, meanwhile, was redeveloped to more clearly explain the company’s direction. Browse the IR section of the site and you’ll find sections like ‘corporate strategy’ and ‘portfolio strategy’ featuring concise text and lots of highlighted stats.

British Land's IR page

Another big change saw greater use of video on the new site – for example, web cams track the progress of current building projects. Social media channels were also set up, although Jones admits she doesn’t view Facebook, Twitter and their ilk as an important part of her IR work (see Social caution, below).

‘I don’t think I would see them as a compelling piece of engagement,’ she explains. ‘We do it because it’s not very costly and The Group encourages us to.’

Feedback

Investor feedback on the relaunched site has been fairly small – ‘We’ve not been deluged’ – but a number have said they find it helpful and informative, says Jones.

‘At investor meetings, some people have mentioned they find it very useful because everything is there and easy to find,’ she points out.

A more public endorsement occurred in November last year, when the UK’s IR Society handed British Land two prizes for the site at its annual Best Practice Awards in London.

To win, British Land first had to score well against a checklist of best practice maintained by the IR Society. After this, a judging panel – made up of representatives from investor relations, the buy side, the media, accountancy and regulators – selected the winners.

In their final comments, the judges praised British Land for making key information ‘easy to find’ in order to make an ‘informed decision’. It sounds like Jones can applaud herself for a job well done.

Social caution

British Land’s site includes links to a Facebook page, YouTube channel and Twitter account, but head of IR Sally Jones isn’t personally active on any of them. ‘We’re not in the public arena, we’re not controversial, so I think for us it doesn’t feel compelling at this time, although we keep it under review,’ she notes.

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