technology

Oddities about the Trafigura website: lessons for PR

I’ve been taking a wander round the Trafigura website after all the excitement yesterday and today. The state of the Trafigura website is the least of the company’s problems at the moment, but it still provides a useful example of the problems all sorts of firms can run in to with their own web presence. It provides three lessons that are applicable to pretty much any corporate website, and all the more so if the firm is less in the media than Trafigura because in such situations the website plays a bigger role in the firm’s identity.

Lesson one: visit http://www.trafigura.com/ and look at the latest news in the top right. It’s 31 March 2009. Not good. Trafigura may have made a deliberate (though debatable) decision not to put up any news about its current legal activities, but even so “Latest” and “March” don’t go together well when you are in October. How new “latest” should be depends on the context but even for a website about a space exploration vehicle which is currently hurtling through the void that would look bad. If your news is really that infrequent, don’t call it latest and don’t give it front page prominence.

Lesson two: read the terms and conditions on the site and you get this gem:

If you would like to link to the Website, you may only do so on the basis that you link to, but do not replicate, the home page of the Website

In other words, deep links (that is links direct to any other pages) are banned. That’s problematic for three reasons: (a) linking direct to content often makes better sense for people who want to link to you – and you should welcome such links because they bring more traffic, (b) not many normal people will read this condition*, but for those who do read such things it immediately gives a pretty unflattering image of being off the pace when it comes to the modern world and (c) how many people do you think will obey this demand? I have in this piece :-), but demanding something of people that you know people are unlikely to do is the road to damaging your own reputation.

Lesson three: read more of the terms and conditions and you find:

This website and its contents are not directed at the general public.

The T+Cs go on to give half a hint as to why this is there (to do with financial regulation over presenting information to different audiences), but really. There are better ways to handle this than beseeching the general public not to pay attention to a public website. In other words, make sure your lawyers understand the reality of the current state of the internet and shape their actions and their words accordingly. Many do so there’s no excuse for your own not to be able to.

* I am clinging to the argument that I did read the terms and conditions, but could still count as normal.

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