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23 FTSE 100 companies and 20 FORTUNE 100 companies fail to respond to request for investor information via web site

London, UK/Princeton, MA, USA – 6 September, 2001 – A communication chasm is developing between progressive public corporations and their counterparts who appear to have backtracked on investment in web-based communication. While some public companies are even in the precarious position of failing to deliver on basic communication promises they make on their web sites to customers and investors, others have worked to significantly speed up response times for online communication.

This is the conclusion of the third annual Rainier Web-Index™ Study into the use of the web by the FTSE 100 and the top 100 Fortune companies, conducted over 30 days between 26 July 2001 and 25 August 2001 by Rainier, the international technology marketing communications consultancy.

The results demonstrate that while many large companies have come through the dot.com hype having implemented clear and effective online communication strategies, others appear to have gone backwards by failing to adjust their global Internet strategies to meet public demand. The research sought to find whether the FTSE and Fortune 100 companies had taken steps to ensure that their public web response capabilities were at the very least as effective as telephoning, faxing or writing to their national or international headquarters.

The Rainier Web-Index™ Study found that in the UK 87 of the FTSE 100 companies could be contacted by e-mail via their web site, compared with 71 in the 2000 study. Of the 87,
23 companies, including British Airways, Capita Group and Marks & Spencer, failed to respond to a request for basic investor information after a wait of four weeks, compared with just over 20 per cent of the 71 contacted last year.

The three fastest FTSE 100 respondents were: Carlton Communications (2 mins), WPP Group (2 mins) and South African Breweries (4 mins). The three slowest FTSE 100 respondents were: British American Tobacco (10 days, 20 hours), Cadbury-Schweppes (15 days, 5 hrs, 26 mins) and PowerGen (20 days, 21 hrs, 35 mins). The 10 FTSE 100 companies who could not be contacted via their web sites included HSBC Holdings, EMI and The Hilton Group.

By comparison, 87 Fortune 100 companies could be contacted by e-mail, up from 77 last year. However, 19 of them, including Home Depot, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Sprint, failed to respond to a request for basic investor information after a wait of 30 days, compared to 21 of the companies surveyed last year.

The three fastest Fortune 100 respondents were: Coca Cola (instantaneous), UtiliCorp (1 min) and Conoco (1min). The three slowest Fortune 100 respondents were: Motorola (6 days, 23 hrs, 57 mins), Target (7 days, 45 mins) and Safeway (13 days, 4 hrs, 40 mins). The 10 Fortune 100 companies that could not be reached by e-mail via their web site included Dow Chemicals, Exxon Mobile and PepsiCo.

The Rainier Web-Index™ Study found that US companies were marginally better than their UK counterparts for the fastest responses, with the 10 fastest Fortune 100 companies responding in an average 8.4 minutes, compared to 9.7 minutes for their FTSE equivalents.

The Rainier Web-Index™ is a metric developed by Rainier marketing consultants to measure the effectiveness of an organisation’s Internet communication strategy.

“Never mind the digital divide, we are witnessing the development of a communication chasm,” said Stephen Waddington, joint managing director of Rainier in London. “While the 1999 and 2000 studies revealed a shocking number of companies did not respond or could not be contacted, this year companies appear to have either invested heavily in Internet communication with the public, or having made an initial investment have decided to turn their backs on it.”

“The question here is to what degree the customers of investors of those companies that have gone backward feel they are being let down,” added Waddington.

The Rainier Web-Index™ Study showed that companies who published clear contact details for different areas of the organisation were able to respond more quickly than those who simply offered a single online form to submit. It also highlighted the importance of setting workable response times.

“Large companies need a straightforward strategy for ensuring that their main web site is as effective a public communication mechanism as their main switchboard number at headquarters. They need dedicated resources for answering ‘company’ emails 24 hours a day, with a clear process for satisfying the question or request at a departmental or geographical level if the central communication team cannot do so immediately,” added Waddington.

All companies in the Rainier Web-Index™ Study were contacted on 26 July 2001. E-mails were sent at the middle of the UK and US working day for the FTSE and Fortune companies respectively to overcome any time zone factors. A copy of the third Rainier Web-Index™ management report, results, summaries and graphics are available online at www.rainierco.com

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About the Web-Index™ 2001

In conducting the study, a research analyst from Rainier attempted to visit the web sites of each of the FTSE 100 companies (source: www.ft.com) and each of the Fortune 100 (source: www.fortune.com). Each of the web sites was reviewed in detail to locate address, telephone and e-mail contact information.

Where e-mail contacts could be found, Rainier sent an e-mail requesting basic investor information about the company. The time and date the e-mail was sent was recorded and if the company responded, the time and date of response was also recorded. Rainier acknowledges that other surveys at different times may yield different results.


About Rainier

Founded in 1993, Rainier's rapidly expanding international client roster makes it one of the high-tech industry's fastest growing integrated marketing agencies, and one of the only companies to provide a comprehensive range of services including PR, advertising, corporate and interactive design. Rainier’s clients range from start-up technology companies through to blue chip corporates.

More information on Rainier can be found at http://www.rainierco.com

Contact:

UK
Steve Earl/Stephen Waddington
Rainier
Tel: 02074946570
Email: searl@rainierco.co.uk / swaddington@rainierco.co.uk


US
Steve Schuster/Candice Perodeau
Rainier
Tel: 00 1 (978) 464 5302
Email: sschuster@rainierco.com / cperodeau@rainierco.com



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