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Steel company Arcelor Mittal isn't the only company venturing out to the trendier parts of the web and finding out that such moves can be risky.
Jason Karaian, CFO Europe Magazine
April 2, 2007
Arcelor Mittal TV is a new web-based video offering that aims to give an inside view of the merger integration process of steel companies Arcelor and Mittal, using the full "Web 2.0" toolkit.
It's not the only company venturing out on to the trendier parts of the web and, as many are finding out, such moves can be risky. In February, for example, multinationals including Reebok, Reuters, and American Apparel, were ambushed in Second Life — an online world where users create alter egos, buy virtual land and generally engage in parallel lives — by the Second Life Liberation Army. The activists vandalized company property and disrupted corporate events within the virtual world, protesting against the growing clout of business in their non-commercial Utopia. A similarly hostile reception has greeted many companies that create profiles on MySpace, a social-networking site hugely popular with teenagers.
Unlike the companies on Second Life or MySpace, however, the driving objective of Arcelor Mittal TV hasn't been overtly to capture some perceived "cool" quality of these web communities. Rather, it aims to communicate efficiently with the company's far-flung workforce, a job that nine separate intranets couldn't handle.
Launched in January, the steel company's videos feature interviews with a variety of employees, interspersed with moody music and bold graphics. The slick production values prompted one French newspaper to describe the films as more like Star Wars than a corporate video.
"It's about a steel company, so you need to make it a bit entertaining," says Emmanuel Vivier, an executive at Luxembourg-based "buzz & communication agency" Vanksen, which consulted on the project.
Aditya Mittal, the group's CFO and head of American operations, is a fan and driver of Arcelor Mittal TV, according to Stefan Schwarz, the company's director of internal communications.
A feature of the site is a blog that includes unedited comments from staff on everything from technical problems when viewing video to more fundamental anxieties about the future of their jobs. This open approach "alerts management about the merger's progress from the deepest reaches of the organization," says Schwarz. "Sometimes the feedback isn't good, but even this is valuable. Aditya is very interested in the feedback that we receive."
There are risks to such an open approach. After Arcelor Mittal TV appeared on the popular video-sharing website YouTube, viewers were recommended to check out a news clip from a local Cleveland, Ohio, TV station on the health risks of living near one of the firm's steel plants.
Arcelor Mittal TV will only be live for six months. Schwarz says the company is open to other Web 2.0 ideas but there are limits. After all, he says, "we're a steel company, not a media company."