So I’m heading back from the smoke having attended a conference on the Evolution of the Annual Report hosted by Communicate Magazine and my thoughts were:
1. Great to see some old faces although most have moved to different agencies and like me grown a little cuddlier and polish their bonnet more than they would like to
2. Many of the issues are still the same from the last time we met up, namely:
- how do you balance the regulatory requirements with the fact it’s meant to be a useful communication. For example FRC want ‘clear & concise’ reporting (don’t we all) yet new regulations require a new longer Remuneration report
- timeliness of the report – often it’s after the prelims / road shows so nothing new is published
- process – it’s a beast to collate and produce and should the online lead?
- format – full HTML, app, integrated report – lots of options but what is best
- social media – should it be part of the Investor Relations comms plan
3. An institutional investor (Freddie Wolfe – Hermes) mentioned GRI4 – this accompanied with a family member who runs a Pension fund for a large multi-national mentioning GRI4, shows to me the importance of non financial reporting and its impacts on how a business is managing its risk
Like any tanker, changing direction takes time, but what I did notice today is how everyone is now focussing more on the end-user. This is great news, long overdue and needs to go further. An example of this is the format question i.e. should we have a full HTML report? For me, my answer used to be, it has to be full HTML every time for a variety of reasons: accessibility; user journey; completeness; but now time, budget and advancement in digital communications mean this is no longer the best answer. The annual report content needs to presented in a way that the end-user can extract what they need from your corporate story. This can be achieved by surrounding it with supporting content and functionality such as video, interactive charts, print baskets and downloadable content in various formats. It might be that only a video is provided and the report is only available in PDF. But if that video conveys the story behind that business, shows you its business model and strategy, the team responsible for delivering them and how it is going to delver success, then that is far better communication than 150 pages plus of HTML.
Other great suggestions were:
- publishing the Remuneration report on the day of results (John Dawson – National Grid) thus giving it more context rather than waiting till the Annual report is published and viewing it isolation
- evolving the Board biography page to include what each members role is, what they bring, what their focus was in that year and for the forthcoming year (Andrew Sawers – Freelance financial journalist)
Author: Henry Sanford
Henry is an experienced online communications consultant who has worked with a number of FTSE 100/250 companies, helping them to communicate with their key stakeholders. He heads up our Digital and Corporate Reporting teams, and is interested in all gadgets that make life simpler. A fan of all sport, he is often seen supporting the Exeter Chiefs most weekends but without the headdress and tomahawk!