Motivated by the many recent changes in regulatory and statutory revisions in the past year, the Communicate Magazine organised a conference to discuss the “Evolution of the Annual Report” at The Brewery in London. More than one hundred corporate reporting experts from the UK, Europe and overseas followed the invitation.
As laid out in more detail in the conference programme the main focus was on insights and lessons learned from the first year of the strategic report, which became mandatory in the UK for this reporting season. Three out of five sessions dealt with different aspects of this matter, from the hardship of content generation to fresh perspectives for a clearer and more concise reporting, wrapped up by the distribution of FutureValue’s Strategic Report Accolades. Each of the sessions opened with introductory speeches from the high profile panel of speakers and moved then to an open Q&A session from the auditory.
Leveraging the next wave of disruption
However, changes in corporate reporting are not limited to content and strategy – the mode of delivery has also changed, towards a more digital approach. As specialists in this field we were happy to chair a session of industry experts discussing current technology developments and providing a look into the future of corporate reporting.
Alexandra Hockenhull, director of corporate communications and IR at Xchanging demonstrated live how their IR app serves as mobile data room for all financial information. Marina Plessas, principal adviser digital media at Rio Tinto explained their rational behind a more interactive reporting centre with engaging video and charting. Finally John Godfrey, director of group communications at Legal & General, presented how their HTML Annual Report provides best access across all devices.
The following three main impacts on digital delivery of reporting content have been discussed during the session, the related #CommsChat and beyond:
1. On strategy.
Print runs are coming down significantly in the past years, today readers prefer to receive the Annual Report electronically. The digital audience is less reading and more scanning to identify relevant content. According to findings from the World Bank a PDF download is the wrong answer to the increased appetite for digital. Annual Reports will stay a first point of reference, but the digital concepts need to change.
To reconnect online with a fading print reader base your corporate report needs to embrace state-of-the-art web technology – e.g. videos, interactive charting tools or find-as-you-type search.
2. On budgets.
Reporting content exploded due to regulatory requirements, the current content overload swamps both readers and makers. The increased page number of Annual Reports puts pressure on budgets, outweighing savings from the reduced print runs. The web with its collaborative nature provides options for the quick, safe and efficient content creation. In fact, the manual typesetting of the back half seems to be sheer waste, in times of automated production tools.
3. On future.
A lot of reporting changes in the past years were regulatory driven. In the recently published digital agenda, the European Commission outlines 101 actions, in 7 pillars to enforce the adoption of digital technologies. Actions included directives to enforce cheaper, faster and better mobile Internet connections as well as HTML W3C-accessibility compliance of all website content.
For further reading, please take a look at my thought leadership article on the shifting preferences of Annual Report readers: “Put your money where your users are”.