The way we develop, view and deliver Annual Reports has evolved from 100% print, to cd’s, pdf’s and flip pages. Some of these changes were driven by stricter regulations and the growing demand by shareholders for more transparency. However, the changes have opened up great new opportunities for Investor Relations professionals to engage with shareholders. The growing global trend of online reporting through microsites is a perfect example and an opportunity for companies of all sizes.
No matter the size of your company the Annual Report is an obligation that cannot be avoided. Unfortunately, many companies, especially SMEs miss the value in producing an Annual Report and merely see it as pure torture that takes up money, resources and time they would rather be allocating elsewhere.
There is no doubting that not everyone will read every single page of your Annual Report, but still it does happen to be the most comprehensive opportunity for a company to communicate on it’s financial performance, activities, corporate social responsibilities and future directions.
One just needs to look at major MNC’s around the world and the investment that is made on Annual Reporting (print and online) and IR websites alone. For smaller companies that do not have the reach of larger companies, the Annual Report becomes even more important in sharing the company’s corporate story, it’s value to shareholders and potential investors.
There is still a serious need for companies to start recognising the importance of Investor Relations and the growing need to invest more resources towards effective and holistic communications, giving investors better and more accessible information to understand your business better. This is where we start to see the digitalisation of Annual Reports meeting and enabling these needs.
Having an Annual Report microsite does not necessarily mean we do away with the traditional print version of the AR or current forms of interactive reporting such as pdfs and flip pages. Instead, if budgets allow they are best used to complement the online report and be a part of your overall communications mix.
There is also the use of social media which speeds-up the distribution of content with a greater reach. This needs to be strategically managed.
What is exciting for all stakeholders involved with microsites – companies, investors, employees and users alike – is the level of flexibility, interaction, engagement, customisation and countless advantages that can be experienced with these microsites. These advantages are simply not possible through a print, PDF or flip page platform.
Microsites give more options and greater flexibility when it comes to creativity, presenting data, key communication objectives and delivering stronger messages through a mixture of multimedia options such as video, motion graphics, infographics and the like.
The stress related to strict deadlines can also be greatly reduced with the ability to manage content at any time.
Unlike print copies or your Annual Report or PDF’s online reports on a microsite are easily found in search engines and can be shared countless times with no real extra cost. This is such a great opportunity for IR professionals not only to know shareholders better, but potential investors as well.
Online AR’s will always be available whether online or on mobile devices. No need to look for that printed AR which may be under a pile of other paperwork already or to spend an hour searching around the files on your desktop wondering where you saved the PDF. All you need with the AR microsite is to remember the name of the company!
Interaction through online reports and social media platforms allows for greater transparency, interaction and open dialogue with investors, shareholders and the general public. Not everyone can attend the AGM but they can interact online through a microsite.
Doing away with printed Annual Reports saves on paper, reduces a company’s carbon footprint, saves costs and answers the need for corporate sustainability.
A well-designed online corporate reporting platform allows management access to key analytics to measure the effectiveness and level of interest in your brand and company over the longer term.
This ability to analyse shareholder engagements quickly and accurately is becoming a necessary part of communications planning for Investor Relations. Those who are using microsites are reporting that they can now concentrate on using the data for strategic planning, rather than spending days trying to obtain meaningful information in the first place.
In a nutshell, online interactive reporting is investor friendly, with a great communication mix, ease of navigation, greater and quicker accessibility to information. Potential investors find it easier to know about your corporate story, your value and investment potential through the new trend for microsites.