Online Annual Reports - the way forward

Our evolving corporate reporting marketplace opens up many a debate surrounding online reporting. Are PDFs sufficient? Do online Annual Reports have to be an exact replica of the printed document in HTML? Which is the best browsing experience? In a world where ‘less is more’, how do you find the right balance of information, and more importantly, how should this be presented online?

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The FRC has offered guidance on both corporate reporting and online reporting, in Digital Present. While awaiting the outcome of their Digital Future report we remain unconvinced of the favouring of PDF documents, as in our mobile-first world, PDFs often offer a poor, unresponsive online browsing experience. Having taken into account the overwhelming blend of trends and advice, here is our think team’s views on online annual reporting. 

Through investigating analytics, we know that the highest traffic for an online Annual Report is in the first month after going live and the clearest results come when the report is embedded within the corporate website, however online Annual Reports often tend to be on their own microsite. Rich media, such as animations and video, may seem like an unnecessary expense but have been proven to maximise dwell time and offer increased engagement with the audience on your site, however the best features to include in your online Annual Report depend on many individual factors, so ensuring you review your web analytics will help allow you to choose the right digital strategy for you.

Our starting point for reporting, whether online or in print, is always audience. Time invested up front understanding your audience’s preferences and requirements, will allow you to disseminate your key messages at the right level and medium for them to resonate powerfully.

With all digital media, it is essential to consider how a given piece of communication could be presented on multiple devices and to explore how to make the content accessible, easy to digest and above all engaging, otherwise how will your message stand out in the proliferation of digital information from numerous sources. Ultimately it’s about you controlling your message and communication landscape.

Jones and Palmer Online Annual Report survey findings

Having researched, considered and discussed these many issues, our viewpoint on the future of online Annual Reporting has begun to shift. Our research of the FTSE 100’s approach to online Annual Reporting from October 2015 highlights a greater focus on what we classify as an online Annual Review.

We’re starting to see a lot of companies utilise an Annual Review to communicate with their stakeholders. These reviews highlight key messages and content, whilst referring to supporting material information within the Annual Report. Not only is this a useful tool in investor presentations and on the relevant section of the website, but it could also be used as a high level marketing tool for your company, getting maximum return on investment..

The key to any project is to understand audience needs, what is your key message, and how best should we communicate this; and then craft the right solution to suit that profile.

Armed with those insights and a more defined digital strategy, we can work closely with you to deliver the right execution.

We are well equipped to delivering a full range of solutions, tailored to our clients and their stakeholder needs. Please feel free to contact our Think Team, who would love to come along, share a coffee and chat through your options.