What will the future of digital corporate reporting look like?

One thing is certain, future audiences, who have never experienced a digitally unconnected world, will expect reporting that is easily accessible, engaging and delivered in a timely manner.

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The debate and guidance around the best approach to make annual report content digitally accessible will be an ongoing process as technology advances and future generations prescribe and shape future approaches.

Reflecting on the Financial Reporting Lab’s ‘Digital Present’ findings and recently published tips around ‘Digital Media and Reporting’, there are terms used describing the ‘needs’ and ‘requirements’ of today’s investors that will remain very relevant for generations to come. Assurance, clarity, transparency, accessibility (including search ability) and ‘ease of use’ will be constant requirements for investors.

In today’s environment the Annual Report is still seen as the most trusted form of Investor intelligence. It captures a ‘point-in-time’ comprehensive position on a Group or Company’s activities (sustainable or otherwise), financial performance, strategy, future opportunities, risks and governance.

The current debate around today’s available digital formats vs PDFs (Portable Document Format) for annual reporting is an interesting one. The history of the PDF clearly shows us that this format was never originally designed for the web and many digital professionals will point out its limitations and inaccessible characteristics. Future generations will shape our move to the most appropriate platforms, whilst in today’s world there is no question that HTML provides greater opportunity to embed additional features and functionality.

In terms of Annual Reporting, we would all agree that nobody is likely to read a report from start to finish on a mobile phone, but mobile accessibility is extremely important. Referencing sections to gain clarity on a point, accessing and understanding a number, looking up a statistic or reminding yourself of a principle are all important; therefore, easy accessibility on a mobile device becomes critical. Video provides a wonderful opportunity to present summaries, key themes and messages. An investor’s ability to socially interact with a company as it publishes reports and other investor news will gain greater traction.

There are two specific areas where we have differentiated capabilities that are empowering our customers to achieve powerful, timely and fully accessible mixed media communications:

  1. Tools, techniques and processes that enable our customers to publish their Annual Report on the day they announce their full year results (a desire outlined in the ‘Digital Media and Reporting’ tips infographic by the Financial Reporting Lab).
  2. The ability to convert print to HTML (and web to print) quickly, efficiently and effectively to enable dual electronic and print publishing.

We would love to talk to you about how this ‘quick, dual media’ publishing of your Annual Reporting can be achieved. A great example of this is our work with Inland Homes plc for whom we design a report that fits both mobile and desktop, utilising a responsive build that provides full accessibility. The report won Best Digital Reporting at the recent Investor Relations Society Best Practice awards and their more recent digital report is an upgrade from that publication. Our print to HTML capabilities were used to seamlessly convert the content from one medium to another.

Generally companies focus on executing a perfect printed document with little thought to the best digital representation of their Annual Report. With the majority of shareholders opting for digital communications and retail investors now representing the greatest single investor group, the need for clear messaging and joined-up electronic and print communications have never been more important.

It seems pretty clear that generations to come will demand and expect the best digital access to clear and relevant reporting content. Companies prepared to try and meet these digital demands will gain an advantage when it comes to investor trust and confidence.

To find out more about how we can help you with your digital reporting, utilising our workflow for dual media reporting, we’d love to chat.