Embrace Online Annual Reports: Create an Experience for Investors
17 November 2016
By Carol Wolf
Online annual reports have enhanced our ability to tell our company story to investors. As digital tools continue to become more sophisticated and accessible, public companies are looking to new technology solutions to help create a fulsome online experience using video, interactive charts and graphs, and better UI – all tools that provide investors with a full and customizable understanding of a company’s performance, vision, and future strategy.
According to Rivel Research, digital annual reporting may lead to savings of tens of thousands of dollars over a printed report, depending on the digital features chosen. As you begin to think about the direction of your annual report for 2016, here are some tactics to consider.
Create an online experience
An online annual report may be as static or as interactive as you would like, depending on the resources for the project. Some ways to create a better online experience for your investors include:
Responsive design. Ensure your report is easy to digest on all platforms, including desktop, mobile, and tablet.
Thoughtful story layout. Share thought leadership pieces as separate “stories” to give investors the control to choose what they read first.
Downloadable data. Complement the online experience by including downloadable spreadsheets or PDFs throughout your report, so that investors can take information from the digital experience.
You may consider an online annual report as a tool that works alongside a traditional report. Eldorado Gold opens its report with some interesting key facts to draw the reader in before delving into the company’s strategic priorities and performance targets, which provided more context for annual financial performance and long-term vision. Salesforce’s online annual report creates a similar online experience for its investors, showing previews of its content and providing readers with the choice to click into what interests them the most.
Quick tip: always think “audience first” when creating your online annual report. Consider chatting with one of your investors to assess what he or she enjoys about engaging with annual reports.
A major pain point of printed annual reports is the limitation of space when representing vast amounts of complex information. Interactive charts and graphs remove this limitation by adding “layers” to the amount of information that can exist in one space. Interactive information provides a roadmap for investors to view high-level data, and then drill down to additional sets that provide more detail.
You may want to consider interactive charts and graphs that investors can customize based on view, time period, metric, etc. By layering on more context about key performance measures over different years, investors are able to tailor the information to their interests.
Letter from the CEO
According to a July 2016 study by Rivel Research, the CEO’s letter is found “in virtually every company’s annual report.” As investors consume video at a higher rate than ever before, a CEO video is a great way to communicate your leadership’s strategy while personalizing the message. Specialty chemical maker Akzo Nobel made their CEO’s message available in multiple formats, such as a video and a web page, to provide investors with options.
Expanding reach: SEO and social media
An online annual report, unlike a printed version or PDF emailed to your investors, is a functioning, responsive mini-site that you can optimize for search engines so your content is prioritized in search results. This means that there is a greater chance that someone will stumble across the report via organic search, opening your report up to a wider audience that would not have found it otherwise.
Online reports also allow for social sharing, as you can insert social media share buttons onto each piece of content within your report. When you optimize your online report for social sharing, you’re inviting investors to share your report information with their networks — which may include potential investors you may not have otherwise reached.
If you’re looking to level up on how you engage with your investors online in 2017, building an interactive experience like an online annual report will definitely help get you there.