Annual Reporting: Show it don’t tell it
You might think the old axiom doesn’t apply to your annual reporting. But think again. Your most important stakeholders are stunningly on the same page — investors, key employees and analytics alike agree that a marvellous annual report has its home on mixed platforms.
The Annual Report season is slowly beginning to stir. As we're done reminiscing over the year that has just passed, the scouting for upcoming milestones and touchpoints begins. During the course of six articles, we've presented our most essential takeaways regarding performance, purpose, ESG, exposure & opportunities, words & visuals, and format.
We hereby present the sixth and last article in our annual reporting series – guiding you in how to scope your company's use of different formats in the reporting season of 2023.
Together with Simple Revolution, Kontrapunkt has collected, calculated and condensed the steps to a well-crafted annual report and presented the most essential takeaways in our study Trends in Danish corporate reporting vol.2 — Understanding key stakeholders. We asked analysts, investors and key employees about the importance of format and platforms. More straightforward, shorter, and more interactive is high on their wish list.
So it seems that the length of your report is a heavyweight when your primary stakeholders are judging the overall quality of your reporting. The same goes for the choice of format and medium. It really does help to think of an excellent report as something that should engage your reader. You need to show your company’s story — not just tell it.
“I don’t think the annual reports need to be so heavy. For example, [company] does videos, social media posts, and stories that provide some information and then they refer to the annual report as the opportunity to ‘read more’. They also have subsequent follow-up stories on social media.”
Employee, Head of global communications
Audiovisual content and interactive storytelling are high priority according to your stakeholders. Not only do your employees want to engage with a more adaptable version of your financial statement, purpose and ESG initiatives. So do your professional stakeholders:
“If I could get a more interactive format that would allow me to navigate the entire document more easily, that would be helpful. I typically print the 20–25 pages that I think are important. So it would be great if sections were print-friendly.”
Investor, Institutional portfolio manager
It is not as much a question of tossing your old PFD in the trash. It is, as already mentioned, about being up to date with how we as humans interpret and digest information.
“The consumption part is lacking modern convenience.”
Employee, Analyst Equity specialist
“It would be nice if you could swipe over the items with the cursor and get an explanation of the item. (...) That could save me a lot of time calling Investor Relations.”
When scoping your annual reporting for 2023, your company should harness new technologies and platforms to make your essential information communicate more effectively and engagingly. For example, interactive formats allow your stakeholder to search key terms and click directly on sections of interest. Or distribution of content across platforms using videos and case stories. Video is a great way to convey technical information in a compelling way. It furthermore is a tool to create engagement among your key stakeholders.
“Why can’t I choose a video format and watch the CEO’s letter instead of having to read it. Why can’t I watch a case story as a short video? It would bring the message and the stories to life much better.”
Employee, Team lead
Repititon makes perfect. Get the best out of the formats and mediums available to you. Your annual reporting will be more impactful if you consider it the centrepiece of your communication with a multichannel communication strategy. And while you’re at it, take the next important step in showing your company’s story instead of just telling about it.
Show it with moving images.
Let’s exemplify it …
In 2022 we worked with 11 different companies crafting amongst others 8 annual reports, 2 integrated reports and 4 sustainability reports and a broad variety of other reports.
With the use of short documentaries to tell the more complicated stories about the company’s geopolitical challenges in 2022, DFDS has moved their reporting from a once-a-year publication to an ongoing narrative that people can follow and engage with on different platforms.
As far fewer overseas ferry passengers are coming to Europe, new sales and marketing strategies seek to expand and stabilise the customer base.
Bottlenecks and rising costs are inciting companies to move production and sourcing closer to Europe. Türkiye stands to benefit from the rise in nearshoring.
Swift decisions on employee security, sanctions, and operations were required as the outbreak of war in Ukraine disrupted lives and the flow of goods.
DFDS adapted systems and processes to Brexit and built a new customs clearance business. It’s not over yet, the UK has further rules to implement in the coming years.
DFDS is mixing formats incorporating visual storytelling and videos to reach a broader audience:
The case story format is ideally suited to reflect the reality on the ground. It tells the story behind all the facts and shows the challenges and the steps DFDS as a company took to overcome them. Their four different case stories create a more authentic connection to the places and the people in question in DFDS’ communication — showing the critical event from the year that passed while contributing to better employer branding.
The film Brexit — Adapting digital solutions to keep goods moving is a perfect example of how video has the potential to showcase complicated details more compellingly. The film's primary message circles around how DFDS managed to cope with the new customs rules following Brexit. In short, a very complicated and digital journey of registrations, cargo statistics and everchanging policies. But by making it a character-driven story following the truck driver Edwind on his trip from the Netherlands to the UK, the audience can suddenly comprehend the challenges of Brexit in another way.