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The corporate communications landscape never seems to stand still.
The impact of the pandemic on comms, the movement towards consistent globally recognised ESG reporting standards and our journey into a digital-first landscape all means corporate reporting professionals have an exciting road ahead.
Design Portfolio are here to help you along the way. We have spent a lot of time engaging with investors and corporates alike during this busy reporting season, and as we now enter the second quarter of the year, we have identified six key areas for those responsible for corporate communication to consider.
Please note, this blog will not discuss specific ESG reporting developments as we have covered these in our separate “ESG trends that will define 2022 blog”.
As strong advocators of stakeholder capitalism, it has been pleasing to see the number of companies reporting their purpose steadily increase across both main and AIM markets. The realisation that companies shouldn’t exist solely to create profit (although this is still important) has led to a greater focus on stakeholder engagement.
However, a shared purpose is only half the story. Communicating how a company shares its prosperity is arguably more important, seeing as this is the evidence of a realised purpose. This has been traditionally illustrated in the business model, but it can also be relevant for parts of the investment case, leaderships statements and strategy.
We’ve seen a marked increase in annual report digital summaries as well as landscape-orientated annual reports, mainly due to how well their content translates to widescreen monitors. With COVID-19 further increasing the number of stakeholders who access information online rather than in print, companies should be aware of how easy it now is for stakeholders to cross-check information across an increasing number of communication channels.
It has never been so important to maintain a consistent story across these channels so that key messages don’t become discombobulated. For this reason, it is important for companies to maintain their websites with the most up-to-date information possible that draws on the latest reports and presentations.
At Design Portfolio, we have developed a diagnostics tool called “Narrative Power”, which gauges a company’s overall stakeholder narrative across all comms channels, pinpointing specific areas for improvement. Be sure to get in touch for more information and see how it can benefit you.
Although globally there’s a data deluge, the struggle remains the same for large and small companies alike; identifying what the most relevant data to showcase is and contextualising it in a way that allows meaningful conclusions to be drawn.
While using pull-out data might bring a page to life and make for a more dynamic spread, if there is no clear context or relevance behind the numbers this could leave readers wanting more.
For example, showing diversity data alongside initiatives aimed at improving the level of diversity indicates an insight-driven strategy that firstly acknowledges any shortcomings before offering constructive solutions. This insight-driven approach can be as effective in reports as it is online.
With the advent of our brave new world this year following the lifting of legal restrictions, companies must not only contend with the longer-term consequences of the pandemic, but also continued supply-chain issues, the growing threat of cyber-risks and increasing inflationary pressures and energy prices.
Discovering which issues will have a material impact on the company and making the right disclosures in the right place will be essential going forward. Risk indicators, more transparent viability statements and stress testing, clarity on board skills, and transparency on capital allocation will all form part of this core narrative. Trust can be built with stakeholders by making this information as accessible as possible.
There is also an opportunity here to focus on the positives going forward by showcasing how innovative products or processes continue to bear fruit and how listening to stakeholders has created lasting change.
Without wanting to distract you from the discussion around climate change and other ESG trends we’ve identified, there is still the wider challenge of integrating ESG topics throughout all communication channels and aligning them to key areas such as the business model and strategy.
To do this, there is a greater need for collaboration across the company internally and externally, ensuring reporting objectives are clearly understood and all the departments are working together. Whether it is including ESG metrics in the KPIs or showing how a net zero target contributes towards the corporate strategy, companies must find ways to report holistically.
With the average attention span decreasing significantly over the past decade, it’s become increasingly important to present information in engaging and innovative ways. Channels have adapted to accommodate the distractions in our everyday life.
Corporate videos are shorter and punchier, homing in on the subject matter quicker to make them more appropriate for wider distribution across social media. We have also seen companies finally begin to use their corporate websites to present data on financial and non-financial performance alike. Such initiatives are a big step in the right direction, encouraging companies to review their communication channels more frequently to avoid out of date disclosures.
On a more futuristic note, newer technologies such as Virtual and Augmented Reality, given easy usability, can appeal to younger and older generations alike. We have seen companies experiment with this already and there appear to be some real advantages. For example, creating consistent experiences for large or far away audiences, telling interactive stories and giving unique insights all contribute towards making this an area for consideration.
We look forward to seeing how the latest December year ends are reporting on these areas, as well as discovering what the latest trends are. We’ll be sure to share our findings with you when we do.