Companies are ditching the traditional color-print annual reports and replacing them with interactive micro sites, rich in video and motion graphics.
Changing the way public companies reports its financial performance isn’t done lightly. The last SEC change was in 2011 when it required firms to post a pdf on its website. As the Internet evolved, many companies used the latest web authoring technologies to produce interactive versions. In 2014, Marriott International went so far as to ditch the color print report in favor of an interactive web-based version. It’s now common practice for forward-thinking companies to use every web development possible to spin a positive financial picture. As production values improved, so too has expectations. The modern online report has to appeal to multiple audiences and at the same time show a ROI.
Until recently, no one expected an annual report to change the needle and boost stock prices. But findings by L2inc, a digital performance agency, make a correlation between a company’s digital IQ score and its valuation. The higher the digital IQ, the higher the stock price. The thinking goes, by producing an interactive annual report with all the digital bells and whistles, a company will raise its digital IQ and increase stock value. In Marriott International’s case, its online interactive annual report and video was credited with helping change its perception from “stodgy” to “hip.”
As corporate communicators look to update their annual report, below are some points to win C-suite buy-in for investing in an interactive experience. They helped persuaded then 82-year-old Bill Marriott, Jr. to break from tradition.
Costs. Few pitches ever fail on the basis of cost savings. By eliminating color printing and reducing mailing costs, Marriott saved $300,000.
Digital media trends. Print is dying. Few people open the plastic-wrapped, magazine-like annual report. Go digital and enhance the user experience.
Error free. Mistakes can be easily fixed with a click of a mouse.
Digital IQ. Up your Digital IQ with an innovative, creative sitelet.
Sharable. By serving up easily digestible digital nuggets, your annual report will be easily shared and gain a wider audience.
Storytelling. A well-produced, interactive annual report offers superior storytelling. The mix of infographics, slideshows and videos hold visual interest.
Sizzle video. A highlight video can dazzle people. Don’t be boring. Get the CEO out from behind the desk and “86” the prompter if possible. The deer-in-the-headlights look does not instill confidence in your brand.
Saves Trees. Eliminating paper saves expenses and trees. With many companies setting “green” goals, a digital report helps meet them.
What’s at stake in producing today’s annual report is nothing less than a company’s reputation, its competitiveness, its bottom line. In the next few weeks, check your inbox instead of your mailbox to see how firms report their financial conditions. And as you begin to evaluate your efforts, keep in mind what Bill Marriott, Jr. told his team, “You’re never too old to be hip.”
Jay Hamilton is founder and Head of Media Strategy at Hamilton Media DC. He worked at Marriott International for eight years, starting its Digital Corporate Relations unit. Previously, he was a broadcast journalist in New York City and Washington, DC winning two Emmy Awards.