Digital reporting: never stop evolving

Digital reporting never stop evolving

Business Director Ian Howlett argues that with companies under the spotlight like never before, it’s time to see digital reporting as an opportunity to connect with a wider and more varied stakeholder audience.

The world has changed a great deal over the last twelve months. Covid-19 impacted everyone’s lives in a way nobody could have imagined at the end of 2019. Lockdowns made us work from home and moved almost all of our human interaction online, even for the most digitally resistant among us.

The pandemic year was a catalyst for change in how companies communicate and how they interact with their stakeholders. Even before dealing with the impact of the pandemic upon trading, corporate reporting professionals were busy adjusting to new regulations and guidance that will change how their companies communicate. Perhaps the most significant of these are s172 of the Companies Act and its impact upon how directors carry out their duties and the Corporate Governance Code 2018 which encourages companies to talk more about the culture of their business and their role in society.

The environmental agenda remains a major issue that continues to be important to institutional investors, regulators and governments alike. In addition, climate change is, of course, a subject of considerable importance to a much broader audience. A company’s stated position and track record on climate change issues will be scrutinised on social media and may even fuel employee activism if performance is perceived to be negative.

Retail investors are becoming increasingly vocal too. The high-profile Reddit/ GameStop saga grabbed headlines in January and, while the vast majority of companies are unlikely to find themselves in such an extreme situation, the story highlights the influence of digital and social media in shaping stakeholder attitudes and forming opinions. These increasing demands for accountability underline the need for companies to have a stronger and more consistent voice online. Where once reporting content was largely overlooked by many nonfinancial stakeholders, now they’re paying attention and are willing to make their opinions known online. In addition, how businesses and brands behave also matters to consumers.

A global consumer trends study by IBM in January 2020 found that a third of consumers reported that they prioritise brands that are sustainable, transparent and aligned with their core values – further emphasising the growing value and importance of a strong corporate brand.

As the UK slowly returns to a new kind of normal, companies are adjusting to the post-pandemic world. Looking ahead, the role of the corporate brand has changed forever as more companies now recognise the importance of building trust with all stakeholders.

‘A third of consumers prioritise brands that are sustainable, transparent and aligned with their core values.’

Rethinking digital reporting

Rethinking digital reporting as an online experience designed to meet the expectations of today’s audiences is a big step towards a stronger corporate brand. A corporate report is a valuable content asset with the potential to reach a more varied audience than institutional investors alone. By adapting and repurposing content as a searchable and snackable experience, companies can extend the reach of reporting content and gain credit for their achievements from more of the people that matter to the company.

Corporate brands must now have stronger voices, communicating positions in response to global trends and the issues important to their audiences. Through telling authentic stories, supported by evidence of a positive impact, companies will prove that they’re living up to their financial, cultural and social responsibilities.

Digital reporting is also an opportunity to communicate progress as the year develops. Through quarterly updates, digital reporting content provides the opportunity to create a performance narrative that goes beyond quarterly financial results to communicate progress on a wider range of important issues. By communicating more frequently over the year, companies can sustain the engagement of stakeholders, develop a conversation and build trust.

Bringing reporting content to life online also means breaking away from formulaic microsites that position digital reporting as a distant annexe of the digital estate. Instead, the stories that communicate performance, illustrate purpose and demonstrate commitments need to be featured prominently throughout the investor and corporate websites and promoted through social media channels.

‘Digital reporting provides the opportunity to create a performance narrative that goes beyond quarterly financial results.’

Designing advantage

We work with ambitious global companies to deliver brand experiences that are relevant and meaningful to their audience.

It has never been more important that companies connect with investors and nonfinancial stakeholders alike. Companies are recognising the value of digital storytelling to make their performance and purpose story accessible and understandable for all stakeholders.

To be truly effective in building a corporate brand, companies must be more ambitious for digital reporting and harness the opportunity to connect with investors and nonfinancial audiences. They must communicate the past year’s performance, look ahead to the future and, critically, sustain engagement across the year. To harness the power of digital reporting, you need a brand partner with a holistic perspective of your brand. This needs to work across every aspect of the brand experience from your annual and sustainability reports, corporate website, communications, community engagement, product design, distribution and customer support.

Conran People IanHowlett


Ian Howlett

Business Director



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