Driving digital connection
Digital innovation is constant, with brands having to adapt rapidly to stay ahead of the curve. While this sounds daunting, not to mention costly, it is an area rich in rewards for those who fully grasp the opportunity. Innovative, pioneering brands invest in their digital marketing to create rich, impactful and useful experiences for their key audience. They know that good user experience is good brand experience. It reflects a forward-thinking business. But more importantly, it evokes a strong relationship with stakeholders by demonstrating understanding of them and their needs.
Yet still, digital engagement with the investment community remains comparatively low. Consider the annual report: many companies rightly invest in their printed report, but restrict their use of digital channels to an online PDF. It’s easy to understand why this approach has prevailed as analytics show that a PDF download remains the preferred way for investors to access annual report content. But this ignores a greater opportunity to engage with a such a key audience, gain insights from them and ultimately develop a deeper and more enduring relationship. And though popular, PDFs are difficult to view effectively on smartphones and the format isn’t search engine-friendly.
So investors are being poorly served online yet, ironically, they should be easy to please. We know who they are and we know what they want (insightful, relevant information served up quickly and intuitively!). So what can be done to improve things?
Three areas to invest in
Before you even start creating your report’s content, here are three key areas on which to focus to ensure your digital offer meets the needs of your investor audience.
1. Invest in experience
Users move seamlessly across digital and offline channels, so the golden rule to remember here is that every user is different: some are visual, some are verbal; some are using mobile search on the go; some are at home on their laptop, seeking something more in depth. Having options available for your users will allow them to decide how they want to fulfil their needs. And remember, investors are also consumers – they do their everyday shopping online, too, and will expect a seamless experience whatever device they are on. So a great and consistent experience across all modes of browsing is a must.
2. Invest in content
Every year, you create new annual report content, expanding on developing strategies, adjusting business models, redefining KPIs and detailing case studies that show just how well your strategy is working. Also worth explaining are the new ways you tackle risk, growth in the skills and experience of the board and a whole raft of developments across corporate responsibility that support your various communities; and there is bound to be great new content that points to the value your business is creating and that deserves a life beyond the report. And the smart digital solution should cater for analysts, allowing them to speedily access all of your great new content online. The key is to tailor it to the channel, providing an opportunity for users to interact with your content (as well as download it). Rich media, infographics and charting tools are all great ways to drive online engagement as long as the need for them is real. Manage this process carefully, and your investment can be maximised.
3. Invest in data
So, for example, let’s create an online annual review. Let’s focus on how to make it responsive and interactive, and perhaps add some video content. Let’s ensure that it truly portrays the culture of the business and really promotes the big success stories – let’s make it really visual and full of useful supporting facts and pull-out quotes. Sounds like a great experience, but how do you know if the investment was worth making? Measuring your content’s performance online is essential to building a long-term strategy. Constantly check that you are making the impact you planned and adjust your approach as necessary to keep things moving forward. Incredibly, many annual reports are uploaded without any form of tracking and there is no way of knowing how the site is performing or how to optimise it.
Remember, too, that there are times when words alone don’t really do a story justice. In the digital environment, you can use video to capture the emotion of the human story or an interactive timeline to identify the extent of the social change. Essentially, you can make your point more powerfully, and illustrate the hidden capitals that underpin your value-creation story. At the end of the day, digital reporting is not simply about moving from a PDF to an interactive online report. It is about appropriately targeted communications that deliver benefits to your key audience. There are, of course, rules that stipulate that the online report should be exactly the same as the printed report and there will always be a need for a PDF that provides an exact copy of the physical item. The big opportunity for those that have really invested in content is to define what will have a life beyond the report and to ensure that all channels are utilised in broadcasting your content. Get this right and it is not just your annual reporting that will benefit, but the overall communication strategy of your business.
If you would like to hear more about how an integrated digital communication strategy can help your business, please get in touch.