Investor engagement

Client interview: Graham Jerome-Ball, Informa

Informa is a leading business intelligence, academic publishing, knowledge and events business, with 6,500 employees around the world. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions it grew rapidly through the early 2000s, and during that decade Informa operated as a group holding of more than a dozen autonomous businesses. Its current Global Branding Director Graham Jerome-Ball’s introduction to the business was as a brand consultant for one of these, the academic publishing business, Taylor & Francis Group.

By 2010, Informa identified a need for a comprehensive brand management structure and awareness strategy that played to its overall strengths, and Graham accepted the invitation to create his current role. With the arrival of a new CEO, Stephen A. Carter, in 2014 came a restructuring of the business and a long-term growth strategy. Informa was re-organised into four operating divisions, underpinned by a support division, with a vision to return each division to growth and expand market share in each through organic growth and acquisition. Informa acts as the group, investor and employee brand, and each divisional team holds, maintains and makes the most of its customer-facing business brands. After these changes, and with a new strategy and leadership team, Informa wanted to re-introduce itself to the market and educate people on what the company did – a familiar tale for firms operating in the newly emerging knowledge and information economy. In this respect, the Annual Report became a very important document. “It was no longer simply a mandatory undertaking,” says Graham, “but a critical vehicle for explaining the company, communicating its strategy, and providing a proper briefing on where the business was heading.” Which is where Luminous enters the story.

A creative boost
“Informa had previously been efficient in producing a set of accounts,” explains Graham, “but not particularly creative, and there hadn’t been a need for one cohesive narrative.” Through 20 years of running his own design consultancies, Graham has a very good understanding of the UK design profession. He was aware of Luminous’ award-winning creative work and strong reputation, and invited us to tender.

“Having discussed the challenge with the Luminous strategy team, they just ‘got it’. They understood very quickly what was needed and how they could develop a creative strategy to take the report to the next level,” says Graham. “They met, and impressed, our CEO and have never stood still since in driving great ideas forward.”

What was initially required was a brand strategy that reflected Informa’s revised business strategy and focused on content valuable to the company’s two key stakeholder groups: investors and employees. The concept and narrative ‘Understanding Informa’ was chosen as the overarching theme for the 2014 Annual Report, with the aim of explaining the business and its operations clearly and effectively through content and design.

Informa’s 2015 Annual Report was envisaged as a progression from 2014’s edition, rather than a departure. After explaining the business in 2014, the aim was to demonstrate how the company was making progress with its strategy and its unique culture. Graham continued: “We asked Luminous to help us create an effective narrative that brought the story on a step. Stephen Butler, Luminous Director of Corporate Reporting, stayed closely involved throughout the process, offering advice on new legislative requirements and industry best practice, as well as how best to make the content flow.”

In terms of creativity, the report is certainly one of the most distinctively designed reports in Informa’s new peer group, the FTSE 100. It builds on the new Informa brand that Luminous developed in 2014 and is a highly engaging reporting solution. It features an array of graphic treatments, combining print and finishing effects, illustrations, infographics and portraiture. A half-width cover features small laser-cut ‘brand portals’ based on Informa’s key market and employee-facing brand asset, the portal. They provide the reader with a teasing hint at the delightful illustrations, specially created by Andrew Bannecker. “The design successfully conveys the vibrant, modern and distinctive spirit of the business as well as a sense of the progress and journey we’re on,” says Graham. He added: “it also makes a statement about the exceptional standards we demand, with finishing and production values of the highest quality.”

In Graham’s eyes, the Annual Report has demonstrated the importance of design: “We are known for producing high-quality content for specialist audiences across all our divisions, but it can be difficult to depict information and knowledge and bring it to life. So Informa uses design as a differentiator. It gives us an identity and positions us where we want to be in a particular market, often establishing our strengths as a leader. This is crucial in the knowledge and information market, and to us as a business.” In fact, senior management – including long-standing members of the Board and shareholders from the days before an overarching brand strategy – have passed on extremely positive comments to Graham about the report. It’s considered a clear signpost of where Informa is going, and generates tremendous pride in the workforce as well.

“It makes people sit up and take notice,” says Graham. “From day one I felt confident commissioning Luminous for a brand refresh and a website reskin. We are now looking together at how to take our increasingly strong Group and external brand and activate it internally. It has been a fantastic relationship all the way through. I always challenge them, and now I’d like to see how much more value we can get from the information and content we gather for our Annual Report, and maximise the reach and impact we have.”

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