Philippa Ellis, Governance & Investor Relations
“Stories are the most powerful communication tool we have bar none” according to Andy Goodman of The Goodman Centre.
We all carry stories in our heads (pre-conceptions) that strongly influence the way we view the world. These stories cause our mind to be closed to alternative viewpoints even when we are presented with strong contradictory evidence. Data is not enough to change these stories.
To change how people behave, you need to change the stories in their heads. Stories get their attention so we can then give them evidence that supports the story.
5 stories an organisation should tell
- Origin story – how it started – has its mission changed since it started
- Emblematic success stories – unique success that only the company could have had
- Core values stories – not a list – stories showing values at work
- Striving to improve – sometimes the company falls short – transparency – learning stories
- Where the company is going story – what does the world look like 5 years from now if the company succeeds – how are people’s lives better
The Annual Report story
To communicate effectively to financial markets requires an awareness of the complexity and interconnectedness of the many influencers and decision makers associated with a company’s stock.
The most effective Annual Reports put the financial results in context and integrates them as part of a well-crafted story.
Integrated reporting demonstrates the linkages between an organisation’s strategy, governance and financial performance and the social, environmental and economic context within which it operates. By reinforcing these connections, it can help businesses make more sustainable decisions and help investors and other stakeholders better understand how an organisation is performing.
Top tips for enhancing your Annual Report:
Strategy is king. Shareholders are looking for a clearly defined business strategy. The strategy should define the vision of your business. It should be concisely set out from the start and reflected throughout the report.
Who are you? Not all your readers will know who you are. Describe your business early on, ideally alongside your strategy. It is surprising how many reports describe what their company does deep within the operating review.
Explain your market. What’s your market doing and how is your business evolving? Your company’s strategy should reflect market conditions, so your report should help the shareholder understand shifting trends. Keep it simple by using a data and graphic-led market overview to help explain complex issues.
Prove it: Readers are more likely to understand and believe in your strategy if they can see practical examples in action. Use short case studies to illustrate projects or feature key employees or customers.
Highlight the difference. Surprise your shareholders. Show them what’s new this year – events, products, people or locations. Get your shareholders excited about your business and their investment and review the year’s highlights.
What’s your impact? What wider impact does your organisation have on society? Your CSR report will discuss the organisation’s impact on all affected areas from employees and customers to the environment. In short, is your company good? However, this discussion should not be reserved for the CSR report alone; it should be part of the strategy woven throughout the report. Never miss the chance to spread good news.
The success of your Annual Report begins and ends with the content and whether those who receive it believe it and are confident that the information has been represented in an open and transparent manner.
Finally, clever design is also a key to effective storytelling and comprehension. A reader will remember more if it fits into a compelling story and design – if the facts and opinions are linked together in a rational structure it helps the readers to retain more of the story and be convinced by it.