28 May 2020

Designs on Annual Reporting

GILES RAFFERTY, Corporate Communications.

It is time to think about Annual Reports and then to think again. While an Annual Report must include content required by the Corporations Act and the ASX listing rules,that doesn’t mean we should limit our thinking to just meeting that objective.

It is right and proper for the compulsory materials, such as the Directors’, Remuneration and Financial reports to be standardised. It makes it easier for them to be analysed and compared with a company’s performance in prior years; relative to its peers and to others in the market. The numbers are the numbers after all, but just knowing the numbers does not give a complete understanding of the potential value of a company as an investment opportunity.

It is in the non-compulsory material, the Chairman’s and Chief Executive’s reviews, the overview of the business or the Sustainability and ESG content where a company has the opportunity to communicate their investment case, to differentiate their business and really tell their story. And design, whether absent or embraced, will be central to how well received, understood and influential that story is.

Transforming corporate content into memorable messages

The power of design and visual storytelling is its ability to make a company’s story easy to access and understand. That is why FIRST Advisers’ in-house design studio, FIRST Creative, is integral to how we work with clients. We believe that by working closely together we can repurpose an Annual Report from being a statutory document into a powerful communication tool.

Good design is the difference between telling someone and showing them; between informing an audience and convincing them. It can convert worthy content into memorable messages and it can do so just as well in a static PDF document as it can in a fully interactive on-line execution — 83% of all listed Australian companies, and all the companies in the ASX200, publish annual reports as PDF’s.

Compressing the Annual Report publication cycle

Advances in desktop publishing have made it easier for companies to create documents that make use of interactive elements. The humble PDF can easily be augmented to make its content more accessible by including elements such as:

  • Clickable table of contents to help with navigation to content of interest
  • Embedding video links to introduce more engaging and rich media content
  • Clickable note references to guide investors to key information
  • Enhanced navigation in the headers and margins

Desktop publishing is also driving a trend towards more timely publication of Annual Reports with more than 66% of ASX300 companies publishing their Annual Report last year on the same day as their results.

Cutting through the noise

While technology is accelerating the publication cycle for Annual Reports and increasing the sophistication of the content companies can generate internally, it cannot as yet, replace the creativity of a designer. If a company loses sight of the importance of good design in the hurly burly of producing an Annual Report, it will be at risk of producing a document that adds to the noise rather than communicating effectively.

FIRST Advisers combines deep investor relations experience, in-house design capabilities and the corporate story telling skills to give Annual Reports a value and relevance that extends beyond the immediate presentation of a company’s historical financials. We aim to bring to life a company’s story and investment case.

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