The Copywriter – Effective corporate reporting

by Stratton Craig

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We’ve been helping companies tell their corporate stories for over 25 years. Since Stratton Craig was established in 1987, the style and structure of corporate reporting has changed dramatically. However, the importance of compelling copy that helps stakeholders to understand a company’s objectives, performance and culture, has remained constant.
In the current economic climate, the need for clear and compelling narrative reporting is more urgent than ever before, but producing a report that is both engaging and informative can be difficult.
We’ve identified three key approaches that can help to make your corporate report more interesting, and appealing, to stakeholders.
People love a good story. A strong narrative helps to engage and inspire your target audience, and stakeholders are increasingly demanding more from corporate reports; simply ticking boxes and listing facts is no longer sufficient.
A recent report analysing FTSE 100 corporate reporting trends reveals that: “Far too many companies produce reports which are drowning in technical information, disconnected data and impersonal, boilerplate copy which obscures the vital, unifying message.”[1]
Without a strong narrative to connect the data and tell the brand’s story, reading a corporate report can become a chore. Once you’ve given stakeholders a story that they can believe in and engage with, you’re far more likely to gain their attention, approbation and, potentially, their investment.
An integrated report reflects an integrated business. In an age when financial performance and non-financial activities are becoming inextricably linked, it makes sense to draw these elements together when producing a corporate report.
Indeed, today stakeholders are increasingly concerned with corporate sustainability issues, including social, environmental and governance policies. Relegating this information to the back of your report makes it seem like an add-on, whereas integrating it emphasises its value.
But an integrated report achieves more than just bringing your financial and non-financial details together. By setting your sustainability information in a financial context, you show how it relates to your business culture, costs and strategy.
When Jochen Zeitz was Chairman of the Board at PUMA, he helped to integrate an Environmental Profit and Loss (EP&L) within the company’s annual report. Speaking at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment’s ReSource forum in Oxford, in July 2012, he discussed the importance of integration to the EP&L: “We have to quantify sustainability in order to differentiate talking from walking, and in order to develop a clear strategy to tackle the challenges we face.”
At Stratton Craig, we’re helping a number of companies to engage with this new and exciting reporting trend. But of course, we also have experience of writing traditional, stand-alone sustainability reports. Whether integrated or otherwise, we believe that the importance of compelling copy to a report is second to none.
If there was any doubt as to the importance of digital communications, in April 2013 the US Securities and Exchange Commission certified social media as a legally acceptable medium for companies to use when communicating with investors.
Producing a digital report, or releasing important information online, provides an opportunity to involve and update your corporate audience. But it also presents risks.
Companies looking to communicate digitally with their corporate audience might consider producing a full online report, which can offer links to further information sources, easier chapter navigation, and reduced paper usage. An online report can be provided alongside a shorter hard-copy version to help improve accessibility, and even reports distributed exclusively in hard copy are discussed online, so the importance of digital engagement is ubiquitous.
As frequent writers of digital content for clients, we understand that people assimilate information differently online. Typically, the attention span of someone browsing the internet is shorter than a person reading a paper document, so ensuring that the design is right, and the copy compelling, is vital. Your corporate audience will be interacting online, so make sure that you’re there to participate.


[1] Rethinking Reporting, Black Sun Plc

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