Salterbaxter - Directions Supplement - A New Dawn in Corporate Reporting


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Welcome to the May/June edition of Directions Supplement – a look into the future. Have you been rather bored by the endless debates around online corporate reporting? The pros and cons of html over PDF and the technicalities? Now it’s not that the current debate around online reporting isn’t important – it absolutely is. It’s just that as far as we can see it’s actually not as difficult and radical
as some people make out. Surely it’s just about delivery channels and getting better information to the right people more effectively?
No rocket science in that as far as we’re aware. And we think a lot
of the debate is missing the point.

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Salterbaxter - Directions Supplement - A New Dawn in Corporate Reporting

  1. 1. DIRECTIONS SUPPLEMENT MAY/JUNE 08 TRENDS AND ISSUES IN THE WORLD OF CORPORATE REPORTING A few years from now in a galaxy not too far away…
  2. 2. Has the challenge really changed or is it about how form meets content in a new online world? Last week, I was with the CEO of a leading The challenge is largely what it has always property company, long-standing supporters been. To tell a compelling story, which says of Tomorrow’s Company. He had just received what is being done, why and how, backs an independent analyst’s report rating the this up with evidence, and shows what is performance of his company best in class. He distinctive; which builds on previous reports, produces a fabulously well designed corporate to ensure consistency, and uses long-term report, a glorious coffee table work of art. indicators; which above all is framed by what But he is the first to say that what matters is we call the virtuous circle of governance – Tony Manwaring walking his investors around London, giving mapping the company’s purpose, vision and Chief Executive them a clear ‘line of sight’ with what he is values, setting out its key relationships, laying Tomorrow’s Company doing with their money on the street. out its model for business success, and only then talks ‘KPIs’. In so doing, he shows them what he means by success: a definition which goes well beyond But yes, there are new challenges and cutting costs much less cutting corners, and opportunities. They are about content – invests in the quality of the buildings, and the achieving sustainability outcomes, the variety, life and dynamism of those who live, probability that carbon emissions reporting work and visit that urban space. will become mandatory for quoted companies for example. And form – electronic reports available through multi-channel media, but not if it is just an e-copy of the paper document, and only if it is user-friendly. It is the difference between a video and a great special edition DVD. What is really different is what happens when form meets content in our new Web 3.0 world. Is there evidence of strategic transformation so that value is created which is profitable and contributes to ‘one planet’ living? Are stories being told in our 24/7 flat-world continuously, so that the next annual report is today’s edition? Are stakeholders being truly respected as consumers, investors, employees and citizens able to see through the corporate walls? The opportunity and challenge are one and the same: to create a real-time dialogue with as much intimacy and integrity as the CEO whose story I started with.
  3. 3. Directions Supplement May / June 08 Welcome to the May/June edition of Directions Supplement – a look into the future. Have you been rather bored by the endless debates around online corporate reporting? The pros and cons of html over PDF and the technicalities? Now it’s not that the current debate around online reporting isn’t important – it absolutely is. It’s just that as far as we can see it’s actually not as difficult and radical as some people make out. Surely it’s just about delivery channels and getting better information to the right people more effectively? No rocket science in that as far as we’re aware. And we think a lot of the debate is missing the point. For us, the point is the longer term picture where companies’ communications with stakeholders become truly dialogue based and start to use the real potential of the internet rather than just using it as a place to put the same old information in a slightly different format. If you’ve only just woken up to the concept of Web 2.0 then I’m afraid you need to move faster – the interesting stuff will happen with Web 3.0 – and this is what the cutting edge companies are spotting. So rather than keeping the debate about online reporting turning in ever decreasing circles we’ve used this edition of Directions to star gaze a little. We’ve asked Aviva, E.ON and Tomorrow’s Company to help us look into a galaxy not too far away, a few years from now, and to tell us what they see as the most likely developments in online corporate stakeholder communication. Light sabres at the ready – will the world of communications be turned upside down? Will the forces of conservatism prevail or will the valiant champions of innovation and imagination win through? Or will Web 3.0 turn out to be a Jedi mind trick? Our predictions Some specifics When we consider the future of the web and > Prepare yourselves to live without specifically stakeholder communications, it’s the annual financial statements cycle. sobering to take a look at the reality of web You’ll need to move from 6 monthly or users and their browsing habits. The latest quarterly communications to constant report into this area by usability guru Jacob two way dialogue. Nielson shows people are becoming much less patient when they go online. > Heard of a ‘cloud’ yet? Well you’ll probably be needing an investor community cloud No longer willing to investigate websites, sometime soon. many users simply want to reach a site quickly, complete a task and leave. Most will > And in the old world of annual reporting, we ignore or are even suspicious of efforts to think there’ll still be a need for some printed hold their attention. The single best piece of documents. But we would put a small bet on advice we can give is to engage and invest in the document being called a ‘stakeholder the social media revolution. Your story will be report’ – the main report will be held online told in the forums and chatrooms, the blogs and will be linked to a digital print-on-demand and the Podcasts (whether you like it or not!). facility at the printers – so no wasted copies. So make sure you take part. Nigel Salter Director salterbaxter
  4. 4. Watch out, the Wii tennis-playing generation is here and getting pickier. They will hit the ball into our side of the court, faster and faster. How are we going to return it? Aviva, the world’s fifth-largest insurance group, our financial education and largest insurance services provider in the website. Both these contain a whole range UK has 57,000 employees in 27 countries of Web 2.0 stuff – personalisation, blogs, serving around 45 million customers. So a embedded video, RSS – all designed to meet boring old insurance company then? Well you the needs of building online communities. might think that but perhaps it’s fair to ask you to think again. Some key elements of this have now launched on As part of our newly built Stuart Bartram At a corporate level we have been keen to investor centre, we offered a tool which enables Senior Manager, improve our internet presence, not only to users to keep their personalised content Corporate Internet and Design support our developing brand but more choices, subscribe to RSS feeds, manage their Aviva importantly to make sure we meet the shareholding and view embedded management differing needs of our growing audiences. interviews and brand communication videos. Corporate websites nowadays are big and Surprised at the rate of sign-up for this, “How are we going getting bigger. itself has more than thousands rather than hundreds, six months 12,000 pages. A great resource for all you down the line we can begin to look at the to respond to those need to know about Aviva. A whole stack of usage stats to determine whether this is a needs from these content from text to movies. Our audiences novelty or it has longer lasting benefits for stretch from analysts and shareholders to users. In short, how often do they use it and ‘digital natives’?” jobseekers and an ever-increasing number what for? of worldwide customers. At Aviva we are keen on offering choice to But in meeting these differing user needs our users, as we understand and recognise are we in danger of losing control of the that increasingly they all have different needs. corporate message? I often draw on my own day-to-day life in thinking about this. As a single customer of We believe not, the next few years will be my bank I have multiple, complex demands. more about offering users different choices of viewing and engaging with content rather That leads me to think about what we do in the than new, different content. online world each day and what we should be doing in the future to ensure we cater for these Web 2.0 has been around for a little while now kind of demands. How are we going to respond and we are beginning to see it move into the to those needs from these ‘digital natives’? corporate webspace and at Aviva we have Walk into any school or home now and you been early adopters. We believe using these can see the rise of digital technology in the initiatives gives us the chance to engage all everyday lives of young people. Watch them these audiences to provide meaningful online use it, often several things at the same time. experiences and get across key Plc messages. Watch out the Wii tennis-playing generation is We were among the first, if not the first here and getting pickier. They will hit the ball FTSE 100 company, to have a mobile version into our side of the court, faster and faster. of key investor relations content to help users How are we going to return it? keep in touch with us when they are on the move. It first saw light of day in 2002. You Key points for the future: can access it on a PDA or mobile phone at > individual choice – we will all need to find ways to provide individuals with the information they want, in the format We tend to trial a number of Web 2.0 they want, at the time they want technologies via a kind of ‘hothouse lab’ > experiment – be prepared to have to trial type experiment where we plant these and research lots of ideas to identify which initiatives in some of our other sites and then work best monitor the use. We run two campaign sites,, to support Aviva’s > dialogue – corporate communications will sponsorship of yachtswoman Dee Caffari, and be about conversations, not publications.
  5. 5. My advice is as follows; firstly, work with Corporate communications existing online communities, and spend time – as much time as you feel comfortable – from the inside out listening to what they are saying; secondly, try to cross-reference key sites and discussions with your stakeholder group. Do not make the assumption that your stakeholders – however ‘corporate’ – are completely detached from social media. They are part of your journey Ubiquitous, open, and democratic social too, and if they are not ‘on the bus’ already, networks and media are gaining massive then educate them – and everyone will gain popularity. They have the power to transform from your advice in how to play a part. corporate reputation in the blink of an eye – without any formal communications transaction At E.ON, we have taken both of these points having taken place. The challenge for companies on board, in the delivery of what are the initial is how to be part of these transactions phases of our social media activity. A very without forcing the issue, or indeed to try useful activity prior to the launch of our Paul Squires to start conversations on their terms and in regular Podcast was for me to stand up in Online and New Media Manager their context. front of a group of Podcast professionals and E.ON ask them what they thought of our strategy. Turning up to an ultra-trendy club in a suit The result is that we now have a new Podcast and tie will probably look out of place. This available every three weeks which reflects a principle is brought even more into focus diverse range of subjects, produced in-house online. At least the smart suit-wearer can leave in an accessible style which attracts a wide “ This is a highly the club, never to return (at least in the same range of stakeholders and audiences. What clothes); poor attempts to communicate we haven’t done is actively promote the important activity within social media networks remain largely Podcast – it is something which our audiences where the company permanent. This danger has two aspects; in these fields need to take and adopt as their firstly, there is, of course, the short-term own; bringing with it the more human side of can both embrace embarrassment within corporate delivering reputational success. and educate its communications departments that the project has gone wrong, for all to see. Secondly, and The democratic role that a social network can employees regarding take means that companies need to be highly more importantly, it puts any future social social media.” media activity into jeopardy, with earlier failed ‘sensory’. The role – and indeed the power projects casting a long shadow in communities – which a company employee has online, is that matter. We are all aware of the ghostwritten theoretically equal to that of the company blog which was rumbled, or the Wikipedia entry itself. Again, although it presents a potential which was too heavily modified. threat, this is a highly important activity where the company can both embrace and educate Although coverage of ghostwritten blogs has its employees regarding social media, in two been largely US-focussed, the spotlight will ways: firstly, regarding its own social media now shift to the UK, where the Consumer strategy; and secondly, the framework by which Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations it expects employees to refer to the company – now prevent social media content from being and refer to their own employment within it. published without the publisher identifying their relationship with the brand. All of this provides a significant opportunity for corporate websites. It’s perhaps a relief to note As Facebook, Youtube and blogging have that they won’t change overnight. However, become firmly embedded in the public psyche, their role within corporate communications many larger companies have struggled to will change, and they will both complement come to terms with them. corporate social media activity, as well as find themselves containing more ‘social’ features However, with a reasonable degree of trust, going forward. The recently-launched Social foresight and pragmatism, combined with total Media Release format for press releases is support on both a strategic and operational certainly an attempt at formalising such level, companies can utilise social media and activities for journalists. social networking to the advantage of everyone. In conclusion, corporate communications is starting to change into something more fundamentally two-way, democratic, and conscious of the web around it. The challenge for companies is to be aware – in perpetuity – of this, and to execute strategies which take advantage of the innate sociability of the web in a pragmatic way that delivers benefit for the full range of stakeholders, and beyond.
  6. 6. About us Contact: Lucie Harrild Salterbaxter advise companies Tel: +44 (0)20 7229 5720 on branding, corporate Pavan Athwal responsibility, corporate reporting Tel: +44 (0)20 7229 5720 and employee engagement. The Directions Supplements support our main Directions We name companies, re-invent companies, report and are produced re-position companies and re-brand companies. every two months. The main Directions report is We help companies communicate with published each year and is now regarded as the UK’s shareholders and their employees and we advise most comprehensive analysis them on how to address corporate responsibility. of the trends and issues in CR communications. If you We create brands, complete company want a copy, call us on the number below or email communications programmes and global guidelines. We design, build and manage websites, e-commerce sites and all things interactive. We develop climate change campaigns and bring sustainability to life. In short we apply creative thinking to the big issues that businesses have to address in order to improve performance. Our clients are extremely varied and include FTSE 100 and Euro 100 companies; some of the world’s most exclusive brands; independent, 202 Kensington Church Street entrepreneurial businesses; world leading London W8 4DP educational establishments; law firms; private Tel +44 (0)20 7229 5720 Fax +44 (0)20 7229 5721 equity firms and media companies. This supplement is printed on Think Bright and is supplied by Howard Smith. It is an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified material and is 100% recyclable. Printed by CTD, an ISO 14001 certified and FSC accredited company. TT-COC-2142 ©1996 Forest Stewardship Council A.C