6 Tips for Promoting Your Online Annual or Responsibility Report

You’ve decided to create an online report. Great! But how will you get people to experience it?

The web doesn’t work like print, you have to drive your audiences to your site. It’s not that shareholders and stakeholders don’t want the information online, they do. They just won’t find it on their own. With a print report, you don’t leave stacks somewhere and wait for interested people to show up, you mail it! It’s different with an online report. People need to be told about the report site in multiple ways, and more than once. In other words, you need to market your site. And it’s best to make your plan before the site launches.

The following tips are simple and each will increase traffic to your site:

1. Create a plain language URL.

You need a simple web address — something like YEAR.AR.company.com or company.com/YEAR-annual-report. If you can’t say it easily, no one will remember it. Your IT or web group can create these “vanity” URLs which will simply redirect traffic to your site, even if it’s hosted by a third party or buried somewhere in the financial reports section.

2. Use your company home page.

A small banner works, a bigger feature works better. The longer you leave it in a prominent position, the more traffic you’ll get. The promo can stay up for six months, at least. It might feel old to you, but a well-crafted report can be very informative to new audiences throughout the year.

3. Use internal communications.

Feature the site prominently on your intranet or employee e-newsletter. Employees are one of the most invested audiences — make them ambassadors and they will share the site. If you have multiple intranets, blogs or newsletters, use them all.

4. Embrace social media.

It is hard to have something to say all the time, so this is an opportunity. In all channels, be visual! Use the images and graphics you made, not just text links.Twitter: Tweet many times, over time, and be specific. “See Our Online Annual Report” isn’t very compelling. Try, “Read about our CEO’s take on the year” or better yet, “CEO’s strategy for next year.” Tweet about different parts of the report, the stories featured. Facebook: Feature photos from the report, and of course promote it in your status updates using specific stories. Like Twitter, post several times pointing to different features. Corporate Responsibility / Sustainability and employee stories will have resonance. LinkedIn: Add it to your corporate page and pin it to the top for a bit. Promote it in your status updates. Again be visual. YouTube or Vimeo: Post your videos and link back to your report site in the description. Use YouTube to host the videos you feature, capture all the views to measure later. You get the idea, do all you can. And, be sure to integrate a sharing feature into your site.

5. Send graphic email.

Tell investors, analysts, media, employees… and use the report as a sidebar or footer item in other emails throughout the year. Let them know the report is there and why they should visit. Use “eye candy,” make them want to see more. Did you make a compelling video? Detail the strategy? Feature employees? Facilities? Spotlight a division? Let everyone know.

6. Link to it every chance you get.

Add links from all the relevant pages of your corporate site: about, recruiting/careers, brand or product pages, and on the sites of your divisions or business units. Include the URL in any printed documents: annual report or review, proxy, or fact sheets. Put it in the email signature of relevant employees. Let people know it’s there. If your site is mobile/tablet friendly, say so in the promotions. All this linking will help in the search engine rankings as well.

Extra credit:

A well-crafted report is useful all year long. It deserves more than a one-off announcement. Leverage the content you created. Use it in your investor/stakeholder presentations, and in your analyst day and annual meeting by showing the videos, putting the site on an accessible computer and handing out a teaser card. Get the most out of your online report!

We have been helping our clients strategize, create and promote print and online reports for a dozen years. As you embark on your next reporting cycle, feel free to call or email me with any questions. I’m happy to talk about your situation and how you can make the most of your web efforts.