Three Approaches to Digital Reporting

You’ve decided to create a digital version of your annual or responsibility report. Great! Now what? First, think about your approach. How will print factor in? Is senior management ready for an online-led process? What’s right for you?
Here are three basic options:

Print leads, with mirrored digital content


The print book proceeds as usual. The digital version is started about halfway through the schedule, translating the selected print design and messaging into an interactive version. The digital version is sync’d with the print content for a few strategic reviews and proofread against the print at the very end. This is often a good first step for an organization that is not culturally attuned to reviewing the report as a website, and can be paired with a reduced print run if desired. Delphi, above, uses this approach.

Less print, expanded digital


This simultaneous development approach typically contains a smaller print piece and a digital version with expanded content. The pieces are produced in tandem. It’s best to choose one format for content development; otherwise keeping print and digital in sync simultaneously can be difficult (and costly). The key here is a good up-front process to define what goes in print and what goes online. Stanley Black & Decker uses this approach, with a 10-K wrap annual report and separate sustainability highlights, with a robust year in review and full sustainability report online.

Digital only


In this approach the report is a website only, with the web content translated into PDF downloads at the end of the process. No print book is created. Here, the promotion strategy is critical, since the onus is on the reader to seek or find the report. (Read more here.) Pfizer uses this approach.

What’s right for your company?

Every company has its own culture and expectations for this unique project. You will want to create a review process that is optimized for your needs. The criteria you might want to assess are likely particular to you, and may include senior management’s readiness to make a shift, its willingness to review content in a website format, how the report is typically used throughout the year, internal stakeholder opinions, legal requirements and more.

The move to digital reports happens for many reasons, and the resulting product can be rich. Also, in this new age of social media, digital content that can be repurposed and shared is powerful. Wherever you are in the decision cycle, partnering with an accomplished resource can be key to making your transition to digital a resounding success.