We’ve been hearing about the imminent demise of the annual report for over 25 years. The thing is, it’s not going anywhere — it’s just evolving. And becoming an opportunity to set your company apart.
For some companies there is still a commitment to the report (as a report, review, 10-K wrap or responsibility-focused communication). Granted, the purpose, content, and format are changing. The Proxy is growing as a more meaningful communication opportunity. Sustainability and ESG is in some cases the leading message. But, at the most basic level, why are some companies still doing annual reports, beyond the bare minimum legal requirements? Here are a few reasons why companies still produce annual reports.
1. It’s the “Swiss Army Knife” of communications
There is confusion. It is often the only communication, aside from the corporate website, positioning the company to a wide audience, bringing together different businesses and brands. Whether print or online, a report can be a de facto corporate brochure, a marketing and recruiting tool that presents the corporation’s depth and scale in one place as a point-in-time record of accomplishments, milestones and goals. It is a brand building and reputation enhancing tool. And it drives traffic to your website.
2. It’s CEO-driven
As a CEO vehicle tied to a legal deadline, it gets done. Every time, on time. It can serve as a CEO calling card for high-level discussions with customers, partners and governments, uniting the company’s strategies into a cohesive whole. You don’t need to be Warren Buffett or Larry Fink, every CEO letter is read carefully.
3. It’s a resource
Within the company, a report is a go-to source for approved content and images. Vetted key messages are used throughout the year for numerous audiences. High-quality photography and videos are leveraged in company facilities, trade shows, presentations and of course, on social media. With its high profile, the report ensures message alignment across the company.
4. It’s an opportunity
Not only a historical record, but a report can also create deeper understanding of what you do, why you do it, and how well you do it. A report can engage your employees and prospective employees, build trust in your organization and set your company apart — clarifying why people should invest in the stock, work at or with the company, and believe in the brand.
The big take-away
At the end of the day, an annual report is a prime opportunity to reach diverse audiences. Sometimes ‘zigging while all others zag’ let’s your organization break through. And taking advantage of the opportunity tied to the annual deadline can be valuable. Although some are shifting their communication to other vehicles, like the Proxy and Sustainability/ESG Report, for the right company creating a narrative Annual Report is a unique communication opportunity not to be missed.