Is full online reporting back from the dead?

Posted in Digital, Reporting on 3 March 2015 By Emperor Consultancy

The common theme was that online reporting is moving away from full HTML and more towards summary reporting, or online reviews, to complement the full report in print/PDF. 

But, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the full HTML report is threatening to resurrect itself. A few companies, such as Electrolux have begun to put digital first in their reporting, producing the full document online and then creating a PDF/print version from that.

But, I hear you say, as a digital consultant - and someone who has previously argued that digital shouldn't play second fiddle to the print in the process of corporate reporting, not to mention worked on various full HTML reports - surely you approve? Wouldn't putting digital first save on print costs too?

My response is to pose another question in return: is your annual report a regulatory chore, or is it the chance to use the biggest communication set-piece of the year to engage with your audiences and tell your story? 

If it's the latter, then your approach shouldn't be print first, or digital first: it should be communication first.  

We firmly believe that a well-designed, high-quality printed report, working alongside an online review, and combined with the use of content and assets from your report on your corporate website, is usually the best way to achieve your communications goals. 

A printed report has many uses: it can be used as a marketing tool at external events and seminars, or left behind after meetings. It can be used to drive internal engagement, and it's the easiest way to fulfil statutory obligations as the regulations are still formulated with a print document in mind. If you're going to send out copies to shareholders, don't you want those shareholders to feel valued?

Online, the analytics still point to users being reluctant to engage with full reports: on average, 75% of visits will last less than five minutes and take in less than five pages, with between 40 and 60% of visitors not going beyond the initial page. And stand-alone reports will only get a fraction of traffic of the corporate site. Instead, give users a summary from which they can digest the key messages, perhaps embedded in your corporate site, and offer a PDF for those who want to read in depth on screen. (Even consider whether you need to adapt your PDF for on screen reading, but that's a post for another day). In any case, bolster your website with all the content and assets you've worked so hard to produce for your report.

Start with your messages, and then work out how best to communicate them via print and online. Thinking about your reporting as a whole, rather than putting either print or digital first, you - and your stakeholders - will reap much greater rewards.

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