Are you owning your company narrative? The art of storytelling through an Annual Report
Annual Reports, which once used to be printed for just a handful of corporates and investors as nothing more than a formality, have in the last two decades, transformed to encompass insights and data that are beyond just financial matrices.
The evolution of regulatory norms, influx of domestic and global investors and an increasingly competitive industry scenario has led to building a more relevant corporate narrative for companies at large.
Companies realise that ‘purpose’ holds more relevance than just ‘profits’ and that articulating that purpose and the company narrative is more important than ever.
The purpose-led story is the foundation for the growth of any company, as it helps attract investors, build a great team, grow the customer base and partner with the right suppliers – now known as the stakeholder community. The art of value-creation for all stakeholders is fundamental to any business and builds the case for an excellent investor engagement.
What was earlier a mere print of financial data, is now a document beyond just compulsory disclosure. The evolution of an Annual Report from a financial document to stakeholder engagement report continues to gain prominence.
It perfectly bridges the gap between the companies and their stakeholders, if the narrative is accurate, honest and timely published. The audience for companies today is not just the regulatory authorities and investors, but includes a larger part of community, society and employees.
As mistrust, scandals and governance failures continue to derail businesses, there is an ardent need for an Annual Report to start communicating on the non-financial aspects of the businesses. The Indian corporates have turned the corner, and there is a shift in the outlook of telling a befitting story through an Annual Report.
Be it a listed company or a company intending to come out with an IPO (Initial Public Offer) or a privately held company – engagement with stakeholders cannot be ignored today.
So, how can you ensure your Annual Report is articulating your company narrative in the best possible way?
Here are the five key areas you must focus on:
Make transparency a priority
Transparency today is the intangible equity of any corporate narrative. Organisations need to be transparent with their goals, agendas and performances. While blowing the horn on one’s achievements is often a given, entities also need to accept failures and shortcomings publicly.
The case of long-term business sustainability with a short-blip needs to be validated with facts and transparent strategies.
Keep your narrative precise
A repetitive content and use of supercilious words add no value to the reader. The diverse topics surrounding your business need to be captured within the ambit of strategy and story. Remember to keep your content crisp, consistent and aligned with your evolving business strategies and objectives.
Broaden your audience
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a Sanskrit phrase for ‘the world is one family’, rightly summarises an audience today for any enterprise. Besides a growing investor community (both at domestic and global stage), the public at large also has the right to scrutinise your books of accounts. Hence, showcase your value-creation statistics beyond financial numbers.
Talk about better work culture initiatives, engaging better with customers, building a strong governance framework, choosing the right suppliers and vendors and making a positive impact on society, environment and community where you operate.
Every penny you earn and spend, is today under the lens, for good.
Communicate with creativity
Creativity completes the art of storytelling that your Annual Report does on behalf of your company. A creative Annual Report overcomes the barriers of communication and connects with the audiences. Be it the strategy, culture, social impact, or financial goal – when presented creatively, breaks the boredom of a text-heavy content.
A visually appealing document has brought a paradigm shift to reporting culture, making the reading of Annual Reports more of a joy than a chore.
Maintain your consistency
A benchmark Annual Report for just one year is no good. Be consistent in your reporting. Own the report, make it an integral and invaluable part of your business. As your business grows, your corporate narrative will remain a focal point of your communication. Creating a consistent and integrated communication strategy will go a long way.
Hence, it is imperative to look at Annual Reports as less of a regulatory burden and more of an opportunity. Today, more than 500 listed companies are actively investing in building a transparent, creative and communication rich annual report that encourages its shareholders, reassures employees and customers and sets the foundation for its perception in the public’s eye.
So, take ownership of your corporate narrative, by telling it better with your Annual Report!
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)