Wider reporting uses could ‘add value’

Dec 19, 2013
<p>More and varied use of annual reports could boost value of IR, according to Curran &amp; Connors white paper</p>

A new IR white paper suggests annual reports may have far wider uses in corporate communication, including in the training of new employees.

The publication, entitled ‘Be of value by adding value!’, asks IROs to consider the possibility of using annual reporting as a way of driving value for their firm.

Authored by US communications firm Curran & Connors, the white paper contains a number of suggestions for ways to use reporting to widely improve a company’s communications. Central to the document’s argument is the idea that while meeting disclosure requirements is necessary, companies can distribute reports in a way that ‘helps achieve a broader set of objectives.’

The paper also identifies ways in which annual reports can be used beyond being hosted on an investor relations website, including as part of marketing communications, in customer outreach or even to familiarize new employees with a company’s outlook.

The new publication builds upon points raised by Rob Berick in a recent Falls Communications white paper called ‘It’s time to rethink IR’, which suggests that IROs might be left behind if communication techniques are not updated.

IR Magazine spoke to Noah Butensky, COO of Curran & Connors, for more information about how an IRO’s value can be expanded.

What do you think is currently the most overlooked part of an IRO’s role, especially when it comes to adding value to his or her company?

As the investor relations office has moved closer and closer to finance, and farther and farther from marketing or communications, it’s adopted a cost-cutting mind set that’s driven corporate America since the financial crisis of 2008. Unfortunately, this short-term strategy has long-term implications: corporate America will only be able to cut costs and refinance debt at lower rates for so long – it needs to refocus its efforts on growth right now.

For the IRO, this means being of value by adding value. Content is king, so whether it’s the annual report, the investor presentation or the investor relations website, the IRO is responsible for a company’s most critical, brand-establishing collateral material uniquely written in the voice of the firm’s CEO. It’s leveraging this content that converts the IRO from a cost center into a profit center.

What do companies do wrong with their current reporting?

They disclose rather than communicate. They view reporting as a one-time compliance event, instead of an investment in sales, marketing and social media. Investor relations should broaden its decision-making lens beyond the stock price to include driving revenue and creating enterprise-level efficiencies and cost savings.

What was it about Rob Berick’s white paper that particularly resonated with you? What are its most valuable takeaways?

The disintermediation of information flow, particularly with respect to sell-side analysts, which has occurred as a result of changing technology, regulations and key legal settlements. What this means is that investors now get more data, but much less meaningful information. Interestingly, the web now provides IROs with direct access to end-users and allows them to produce scalable, retail investor-targeted materials in plain English that review a company’s strategy, value proposition and results.

What aspect of new online tech – including social media – do you think is most exciting, from an IR point of view?

They’re all exciting. The proliferation of channels – whether we’re talking about outlets on TV, traditional websites, blogs or social media platforms – has forever changed the world we live in. Most importantly, they have significantly raised the value of original content. Without content, such two-way channels are meaningless and, perhaps worse, can leave a company looking at the backs of peers who use these channels effectively.

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