Harley-Davidson goes online-only with annual review

Mar 25, 2013
<p>Motorcycle legend adds interactive links and video from the CEO</p>

Harley-Davidson has ditched its printed annual review in favor of an internet-only version as it gears up for its AGM and a year of 110th anniversary celebrations.

The company, which saw year-on-year revenue grow by 6 percent in 2012, also moved to notice and access on its proxy and 10K forms, issuing electronic documents but offering printed versions when requested. The annual review is not available in a printed format, however.

Amy Giuffre, director of investor relations, explains that the decision was less about cost and more about ‘where the trend in this industry is moving’, as well as becoming more sustainable.

‘We always created more [paper materials] than we needed – it became wasteful,’ adds Maripat Blankenheim, director of external communications, plus ‘more and more people are looking online for their information.’

Giuffre explains that while the cost reductions are a ‘nice byproduct’ of going online-only with the review, no savings will be realized until next year, and it’s more about reducing waste and adding new content anyway.

‘For example, you can actually see our CEO speaking to you live on a video, which is more exciting than just reading a letter on a printed page,’ she says. ‘The savings on printing are great but you’re also able to add new formats and content and some dynamic elements.’ She stresses, however, that this is only in the annual review: ‘There’s nothing dynamic about an SEC-filed document!’

Rather than a response to investor demand, Blankenheim explains that Harley-Davidson looked at where people were going for their financials, adding that the move was something the firm had been considering for several years. While it’s too early to know how the new-look review has been received by investors – the documents were released only last week – Blankenheim says the company is ‘really excited to turn the corner.’

Giuffre adds that keeping up to date on the technology the industry is using is always on her mind, even if the IR department might not be ready to embrace all new trends. From a corporate standpoint, Harley-Davidson is a ‘heavy user’ of social media, she explains, though this hasn’t reached the IR program yet. ‘We have a pretty active website but we don’t use social media specifically for IR-type communications,’ Giuffre explains.

‘There really isn’t a demand for it. But in the future when investors require that or look to us to provide information through those means, we’ve already got a great channel set up for [social media] because we’re using it so much on the brand side. So we’d be able to turn it on and be great users of it pretty quickly.’

For the time being, Harley-Davidson is happy to enjoy its new, interactive annual review, offering investors an alternative angle on the numbers, while the SEC-filed documents offer more detail, concludes Blankenheim. There is less financial detail in the new review, she admits, adding that this was a conscious decision.

‘Everything that was in previous annual reports was duplicated in the 10Ks,’ she explains. ‘Now you can still get the information; it’s just in a different document. So if you’re looking for more hardcore financials and business results and so forth, you go to the 10K and then the stories behind those numbers are in the annual review. It’s pretty cool.’

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