WEDNESDAY 8 JUL 2020 4:04 PM

THE TRANSITION TO DIGITAL REPORTING: WHY IT IS MORE VITAL NOW THAN EVER BEFORE

Digital communications have never been as important as now, with the Covid-19 pandemic forcing people to solely rely on computerised technology. David Davies, communications consultant at corporate communications agency Jones and Palmer, explores the benefits that digital reporting can bring to businesses, such as increasing accessibility and enhancing brands.

Moving on from the traditional paper report, the Online Annual Report (OAR) offers an engaging and accessible format to present a wealth of information to stakeholders.

Even prior to COVID-19, the transition to digital reporting was gaining significant momentum. But with the global pandemic keeping people in their homes, applying financial pressure to businesses and forcing businesses to move communications online, we will likely see a further transition to digital reporting. With that in mind, it’s important to consider what benefits this could bring to business.

The first (perhaps most obvious) benefit, is the increase in efficiency and accessibility. OAR’s can be viewed instantly on desktops, mobile and tablet devices. Indeed, an online presence offers the versatility and flexibility to present key information promptly and conveniently. In addition, digital reporting also offers the opportunity to use analytics to understand user behaviour, enabling future improvements to the user experience.

Furthermore, the move to digital communications can significantly enhance your brand. Now, more than ever, it is vital to maintain a strong brand in order to attract stakeholders, and the range of multimedia possibilities available online – such as animation, interactive text and video – can become crucial differentiators. The more engaging the content, the stronger the connection with the brand. For example, a ‘talking head’ video discussing how the Group’s purpose, vision and values drive their business operations could resonate with stakeholders in a way that traditional paper formats may not. This personable approach is increasingly imperative in the current climate, where face-to-face interaction is limited.

Critically, the obvious sustainable benefits by reducing print run cannot be understated. However, not only does this support a Group’s focus on sustainable reporting, but it can limit costs and minimise financial strain imposed by the pandemic. This will be a more noticeable benefit to larger companies that print hundreds of annual reports for their shareholders each financial year.

With that being said, it is important to note that the benefits of digital reporting will only be acquired if executed correctly. This entails identifying which stakeholders are more likely to visit the site, and aligning the content to their interests and needs. It is also important that, in the interest of accessibility, the content translates well across desktop, mobile and tablet.

There are innumerable benefits to digital reporting, which are becoming increasingly apparent, as COVID-19 forces many companies to relocate online. With a responsive design and intuitive navigation, OAR’s can reduce complexity and make it easier for stakeholders to access the information that they need, while also providing sustainable and financial benefits. Now that online is the new normal, companies need to innovate and embrace digital communications to ensure they maintain vital relationships and engagement among stakeholders.

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