Annual Report

Make the Most of December: 5 Holiday Hacks for Communicators

 Flickr Creative Commons photo

Flickr Creative Commons photo

We’re heading into the home stretch. 

Black Friday is behind us, Giving Tuesday is upon us, and the ever-busy month of December awaits.

For communicators, December offers some unique opportunities to get your message out and the chance to lay the groundwork for a strong start in 2019. 

Let’s dive in with some ways to make the most of the last month of 2018. 

Wrap the year up right 
The old newsroom standard—the year-in-review story—can be your friend in December. It’s usually a light lift to look back through the highlights from the past year and piece them together for a year-in-review story or series of blog posts.  For internal communicators, it’s a great way to reinforce key messages, highlight successes, and set a tone for the coming year. For nonprofits, a year in review reminds donors and volunteers of the great work you did in the previous year and provides a platform to say thank you to your biggest boosters. 

Procrastinate no more
The year is winding down and that long-awaited, much-talked-about website refresh is still stuck in neutral. We get it, website refreshes are like the Land of Misfit Toys of the communications world. They never seem to get the attention they need with other priorities always seeming to squeeze them out. December is good month to break the cycle by crafting an action plan to get it done. Commit to lining up the resources you need and create a timeline to get that stale website refreshed and relaunched in the first quarter of 2019. 

Tug some heart strings
News reporters can’t resist is a feel-good holiday story. If your organization has a heartwarming success story – particularly one with a timely Christmas or holiday hook— start pitching. Such stories are easy to find at many nonprofits. For businesses, maybe you can repurpose an internal story about an employee whose making a real difference in the community could be pitched to an external news outlet. Whether it’s a story focuses on client you helped or an employee making a difference, make sure before you pitch that they are willing to participate and know the story’s angle. It’s also a good idea to prep them for the interview so they can think about how much of their story they’re comfortable sharing.

Be resolute
According to U.S. News, about 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. That means the odds are against those of us who are using the new year to set new goals. To beat those odds, take specific actions now that will make it easier to stick to your resolutions once the new year begins. That could be as simple as scheduling meetings now that will keep you on track through the first half of the year, or  signing up for a conference or webinar that focuses on a skill you want to strengthen. Last week, for example, we talked about the importance of getting an early jump on your annual report. Establishing a firm timeline now and lining up the resources you need will help keep the project on track. 

Say thanks
I just read an article about how Chik-fil-A is killing its competition with kindness. More specifically, the fact that their employees are trained to say please and thank you is reportedly having a big impact on their bottom line. Makes sense to me. A simple thank you to customers, volunteers, donors, employees, friendly reporters…just about anyone goes a long way. 

And finally ...

Peter and I would like to say thank you to our great clients and the many friends and supporters of Turn Two Communications. We couldn’t do it without you! 

We’re looking forward to a great 2019 – which will feature our refreshed website … we promise! 

10 Tips for Positioning Your Annual Report in a Banner Year

Corporate annual reports

For many companies, this year’s annual report will feel something like a victory lap.

The stock market’s bull run has become a stampede, smashing record highs time and again. As of this writing the S&P 500 Index is up 19% year to date, with strong returns rippling across most sectors.

Barring any last-minute calamity, most annual reports will come bearing good—if not great—news for shareholders.

Of course, amid the investor euphoria it may be tempting to view this year’s report as a slam dunk. Roll out the great news, sprinkle in a few notes of caution about the future unknown, and call it a day.

Yet, we would argue that positioning an annual report for a good year can be every bit as challenging as doing so in one when your shareholders got clobbered. It’s essential to be thoughtful and strategic, both in advising your leadership and executing the report itself. 

Here are 10 things to think about as you consider how to tell the story of a banner year.

1.     This one will get read. Everyone likes a winner, and odds are your shareholders will be still basking in the glow of solid returns when your annual report arrives in their mailbox or e-mail.  Unlike tough years, when some shareholders first instinct might be to pitch the report in the circular file, many will be eager to dig into the breakdown of what led to your success, and how you aim to maintain it. Make sure every aspect of your 2017 report shines, and that the content reflects your strength, showcases your management team, and reminds shareholders why they invested in you in the first place.

2.     Don’t go overboard on your theme. The tricky thing about annual reports is that they typically come out well into the new year when the economic landscape can be decidedly different. So instead of rolling out the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner, consider a theme that highlights your momentum and strengths, rather than just focusing on great results.

3.     Be true to your voice: Analysts and serious investors love nothing more than consistency. Keep that in mind when framing the approach and messaging of your report. While it’s OK to highlight great results, make sure the tone rings true with how your leadership has been talking about your company on quarterly calls and throughout the year.

4.     Play up the good news. Don’t be afraid to tout your success, but make sure you do so in a way that is authentic and acknowledges the benefits of a sound economy and unprecedented stock market.

5.     Don’t bury the bad news. With strong results making headlines, the temptation will be there to ignore or gloss over any significant challenges that may have affected the business in 2017. Resist it. Address the hurdles and missteps head on, and make it clear how you are attacking them moving forward. Your shareholders and analysts will appreciate your candor, and you will benefit from the cover of strong overall performance.

6.     Focus on what sets you apart. Michael Scott could have run a company this year and shown positive gains. Well, that may be a stretch, but it’s essential to highlight actions you took to differentiate from your competitors and how those actions made a good year even better.

7.     Show you're playing the long game. The phrase ‘past results are not an indicator of future performance’ is never far from a savvy investor’s mind. The smart companies are always preparing for rain, even when it seems like the sun will never stop shining. Highlight the proactive moves you have made to thrive – or at least limit the pain – in any economic conditions.

8.     Manage expectations. You don’t want to burst everyone’s balloon, but in the wake of what may well be a once-in-a-lifetime year for stocks, a solid dose of reality is in order. Make sure your CEO’s letter frames out realistic expectations of what is ahead.

9.     Show you care. A great year offers a prime opportunity to demonstrate how a rising tide lifts all boats. Make sure to highlight concrete examples of how you are fulfilling your company’s purpose beyond the bottom line through community involvement and charitable work. Acknowledge the contributions of employees, show appreciation for your customers, and let your shareholders know the ways you are engaged with the communities you serve.

10.  Create a report that works all year long. It’s not just shareholders who can benefit from an annual report. Your report highlighting your strong year can be an essential tool for your sales team to share with clients, or with HR to show to prospective hires. It can also serve as the foundation for your content and marketing efforts moving forward. Make sure the report is designed and presented in a way that offers the best ROI.

History tells us that it is unlikely we will see a stock market like 2017 any time soon—or ever again. Make the most of it through a well-crafted and well positioned annual report that works for you all year long. Then go ahead and take that victory lap. 
 

Scott Westcott is Corporate Practice Leader for Turn Two Communications.

Annual Report 2017: The Clock is Ticking

 Starting your annual report now means less stress and a better product in the new year. Flickr photo by William Hart

Starting your annual report now means less stress and a better product in the new year. Flickr photo by William Hart

If you have any experience with creating an annual report for your company or nonprofit, you know that deadline pressure is inevitable.

After all, you can’t describe the previous year’s results until your books are closed.
As a result, if your fiscal year ends on Dec. 31, late winter is always going to require some heavy lifting to get the annual report done.

But you can make that lift quite a bit lighter — and produce a much better report — if you don’t wait until January to get started. It makes good sense to start the process in the window between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, whether you are developing a traditional, digital or hybrid annual report.

Here are just a few reasons why...

Less stress: You’ve probably been there. The busy holiday season fast approaches and the to-do list overflows. December somehow slips by as December tends to do. When people re-focus after the first of the year, it’s fire drill time. No doubt, the entire annual report process can be completed in the first few months of the year. Happens all the time. Yet, the deadline pressure can amp up the stress level, while limiting your options and creativity.

A better blueprint: The role of annual reports is evolving. While the Form 10-K is a regulatory requirement for U.S. public companies, the supporting content and context is optional. While some organizations have opted for a bare-bones approach, many others are gaining renewed appreciation for the unique value of annual reports as a once-a-year opportunity to address the “state of the company” and clearly articulate management’s forward-looking strategy and plans. By starting now, you have more opportunity better assess the strategic objectives of your annual report, as well as ample time to line up the right resources to execute on that approach.

Improved ROI: By getting started earlier, you can lay the groundwork to better leverage your report in a variety of ways. For instance, sophisticated B2B customers often need to understand the financial health and strength of their business partners and vendors, so some companies develop their annual report with their sales force in mind. In addition, engaging annual reports can be useful tools in the recruiting and hiring process.

Stronger messaging: An effective annual report should be well aligned with your leadership, IR, and marketing messaging. Starting the process before year end offers more opportunity to assure the annual report theme is in-sync with strategic messaging, while also identifying ways the theme might be leveraged further. For instance, publication of your annual report can kick off an ongoing content marketing campaign aimed at investors, customers and prospects. Check out our earlier blog about how you can get more mileage out of your annual report.

No matter what, you’re still likely to feel the squeeze of deadline pressure in the annual report process. Yet by getting an early jump, you can be confident that the end result will be a report that tells your company's story in the most compelling and engaging ways possible -- and will keep delivering value that lasts the whole year through.

Start now – you’ll be thankful you did.

5 Easy Ways to Leverage Your Annual Report

It’s the time of year when annual reports are starting to land in mailboxes or post to Websites. 

And depending on how the process went down this year, you’re likely admiring the glossy result, or vowing to never lay your eyes on it again. 

Both options, while understandable, are selling your annual report way too short. 

There are plenty of easy and effective ways to further leverage your annual report now that it is complete. And considering the time, money, and resources you committed, it only makes sense to get some more good mileage out of the finished product.

The good news is that regardless of whether you have come to love or hate this year’s report, it’s relatively simple to squeeze some more value out of it. Here are 5 possibilities:

PR pitches

Annual reports, with their predominant year-in-review focus, typically aren’t a source for breaking news. Still, a second look might reveal some potential headline-makers for either the local or industry press. Is there a major accomplishment or milestone featured that could be newsworthy? Record-breaking financial results or notable new products or projects? Does your CEO’s letter include some nuggets that could provide the framework for a pitch about your company’s growth or community commitment? Are there any employees featured? “Smithville Native Spotlighted in XYZ Annual Report” is a no brainer for a local newspaper’s business section. Not only is it good earned media for your company, but also provides a nice hometown pat on the back for the employee featured.

Op-eds

The best annual reports feature a letter to shareholders in which your CEO offers up some compelling insights about trends in your industry or impact in your community.  Fortunately, the best op-eds often focus on the same things. Take another read through the CEO letter to assess if it contains the framework or news hook for a good op-ed either for an industry publication or a local, regional or national newspaper. Odds are you’ll be surprised by the possibilities after reviewing the letter with a different mindset. 

Web Content

Sidebars that are focused on innovative programs, new initiatives, customer profiles or community service are no brainers as fodder for fresh web content. Often a well-written sidebar can become a blog post with little or no reworking. Infographics can also serve as the foundation for new web content. Don’t just think external – annual report content can be a great source for an internal drip campaign to get employees better versed in your company’s business and performance. 

Sales and recruiting support

Too few companies fully leverage an annual reports potential as a sales tool or recruiting piece. If enough printed copies are available, share them with your sales team with some simple tips on how the book can be used to highlight key aspects of your company during a sales call or, as a leave-behind for a prospect to gain a deeper understanding and confidence in your company.  Same goes for career fairs -- or at very least making sure several copies are available in areas in which job candidates will be waiting for interviews. 

Presentations

No doubt countless hours are wasted in organizations by people starting PowerPoint and other presentations “from scratch.”  Yet odds are good that there are several elements within your annual report – from branded design to approved images – that could serve as great elements for presentation templates or guidelines. Work with your creative team to leverage some content images and graphics that can provide information about your company in an effective and consistent way. This not only saves time and helps ensure your company is being presented well, it also positions your communications team as adding value to partners throughout the company. 

Sure, we get that after months of work and worry in the annual report birthing process, you might want to just move on. Yet, making just a little more effort to think about how to further leverage the report is bound to make your company – and your team -- look really good.