Bringing life and longevity to your annual report - why an editorial calendar matters

It’s not enough nowadays to start working on social content in the final few weeks before your annual or ESG report goes live, argues Director for Social Media Strategy Michi MacLennan. True success will come from full integration around the very first steps of report planning.

The good news if you’re reading this is that you already have an awareness of the importance of social media when it comes to publicising company reports.

Platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter are increasingly the primary sources of information for those who will have a natural interest in the latest update, and if you want to grab their attention then there is a number of hurdles that you need to navigate.

And as well as that there is considerable potential in terms of longevity. Why restrict months of work into making up a single unwieldy document when its themes can be spread out over a longer period, bringing with it the ability to get into greater depth about subjects, therefore finding more appreciation by the audience and cementing those core messages that you sweated buckets to define?

As with any major project nowadays, social media and digital content should factor into thinking from the very first steps. It can work around the report to boost its success, but is much more likely to work well if it’s not thrown into the mix as part of a mad scramble in the final few weeks before the publication date.

The best way of doing this is to create an editorial calendar early. As with anything on digital platforms it can remain a work in progress longer than aspects with a print or transmission deadline, but by having a strong idea early on you can feel confident that all assets being produced are optimised to be their very best across all platforms.

If it seems a bit of a jumble on where to begin, fear not: here are the four phases which I recommend dividing an editorial calendar into when you’re performing the initial shaping.

Buildup (week before launch)

It can work wonders to induce anticipation in your audience. We don’t want to ruin the surprise, of course, but teasing the publication date with a snippet of your best content – such as an excerpt of video or nice image that doesn’t give too much away – can help whet the appetite just before the big day.

Here’s a visually in-your-face example for FrieslandCampina’s 2018 annual report:

Meanwhile NATO urges its audience to hold the date:

Join us live at 12:30 CET today as the Secretary General will launch his annual report:


— NATO (@NATO) March 15, 2018

Support (month after launch)

Ah, there’s nothing like a good old brain hack, and one of my personal favourites is ‘spaced repetition’. It produces “long-term, durable retention of knowledge”, which is exactly what we want to achieve. Therefore you want to ensure that your audience hears more of those main messages in the initial weeks while it’s still fresh, so that they consider it anew and are thus much less likely to forget everything that you worked so hard to flag up for them.

We worked with Puma Energy on their online annual report, and you can see how they intelligently made use of other platforms to emphasise a primary theme of moving towards cleaner fuel:

Launch (day of launch)

This of course is where the bulk of your efforts are going to be – so it’s vital to ensure that they pay off. What will be your tentpole content across platforms? And how will this drive target audiences to the right destination? Whether that’s to the report generally or specific areas, by laying out ideas across platforms you will be able to think more about targeting and how to provide simple messages to the audience (their time on social is limited and precious) while introducing curiosity so that they want to find out more.

One of the most exciting things we did recently at MerchantCantos was using Facebook Canvas – a mobile-first full-screen experience – to tell the story of Anglo American’s interim results. Working closely with them we produced a premium interactive post which could be targeted at a specific audience to drive them to the full report. The results speak for themselves:

Sustain (6 months-1 year after launch)

Over a longer term, as well as that repetition there is a great opportunity to really dive into the main themes of your report. Whether that’s a written feature, a mini documentary, or a podcast, there are plenty of online avenues for going into much more depth for those who may be interested, at the same time using these tentpole content types as sources for digestible snippets you can use across your channels. Not only can this excite the audience, but it means that you get much more from your efforts in terms of material which can produce a nice healthy ‘long tail’ rather than quickly disappearing from view.

For a top-end example look at how NETSCOUT, a provider of network performance management products, hired iconic documentary maker Werner Herzog to make a full-length film about how the connected world of the internet has changed our lives:

With those four phases you should start producing ideas which tie into each other, and merge with other aspects of report production, making for something which will quickly start feeling fully featured and which will also ensure that elements can be used across several different platforms rather than just being stuck on one. And once you have that clarity, then it will make the rest of the process that much easier as well as far more effective.

If you want to know more about editorial calendars and social strategy for your company, feel free to email Michi with any questions or thoughts you have.

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