Digital first annual report

Digital Last. Digital First. Content First.

Be honest. How long have corporate reporters and their advisers been talking about Digital First reporting? We’ve had the technology that makes it possible for years but it’s never quite become a reality. Ten years ago it was more a case of Digital Last. Companies put the printed report at the centre of the creative, messaging and production work flow. It was only when that process was well advanced (or even complete) that the digital team would step in to bring the report to life online.

Since then, a wave of pressures and influences has changed the landscape completely, from the growing willingness of audiences to consume information digitally to upcoming EU legislation making the tagged XHTML annual report the official document of record in all member states. So 'Digital First' will soon become not just an aspiration, but a legal necessity.

At MerchantCantos, we’ve been working with clients to prepare them for this new world of reporting. Last year, for example, we helped Aviva take a bold step towards no-frills reporting, paving the way for the efficient production of a tagged XHTML report in 2020.

And we have just completed a first annual report for newly-listed Swiss packaging company SIG Combibloc. In this case, it is the online version which drives the messaging, with strong graphics and animation, supported by a ‘no-frills’ pdf, available as a download. Setting up the right process to allow all parties to develop ideas quickly and efficiently was critical. Although the digital platform is uniquely suited to deliver interactivity, flexibility and impact in the final product, it is less effective as a tool for drafting and manipulating content, particularly at the early stages of a reporting project. So the key was putting Content First, a mindset and project management approach which enabled the client and ourselves to work through and agree structure, key messages and tone of voice without fuss and without incurring unnecessary development costs. And we did this for an organisation which had not produced an annual report before. A true testament to a process that is fit for the future.

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