The neglected key to Investor Communications

Storytelling as a communications tool has always been a way for business leaders to guide and motivate employees, investors, customers and boards.

While many companies think they offer something unique, most are just floating in a sea of sameness. Storytelling must be used to explain why a company operates the way it does and clarify its behaviour and decisions and if done effectively, compelling stories get shared and amplified.

The annual report is tailor-made for storytelling

In the light of regulatory changes that will shift how companies communicate in 2020, we have seen some companies move to a ‘no frills’ black and white annual report – that’s quite a straitjacket when trying to tell a corporate story. Reporting by siloed committees without the visual design that ties different business elements together makes for a bland report. In a black and white report, a company has no opportunity to make the content sing and soar above its peers.

We think the annual report is tailor-made for storytelling. People need the facts and figures to mean something and for the cause and effect to be explained, not just in words but with images and graphics. When providing a coherent account of something, it makes sense to turn it into a story. Each piece of information should add a layer of understanding, otherwise, the annual report becomes just a record of past events written in boilerplate and jargon.

It’s not just the facts that people are after. We have shown in our recent survey that the stories companies tell do influence investor behaviour. Investors get a better understanding of what the company stands for, its shared beliefs and what makes the company unique. The financials only tell part of the story.

The role of design

Much more than pictures and typography, a well-designed report takes an ordinary subject and gives it colour and texture. Design provides a hierarchy and layering to the data and information so that readers know which parts play a bigger role in the story. Without the addition of visual storytelling, everything would look the same. Good design provides clarity and increases comprehension. It also gives pace to your story. Elements such as infographics help the reader to grasp the content easily in a way that text alone does not, while powerful visuals evoke emotion and drive deeper engagement. Good design helps companies to illustrate their stories, capture their distinctive advantages and brings their brands to life.

Creativity and corporate communications

While the point of corporate communications is not to entertain, infusing creativity into corporate communications highlights the facts and make them more memorable.

According to PwC’s 20th CEO Survey, 77% of CEOs  are looking for uniquely human capabilities such as creativity, which they believe drive problem-solving and innovation. Creativity and fact are not mutually exclusive and good design works for the communication of the truth, not against it. In an increasingly homogenised corporate communications world, companies need to think about how to use story structure, creativity and design to communicate in bolder and more distinctive ways.

For more information, please contact Bill Krarup, Director, Investor Communications, MerchantCantos