This post originally appeared on Newswire.ca
Even one of the stodgiest and most traditional forms of financial communications—the earnings release—is getting a makeover in some circles these days.
‘The world is becoming smaller,’ says Deb Wasser, executive vice president of financial communications at Edelman in New York. ‘Social media levels the communications playing field—so it is important to have corporate and financial documents that can be understood by multiple audiences and can communicate your brand position.’
Wasser points out that most IR and communications teams that are interested in innovating with their earnings releases are choosing one of two routes. Either they’re creating new-style earnings releases with photos, eye-catching graphics, and visually arresting tables. Or they’re drawing attention to results highlights by creating a separate infographic that is attached to the earnings release.
No matter which approach a company takes, what matters is a desire to move beyond dry quantitative and retrospective results. ‘We try,’ says Wasser, ‘to encourage clients to put more qualitative items into earnings releases: “What’s really driving my business? What’s the product pipeline? What’s my capital allocation strategy? What’s my team excited about? What’s our vision?”’
She continues: ‘We believe earnings releases should not just report historical financial results, but should tell a story and talk about the future of the company.’
When To Get Creative
General Electric pioneered issuing earnings releases that contained graphics. The company has extended this approach to other traditional disclosure documents and is even producing a more layered and visually engaging 10-K.
In a twist on the same concept, ARC Resources, Ltd., in Calgary, creates short videos that appear simultaneously with the earnings release and are known as ‘Myron’s Minute’ because they feature CEO and President Myron Stadnyk. In this brief and casual format, Stadnyk answers a question, such as ‘Can you explain the rationale for right-sizing of the 2016 capital program and the dividend?’.
‘As the release crosses the wire and we’re doing all the updates on the website, the videos come out at the same time,’ explains Megan Hjulfors, supervisor of investor relations and communications at ARC. ‘We want to give context and speak to any key highlights from the release,’ she says. ‘We realize that our institutional investors meet our management team and get face time with the whole Csuite, but the retail investors don’t get that opportunity. This creates an avenue for our entire shareholder base to “meet” our management team.’
Whether your company is making a video, adding an infographic, or re-envisioning the earnings release itself, the argument behind taking the plunge is roughly the same
‘The financial media likes [more graphic] earnings releases because they’re easy to repurpose,’ says Wasser. ‘You can publish them or get key numbers off them. They help the media be precise and accurate.’
In addition, she says, innovative earnings releases are ‘social friendly’ and are practically begging to be shared on various social-media channels.
Some companies worry that producing more visually-captivating earnings releases during an economic or business downturn may send the wrong message. ‘If you’re using the visual elements to cover up the numbers, that’s bad,’ says Wasser. ‘But if a company can use visual elements to help investors access data more easily and get a better understanding, then it’s great to use these elements in good times or not-so-good times.’