There was a time when reading through a public company's annual report was mostly for those with problems sleeping. While arguably the most critical opportunity for companies to "strut their stuff" before the public and their investors, most annual reports were "yawn-worthy" glossy books with pages of boring text and pictures of lighthouses, compasses and yachts, in addition to piles of numbers and charts.
Thankfully, and at long last, 2013 has rung the death knell for the static, boring, sleep-inducing, hard-cover bug-swatting paperweight annual report. For all the annual report hoarders out there who still love getting hefty packages in the mail, not to worry: the movement is only just beginning. But like the move from radio to television, what is starting to emerge are more colorful, digital, interactive, engaging and entertaining packages that resonate - especially with the younger generation which has next to zero interest in reading anything on paper, and wants to be told what's going on - not dig for it.
Interactive charts and graphics; video snippets from the CEO and other senior executives; links to research, materials, blogs and other information: What it's all about is firms finally figuring out that they can shorten the distance between themselves and their investors through compelling pieces of collateral.
The annual report is a once-a-year opportunity for public companies to engage, educate and attract investors, prospective employees, and potential partners. Today's annual report should be an eagerly clicked-upon link that provides a personal (yes, personal!) experience to the person looking to know what a public company has been up to over its past fiscal year, and what its people have to say about it.
A shining example of this is Goldman Sachs's most recent annual report. Previously in my blog "Last Night, I Dreamed I Was The Goldman Sachs Social Media Manager," I noted that they have a virtual "white board" on which to create their digital presence. Until recently, they have had almost a silent public face, choosing to be more responsive and less active in their outreach.
It is quite a leap forward to see CEO Lloyd Blankfein become the living, breathing public face of Goldman Sachs when he appears on an introductory video to the 2012 Annual Report - in shirt sleeves no less! This is an outstanding example of how video can be used to "get to know" the personal brands that make up an organization.
Lloyd (I feel comfortable calling him Lloyd now!) is able to speak directly to his audience, and nuances of his personality are intertwined in the corporate messaging. This is a good thing. It is more transparent and authentic. Take a look for yourself. Here is the link.
Sure, there are still lots of rules, regulations and compliance requirements that surround putting out an annual report. The MD&A, the balance sheet and the Chairman and CEO's message all need to be within the letter of the law and compliant.
But last I checked there was no law stopping a CEO from doing a quick video hit explaining what his or her company has done over the past 12 months, and what they're expecting for the next 12 months. Last I checked there were no requirements that technical jargon and charts were a prerequisite either.
Today's annual reports and public communications are rapidly moving to video clips, infographics, animation, and more. The variety of presentation platforms must be leveraged to attract and engage investors, analysts, media and others who can potentially move the revenue needle. This endeavor needn't break the bank.
Executives who are bottom-line oriented may not immediately recognize the value of marketing and "object" to its perpetual struggle to show return on investment. This longtime struggle to "prove" marketing is becoming a reality as digital channels offer the ability to measure engagement. Firms who are first movers are reallocating their marketing budgets toward digital channels.
The socialization of marketing platforms has led to a greater ability to niche and target your audiences as well. Building personal brands weaves a tapestry of touch points for engagement and interaction. Whereas once there was only the corporate brand and a media spokesperson, today's best practices involve many becoming the "face" and "voice" of a larger corporate profile and brand.
Goldman Sachs' annual report is no longer a "telling" piece - it has crossed over into the digital age, to become an engaging piece of creative, interactive dialogue rather than a soliloquy. Here's to seeing many more follow in its trail-blazing path.
Also on HuffPost:
Twenty-somethings often think that their career is an either-or choice between fulfilling a passion or earning a lot of money, Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist who specializes in 20-somethings, told The Huffington Post. But 20-somethings should be looking for a career that can fulfill their passion <em>while</em> meeting financial needs. It's possible.
Twenty-somethings should be building a career that they want for the long haul, said Alexis Grant, an entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist. "If you realize you are not doing the right thing, figure out how to get on the right road as soon as possible. Don’t worry so much about lost time or lost investments," she said.
Young professionals often think that the jobs they have in their 20s "don't matter," Dr. Jay said. But employees in their 20s should be in jobs that are helping them build "identity capital," so they can figure out where they want to be at the next stage of their career.
In school, students find themselves doing roughly the same things as their peers, which makes it easy to compare their accomplishments to others. But after college, comparisons are "just too complex to be useful," Dr. Jay explains. People also tend to only compare themselves to those who seem to be doing better than they are, which can lead to feelings of depression, she added.
Twenty-somethings who had <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2012/08/02/the-biggest-mistakes-20-something-job-seekers-make/" target="_blank">over-involved parents can sometimes think that they deserve an easy ride at work,</a> Dani Ticktin Koplik, an executive and performance coach, told Forbes. This can have a devastating effect on their career, not to mention their relationships with superiors.
Twelve percent of hiring managers said it's a mistake for millennial job candidates to discuss a job interview on personal social media sites, according to a recent survey by Adecco, a human resources consulting company. Not being professional on<a href="http://mashable.com/2011/06/16/weinergate-social-media-job-loss/" target="_blank"> social media can cost people their jobs</a> as well.
In today's working world, 20-somethings really need to be thinking about what they can walk away with when they inevitably switch employers, Grant said. "Throw yourself into your day job, but also build something for you because you will likely not be in your job forever," she said. Grant suggested writing a blog or working on obtaining a Twitter following.
Young professionals will sometimes think that they are working too hard now and that it will be like that for the rest of their career, Dr. Jay said. What young professionals should really be thinking about is if they are in a job that will provide them with work-life balance in the future when they will be thinking about starting a family and other life decisions.
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