When deciding whether to publish a digital or printed annual report, there is now a myriad of options available. Where once printed copies were the only option for distributing annual reports, now there are many digital formats available. While recent research suggests that 71% of stakeholders read a PDF version of the annual report on a screen, there is also the option of an interactive microsite, or even printing the pdf to read offline at a later time.
Which is best will depend upon your target audience. Read on to discover the pros and cons of each medium...
How to distribute your annual report
The way that we all consume media has changed dramatically. Throughout this century, we’ve seen a major shift in terms of a ‘print to digital’ transformation. Glossy hard copy brochures, articles, manuals and many other printed items have been replaced with digital campaigns and automated software.
This does not mean that digital is always best. Print and digital both have benefits when used correctly. Your target audience and company sector may determine which route you wish to take. A company committed to reducing their carbon footprint may prefer to be digital-only, while those with established or tactile luxury brands may wish to produce a printed report.
When planning your annual report, as with any marketing campaign, it’s important to consider the unique properties of both media to decide which is best suited to your particular purpose.
Benefits of printed annual & sustainability reports
According to neuroscience, paper beats digital formats in many ways. Indeed, despite the enormous migration to electronic media, research shows that paper-based content and ads still offer special advantages in connecting with our brains.
- Tangibility – Physical material is more ‘real’ to the brain. It has a meaning and a place. It is better connected to memory because it engages with our spatial memory networks.
- Credibility – There is something about print that gives a sense of legitimacy. We associate weight with quality.
- Branding – Print is excellent for solidifying your brand identity. Its tactility engages our senses, forging a deep emotional connection.
- Engagement – Consumers are more engaged when reading printed material – whereas websites are often skimmed in as little as a 15-second visit.
In an era of ‘fake news’, print is seen as a more trustworthy medium than digital outputs. Indeed, in the UK, traditional media is trusted by 57% of people compared to 36% for online-only media and 28% for social media. Proof that the printed word is still more trusted than digital statements.
Why create a digital annual report
The internet has revolutionised direct communication. Not only is digital media highly convenient, but it enables content to come to life through video and interactivity.
Here are some of the benefits of a digital annual report:
- Global distribution – There are no geographical barriers or state borders online. Every issue of a report can potentially be viewed by everyone worldwide, at any time.
- Lower costs – Using digital media avoids the inevitable costs associated with printing and distributing hard copy reports.
- Reader analytics – Digital media enables you to get to know your report users better. What sections are they spending more time on? What devices are they using? Such insights can help you improve the user experience in future reporting campaigns.
- Virality – Digital media can have a huge impact, fast. Virality describes your report’s ability to create a viral loop – taking the conversation to social media and gaining a wider reach.
- Interactive content – You can let readers search your digital document easily, navigate quickly and interact with its content – potentially allowing them to access a deeper level of messaging.
- Sustainability – There’s no waste with digital media – no excess printed copies to worry about.