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The power of storytelling

Corporate reporting needs to get real

You want people who are vested in your company to feel part of who you are and what you do. Your annual report is the perfect opportunity to tell your story, to articulate your purpose and a clear and compelling vision, to define and embody the long-term possibilities for your organization, and to represent a sustainable future. So why are most reports so dull?

By Richard Costa | Client Partner | Reporting Communications

People are natural storytellers. Organizations are not.
Stories have always framed our understanding of the world. They are embedded with power. The power to influence. To inspire. To make change imaginable. Which begs the question, if stories are so powerful, why are most organizations so bad at telling them? For some reason, as soon as we join a company we forget how to tell a story. We find collective safety in pie charts, spreadsheets and corporate jargon. In facts and figures and PowerPoint slides. And tedious annual reports.

As communicators we spend a great deal of time crafting the perfect message, but not enough time on how to get audiences to pay attention or care. Organizations need to rediscover storytelling. To move away from command-and-control messaging to crafting stories that engage, motivate and influence behaviour.

Swipe Right
Consider this. Our average attention span is now down to 8.4 seconds. That’s officially less than a goldfish. People want information that’s consumable and entertaining. To fully engage them, we need to tell stories that pull them in. Stories that capture their attention, make them lean back and spend some time with us. Stories media will want to print. Stories employees will want to share. Stories investors will be reassured by. And customers will want to hear.

Your corporate narrative and business story should be expressed in human terms. People describe how they feel about companies in profoundly personal ways. Your report needs to be about a human, not institutional, relationship – and successful human relationships are based on collaboration, trust, authenticity and shared purpose. It’s about who you are and what you stand for. Not what you do. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

We’re in it together
It’s not what you deliver to stakeholders. It’s the journey you’re on with them. It’s not about creating value for yourself, but creating value that transcends your company. It’s more than what you deliver. Or the impact your organization has on the world. It’s the journey you are on with your stakeholders as co-creators.

Ultimately your annual report should be a call to action. As a repository of your corporate narrative, it is uniquely placed to inspire employees, excite partners, encourage shareholders, attract customers and engage powerful influencers such as analysts, rating agencies and the media. By declaring that the opportunity addressed cannot be achieved by you alone, you build trust and equity. The call to action proves your understanding of what drives the people you are reaching out to. And it encourages stakeholders to care about the outcome. 

It's your annual report. Make it matter.