Three Tips to Get People to Read your Corporate Responsibility Report

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Your employees, consumers, shareholders and others are demanding more corporate responsibility (CR) information from companies, but they probably aren’t reading your CR report. As expectations continue to increase around transparency and responsibility, there remains a disconnect. Although 88 percent of global consumers say they want companies to tell them what they’re doing to operate more responsibly, only 25 percent report they’ve read a CR report in 2015. Want your report to get noticed and read? Here are three tips to increase engagement, accessibility and relevancy of your next report.

Be Engaging: Create an experience

In our wired and content-heavy world, most people don’t have the time or inclination to read a long PDF report. And thanks to the age of smart phones, the average human attention span has dropped from 12 to 8 seconds (according to scientists at Microsoft). Create an experience and make it easy and fun for readers to interact with your CR material. We know that globally, 43 percent of consumers prefer to digest CR goals, progress and programs as brief written summaries, followed by interactive websites (34 percent) and videos (31 percent).

Thanks to the age of smart phones, the average human attention span has dropped from 12 to 8 seconds.

Multi-national finance corporation Citi created a global citizenship web portal with a patchwork of dramatic photographs allowing readers to roll over and click through to topic-specific fact sheets explaining progress against their strategy. This design element allows readers to easily “surf” topics for items of personal interest.

Global athletic company Nike reinforced their design leadership with a striking Sustainable Innovation section on their corporate website. Readers can scroll down to read about Nike’s sustainability philosophy and three strategic aims in mere minutes.

Be Reader-Friendly: Provide a hierarchy of information

A second tactic for reaching more report readers is to parse out information in formats that are easily accessed and understood. Our recent research found that 58 percent of Americans say they are confused by the messages companies use to talk about CR efforts. So make sure you’re explaining your strategy and accomplishments in a brief, clear and visual way.

58 percent of Americans say they are confused by the messages companies use to talk about CR efforts.

Design savvy retailer Target* employed playful, illustrated charts in their report to provide transparency on where goals were exceeded or missed. The hand-drawn technique also was used to emphasize key achievements throughout the report, and formed the basis of an infographic for their external newsletter, a digital wall to attract employees at corporate headquarters, and a summary report for casual readers.

Domtar, a major paper producer, also leveraged multiple formats to reach stakeholders. Online, they posted a magazine for tablets, and then distributed 40 bite-size report stories over five months through 3BL Media so readers could experience stories pulsed out in small bites. Offline, Domtar reached employees and event attendees with a brochure, wallet card and poster.

The audience is better able to digest material that is pulsed out in small bites.

CVS Health** helped readers to get up to speed on their Prescription for a Better World strategy in less than two minutes through an animated video prominently featured on the reporting web page. It clearly defines their strategy’s three pillars: Health in Action, Planet in Balance, and Leader in Growth.

Be Relevant: Align with UN SDGs

The recently released UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) comprise 17 goals that will guide policy and funding for the next 15 years to solve major world challenges. Companies saw the SDGs as an opportunity to align their individual CR goals with this broader framework – tying commitments to the SDGs allowed companies to insert themselves into this global conversation while joining together to create solutions to the biggest issues of today.

SAB Miller was an early mover in showing how they could powerfully align their core operations and value chain with the SDGs. Their Prosper framework of five color-coded goals visually connects the impact of one of the world’s largest brewers across 11 SDGs, and will inform collaboration, as well as help report readers understand SAB Miller’s progress in these areas over time.

The recently released Pearson report effectively communicates how the SDGs have shaped their new five-year plan to integrate sustainability into every aspect of its education business by focusing on three relevant SDGs: quality education, decent work and economic growth, and reduced inequalities. Illustrations on their brief web introduction bring this to life.

Ericsson encapsulated their approach to the SDGs in an 11-page SlideShare format themed Technology for Good. The global communications leader made it easy for readers to understand how they will concentrate sustainability efforts on ending poverty, fighting inequality and injustice and halting climate change.

A lot of time, talent and treasury are devoted to the production of CR reports. Don’t let that investment go unnoticed.

A lot of time, talent and treasury are devoted to the production of CR reports. Don’t let that investment go unnoticed. Use the report as a foundation of rich content, testimonials and data, but be sure to leverage it in fresh and innovative ways. Create dynamic interfaces to help readers explore your content, parse it out in digestible bite-size pieces, or leverage elements of the SDG framework to powerfully demonstrate your strategic alignment. Give consumers and other stakeholders the data and stories they need and crave, in the formats they’re most likely to read and enjoy.

This article first appeared on CSRwire
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Judy Sandford is Vice President of CR Strategy for Cone Communications.