GoingPublic Magazine: Does any consultancy have / use a sort of one-strategy-fits-all for creating ‘good’ company reports?
Simnet Absolutely not! Good consultancy in relation to reporting is about identifying the key messages the company wants to tell its stakeholders and even more importantly the message those stakeholders want to hear. Every business is different and reporting is the opportunity to describe why. It is the fundamental basis on which a clear investment case is based, and therefore is the foundation of good reporting.
Kirchhoff: Brett is absolutely right. The annual report does not only reflect the facts and figures of a company. It also presents the corporate identity and the culture of a company. Therefore the annual report always has to be tailor-made. You can show me a number of reports and I could tell you easily which agency was involved. Once I was confronted by a company in a pitch that if we produce 50 annual reports a year many must look equal. They agreed that I would send all 50 annual reports we had created that year and that, if they find two with the same design, they should not hire us. At the end we got the deal.

GoingPublic Magazine: …which leads directly to the question: What is a ‘good’ company report today?
Simnet: Good reporting is about discussing the material elements the business controls or manages to ensure the success of its business model. It is about identifying the short, mid and long term objectives the business is focusing on to continue the success of that business model and finally it is about how the business has performed to date and aims to perform in the future.
Kirchhoff: In addition the management should use the report to built trust in their strategy. Therefore a report has to reflect what was published the years before. Sometimes companies announce their new “great” strategy in their annual report and if you want to learn something about the success of the strategy in the next year’s report – you won’t find ANY information about this topic.

GoingPublic Magazine: Your take on integrating reporting / any differences here between the UK and Germany?
Simnet: Integrated reporting should not be viewed as a big hairy audacious goal; in fact it is just good, honest reporting. If you discuss the elements that are material to your business and ensure everything you disclose is relevant and specific to you, your report will, by its own nature, be integrated and balanced.
Kirchhoff: The problem is that following the IIRC the companies should act integrated and then report about this. Today many companies don’t have a really integrated approach but want to create an integrated report. I fully agree with Brett: concentrate on material aspects of your business, give an insight into your strategy and report honestly. That’s it.

GoingPublic Magazine: What’s more overvalued in your personal opinion: winning awards for company reports or revealing 127 different sustainability parameters to readers?
Simnet Neither, what is important is that your report gives the answers your audiences are looking for and that it describes the future direction and goal of the business.
Kirchhoff: In Germany there was an annual report competition, where one of my clients only reached a good result – yet not a very good one. But for the client the US market was most important and we created a report together, which focused on the US market and US investors. The feedback from the US was great, that was the only important message for him. Awards are good for the agency and the client because they give a kind of recognition for your efforts. The annual report competitions also give companies advice for best practice, and that might be helpful. But a company should not create a report following only the winners’ trends.

GoingPublic Magazine: Thank you both very much indeed!

Das Interview führte Falko Bozicevic

Brett Simnet is investment engagement director at Radley Yeldar, London, an internationally well-known creative consultancy. He has worked in the creative communication industry for over 22 years. Klaus Rainer Kirchhoff is founder and CEO of Kirchhoff Consult, Hamburg. Kirchhoff Consult once more won several awards in this year’s „Vision Awards“ at the League of American Communication Professionals’ (LACP) event (see page xxxx), 3x platinum and 6x gold.