Corporate communication: The importance of cutting the crap

November 4, 2022 • 2 minute read

The publication of the latest Annual Review of Corporate Reporting by the UK’s Financial Reporting Council (FRC) serves as a timely reminder of the importance of disclosures not only from a compliance and regulatory perspective, but in corporate communication with all stakeholders.

A good corporate communication strategy hinges on resonance. Forcing your audiences to go around the houses to unearth a point you are trying to make is not an attractive proposition. Yes, corporate reporting must provide the appropriate level of depth and detail, but all too often comprehensiveness and conciseness are pitted as opposing forces. This should not be the case. One can – indeed, should – embrace both detail and simplicity. Brevity is the soul of wit, after all.

There are, of course, many facets to a corp comms approach, and communicators do need to tailor their language and content to the medium through which it is being conveyed. But there is no reason why what works for, say, a Tweet, cannot be harnessed in other content forms.

Some rules apply to communicating, across the board. “Don’t bury the lede!” is something all media and PR professionals have drilled into them early on in their careers. Window dressing should draw a reader in, not distract them from the core message. Less is usually more, even where the goal may be to entertain as well as inform.

Corporate reporting – requirement or opportunity?

As we have alluded to, a critical component of corporate communications is corporate reporting. Here’s why.

Rather than a compliance-led tick box exercise, this critical piece of stakeholder communications is central to building trust in the company’s business and its forward strategy. Done well, it also reinforces a reputation for high standards of conduct and governance.

We are in an era of increasing transparency and disclosure. Companies are expected to be more open, and provide more information, than ever before – driven both by regulation and stakeholder expectations.

Emerging issues, not least including climate disclosures, have risen up the agenda for all stakeholders, including investors, and it is clear from the FRC’s report that many companies are falling short. Looking ahead, this is a substantial reputational risk.

The Strategic Report and section 172 requirements have put ever more emphasis on continuous stakeholder engagement and the impact of the company on society, community and the environment. Transparency on, and progress against, these areas is increasingly the yardstick that brands are judged by – on an ongoing basis by customers, suppliers, the media, and regulators including the FRC.

This mushrooming of information requirements beyond the financial has a practical impact on communicating the corporate report effectively. Vast access to data brings with it a heightened need for clarity. It is not enough to present a position, that position must be explained. The FRC report rightly makes frequent use of words like ‘clear’, ‘understandable’ and ‘unambiguous’. Communicators of all shapes and sizes should take note.

Economic uncertainty, downturn and historic levels of inflation only increase the requirement for companies to report and forecast as plainly and as accurately as possible if they are to retain stakeholder trust.

In short, cut the crap.

A learned colleague calls it ‘verbal baggage’ and it is exactly that, weighing down your content unnecessarily. This doesn’t mean shunning creativity but, again, prioritise impact. Originality and flair are more impactful when used sparingly.

As those who have attended our Media Training workshops will attest, we are advocates of clear, concise communication. Complexity is the enemy of understanding and, to have impact, one must be understood. Clarity of message is therefore vital. Hopefully this blog makes that much clear.

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