People want to know the impact you’re having on them and the world. And more and more, investors, business partners, employees and customers want more than just information.
It’s no longer enough to pull together a smart set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) about your carbon footprint, waste generation, water usage, energy consumption, lost work days and so forth. Stakeholders crave your insight, analysis and interpretation — your point of view — about social ills and opportunities. They want a meaningful assessment of your contributions toward making a better world and where your thinking leads.
People want the companies they do business with to do more good in the world, especially as governments continue their long retreat from standing up for the social good as budgets shrink and priorities skew toward narrower interests. And they want you to prove it with engaging, forward-looking storytelling that sets the context and shows how you are delivering against your many communities’ most pressing needs.
Controlling the Narrative
81% of the Fortune 500 are issuing impact reports of some kind.1
The reporting may be called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Environmental Social & Governance (ESG), Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) or simply Sustainability, but whatever you call it, what’s at stake for your stakeholders is the impact your company is having on people and the world around you.
But be selective. If you try to report on your company’s every good deed, it can water down the impact of your impact reporting. Some things you do may be wonderful in and of themselves, but if they don’t connect to your business imperatives and your brand, you may need to put the emphasis elsewhere.
You have to find the meaningful threads that tie your myriad social and environmental and non-financial activities together, so your content reads not like a compendium of do-gooding, but as a strategy
Focus your messaging into themes that build context for why you do what you do. For example, if diversity is important to you and your stakeholders, talk about what it does for your business, such as showing how varied perspectives improve your ability to innovate.
Once your story is ready to be told, the question becomes how. What makes for a particularly gripping experience?
Content Strategy for Impact Reporting
We’ve learned some things from helping leaders in industries as disparate as oil & gas, consumer goods and financial services clearly delineate their impact:
- Think digital first. A feast of short, powerful and snackable content gives the user multiple ways in, and gives you multiple ways to promote and reinforce your strategy.
- Connect the dots! Find the themes that run through your efforts, and distill them down to a handful that best represent you and your business imperatives.
- Leverage your online reporting as a year-long content hub — as a living platform for ongoing dialogue with your investors, employees and new talent.
- Create content designed for amplification — deep-linked rich media, modules, factoids and useful or eye-opening tidbits that can fuel social media and other channels. Create things once, intelligently, and distribute many times.
- Be lively. Do more than just check the boxes. Even those coming to your report with a checklist of concerns want an engaging experience.
- Be forward-looking, even when talking about what you’ve already accomplished. It’s not the past, but the future people care and worry about.
- Have a point of view, always. Every piece of content should express what you think about a topic and where you’re heading with it.
If a POV-driven, digital impact reporting experience is of interest to you and your team, let us know how we can help. We recently created a content platform that transformed how one leading firm talks about social responsibility, and would be happy to share with you how and why it works.
181% of S&P 500 Companies Published Sustainability Reports in 2015 Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.