The dawn of the real-time Internet brought a new kind of investor audience for companies to consider. Investors previously placed stock orders with brokers, but now they can buy and sell stocks on their own via online trading platforms such as E*TRADE and TD Ameritrade or mobile apps like Robinhood. A layperson has the same instantaneous access to a company’s reports as a top Wall Street Journal reporter without the benefit of years of training to understand what each line item means. This growth of non-financial investors also ushered in a new style of financial news reporting — a mix of financial numbers and consumer-facing analysis.
This has led to a sudden rise of IR- and PR-savvy companies providing the non-financial expert with a summarized textual or visual analysis of their financial results. For example, there are companies providing infographics with their earnings reports to increase adoption and understanding of their financial news like in the examples below from Accenture, HPE and Nutanix.
Financial information in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) will always include financial jargon that leaves some potential investors feeling ignored; supplemental multimedia creates a sense of inclusivity, positive sentiment, and can easily be shared on social media. Additionally, the more stimuli involved, the more likely the reader will remember the data; this can be especially effective when a potential investor is reading through earnings data from a multitude of companies.
These savvy infographics hark back to Marvel Entertainment’s financial comic books from 1991 to 2006. Consider how forward-thinking the spread below from the Marvel 1993 Annual Report (inset: cover) was, shipped out in comic book format to its shareholders.
Like the Accenture, HPE and Nutanix infographics, the Marvel reports are entertaining and visually stimulating. For a company, the financial numbers are the protagonist of the story. In each infographic, the numbers dictate the protagonist’s journey and the imagery showcases the impact of each number on the company.
Infographics are not the only way today’s public companies are reaching each type of investor. Many companies, like Apple, Charles Schwab and Goldman Sachs, utilize an audio or video podcast featuring a top executive explaining the highlights of the report. This allows the company to showcase thought leadership while providing a human touch to these figures.
Other companies employ real-time social channels to increase the understanding of their earnings for non-financial audiences. In the past, some companies would live-tweet highlights during their earnings conference call. Though this trend diminished, some companies like United Wholesale Mortgage, as shown in the image below, are combining tweets and infographics during their earnings conference calls.
These programs supplement and amplify the reach of today’s earnings announcements, not supplant them. Successful IR departments include links to the original announcement; providing access to the full release dispels claims of downplaying or oversimplifying negative results while correcting potential misinformation.
This topic continues to evolve like everything else in the online social arena. If you don’t have a graphic designer on staff, consider a freelancer, a design firm or software to help meet your goals. That said, it’s going to be difficult to make something as impressive as Iron Man stating Marvel’s net income!
- Statista's Chart of the Day posts infographics based on "Media and Technology" and "Economy and Society"
- Five Essentials of Effective Earnings Releases: Lessons from the Experts
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