Category Archives: Annual reports

The ABCs (and DEFs) of annual report print buying

No one expects Investor Relations Officers or Corporate Secretaries to be experts at purchasing commercial printing. That said, it’s safe to have a general understanding for the process – to assure your expectations are met.

Below are the six key variables that Investor Relations Officers and Corporate Secretaries will be asked to make decisions around that will impact the production and price of an annual report.

Each year, issuers' ask us to audit their previous annual report print production to set a budget for their upcoming one. Click here and upload your 2013 PDF.

Each year, issuers’ ask us to audit their previous annual report print production to
set a budget for their upcoming one. Click here and upload your 2015 PDF.



4-color… is full color. The only distinction now is whether you print on a traditional offset printing press or digital print. The variables you will discuss when shopping depend on your report’s creative design and print quantity.

  • Traditional offset printing is generally used for larger print quantities or very exact color (brand) matching by adding a 5 and 6th color.
  • Digital printing is, simply put, a really high-end version of the HP printer sitting on your desk. Perfect for smaller quantities and rush scenarios.

Both these technologies will require a final CMYK (also known as four color process) file from you. CMYK is cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Online annual reports are RGB: red, green and blue. Digital cameras, television screens and computer monitors use the RGB process to create color. Generally, a print vendor can convert a RGB file to CMYK without issue.



1-color… usually means “black ink only.” The meat of the 10-K.



Cover stock… is the thicker paper used for both the front and back covers. It is described in “pounds” and generally ranges from 65 lb to 120 lb, depending on the paper itself.

  • “Coated cover” is generally a glossy stock. Most times, you will be using 100 lb – 120 lb weight, as the glossiness makes the paper softer.
  • Uncoated cover is a matte paper, much like a business card. You may be in the 65 lb – 100 lb weight range.
  • Generally, you will print on both sides of the front cover. You will always print the back cover, often NOT the inside back cover. It costs you no more to not print on the inside back. That is a visual design choice.



Text stock… are the pages inside of the covers. The guts.

  • It follows the same descriptions as cover stock, just much thinner weights. 20 lb – 32 lb. “Copier paper” is 24 lb-ish.



Binding…. is how the annual report is held together

  • Saddle stitched means the annual report pages are folded in half and stapled. This physically creates a “10-K wrap.” (The front cover is the back cover; the first inside page is the same piece of paper as the last inside page and so on.)
  • Perfect bound is a flat glued spine. It can be more expensive; however it allows for any configuration of paper/pages and presents itself in a very finished manner.



Sheets of paper vs. page count… can be confusing. Financial printers think in terms of “pages” not paper. A simple example is if you take an 11″x 17″ piece of paper and fold it in half, that’s a four page 8.5″ x 11″ annual report. Get it?

  • This only “really” matters for saddle stitched annual reports. The page count needs to be in a multiple of four. If you come up short, we print “This page is intentionally left blank.”


Click here to audit your previous annual report printing to benchmark your upcoming production. You will need to upload the PDF of last year’s annual report. (We will also send you examples of our printed work. )

Click here for a clean PDF of the points above.



Zen and the Art of 10-K Maintenance

Yah… I know. There’s nothing remotely zen-like about producing a 10-K.

That said, as you’ll read within our client “kudos” comments, our design, typesetting and production teams strive to make our role in the process as kumbaya as possible. For many issuers, (especially IPOs), the meetings often begin with an overall review of what is required in a 10-K.

Click image to view

Click image to view

All public companies other than foreign private issuers must file an Annual Report on Form 10-K following the end of each fiscal year. The Form 10-K includes four parts, the items of which are described below.

Part I of Form 10-K provides a general description of the business of the company and its properties along with the risk factors that investors should consider when investing in the company.

Part I also includes:

  • a description of any material legal proceedings other than routine litigation incidental to the business to which the company or any of its subsidiaries is a party or to which any of its property is subject, and any such proceedings that were terminated in the fourth quarter of its fiscal year (along with a description of the outcome)
  • for accelerated filers and large accelerated filers, a description of any material unresolved comments from the SEC staff regarding the company’s periodic and current reports that were received 180 days or more before the end of the fiscal year and…
  • if applicable, a statement that the information concerning mine safety violations or other regulatory matters required by Section 1503(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act and Item 104 of Regulation S-K (which are discussed in more detail in section of this handbook entitled “The Dodd-Frank Act”) is included in an exhibit to the Form 10-K

Part II of Form 10-K includes a comparative presentation of selected financial data for the last five fiscal years, management’s discussion and analysis of the company’s operating results and its liquidity and capital resources, and the audited consolidated financial statements of the company (which may also be filed in Part IV), along with certain supplementary quarterly financial data.

Part II also includes:

  • information relating to the company’s common stock, including the trading market, historical high and low sales prices, the number of registered holders, the payment of cash dividends, unregistered sales of securities, and company repurchases of its common stock during the fourth fiscal quarter
  • quantitative and qualitative disclosures relating to market sensitive instruments held by the company and other primary market risk exposures (smaller reporting companies do not need to provide the information required by this item)
  • if there has been a change in the principal accountants of the company, disclosure of:  1.) any disagreements with the accountants that the accountants would have been required to disclose; or  2.) any “reportable event” that had occurred, which was material and accounted for or disclosed in a manner different from what the former accountants would have apparently concluded was required (which disclosure is required with respect to disagreements or reportable events that occurred during the year in which the change in accountants took place or during the subsequent year)
  • the conclusion of the company’s principal executive and financial officers regarding the effectiveness of the company’s disclosure controls and procedures (which are discussed in more detail below in the “Disclosure Controls and Procedures” part of this section and in the section of this handbook entitled “The Sarbanes-Oxley Act”)
  • management’s assessment of the effectiveness of the company’s internal control over financial reporting, including disclosure of any material weakness in its internal controls
  • an attestation report of the independent auditors on the company’s control over financial reporting
  • any changes in the company’s internal control over financial reporting that have materially affected, or are reasonably likely to materially affect, such internal controls and…
  • any information required to be reported in a Form 8-K during the fourth quarter that was not reported

Companies need not comply with disclosure requirements relating to disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting until after they have filed an Annual Report on Form 10-K for a prior fiscal year. In addition, as codified in Section 989G of the Dodd-Frank Act, smaller reporting companies and non-accelerated filers are exempt from the requirement to include the attestation report of the independent auditors on the company’s internal control over financial reporting.

benchmark your budget (and creative design) via an audit of last year’s
annual report.

PDF-buttonSimply upload your
2015 annual report PDF here.

Part III of the Form 10-K includes disclosures relating to directors, executive officers, corporate governance, executive compensation, the beneficial ownership of management and certain large shareholders, related person transactions, director independence and accountant fees and services. Part III items may only be incorporated by reference if such proxy statement is filed within 120 days of the company’s fiscal year end. If the proxy statement is not filed within such 120-day period, the company must file an amendment to its Form 10-K prior to the end of such period that includes the Part III information.

Companies should list under Part IV of the Form 10-K their financial statements and the schedules required to be filed in Part II, along with all exhibits required to be filed by Item 601 of Regulation S-K.

The exhibits to the Form 10-K will generally include:

  1. all material contracts
  2. the company’s organizational documents
  3. all instruments defining the rights of security holders
  4. a list of the company’s significant subsidiaries
  5. any applicable consents of experts and counsel (namely, the consent of the independent auditors where the financial statements are incorporated by reference in one or more registration statements)
  6. certifications under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which are described in more detail below and…
  7. interactive data files with the company’s financial statements in XBRL. Most exhibits can be incorporated by reference to a previously filed document. Management contracts and compensatory plans and arrangements must be specifically identified.

Summary of Selected Items

Risk Factors. Item 503(c) of Regulation S-K requires public companies to disclose under the caption “Risk Factors” a discussion of the most significant factors that make investing in the securities of the company risky or speculative. The factors should be those risks that are specific to the company and should not include risks that apply to every public company. As a general rule, any fact or circumstance that could pose a risk to the company’s financial condition, results of operations or potential growth, or which could otherwise materially affect the performance of the company’s securities, may be a risk factor. In addition to identifying the risk factors, the company must discuss how each factor could affect the company or its securities. Companies should not include mitigating language in their risk factor disclosures.

In addition, the discussion of risk factors must be written in plain English. Smaller reporting companies are not required to provide the information required under this item. Many smaller reporting companies, however, will include risk factors in their Annual Reports to take advantage of a safe harbor defense for forward-looking statements.

Section 21E of the Exchange Act provides a safe harbor defense for companies in securities litigation for forward-looking statements that are made by the company in its Exchange Act reports. This defense is similar to the defense in Section 27A of the Securities Act and the “bespeaks caution” defense developed in securities case law. Forward-looking statements, which are commonly found in a company’s MD&A (defined below), are statements not of historical fact but of the expectations of the company with respect to its future performance or other predictions or expectations regarding future events.

To qualify for the safe harbor, companies must identify the forward-looking statements in the report with sufficient particularity and accompany the statements by cautionary language that identifies the significant factors that could cause actual results to materially differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements. The risk factors identified in the Form 10-K and other filings can provide the meaningful cautionary language required by the safe harbor.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

Item 303 of Regulation S-K requires a discussion and analysis of the company’s operating results and its liquidity and capital resources. As articulated by the SEC, the purpose of this disclosure is to present the company’s financial condition and results of operations “through the eyes of management” and to provide the context for analysis of the financial information presented in the periodic report. A critical requirement of the Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations (better known as the MD&A) is to disclose any known trends, commitments, events or uncertainties that have had or are reasonably likely to have a material effect (positive or negative) on the company’s operating results or liquidity.

The MD&A should identify and discuss the principal drivers that have impacted and will continue to impact the company’s operating results and financial condition, as well as key performance measures, including non-financial performance indicators, which are used by management and which would be material to investors, particularly where management refers to these measures in its earnings releases. In general, the MD&A should emphasize material information and de-emphasize or omit immaterial or duplicative information.

Among other material items, the MD&A should include an analysis of the following matters relating to the company:

  • changes in cash flows
  • debt instruments and certain related covenants, including covenants:  1.) the company has breached or is reasonably likely to breach; or  2.) that materially restrict the company’s ability to incur additional debt or to undertake an equity financing
  • critical accounting policies and estimates that require subjective judgments to account for uncertain matters or matters subject to change
  • any material tax contingencies or trends or uncertainties that could affect the company’s tax obligations or effective tax rate
  • commitments for capital expenditures
  • material contingencies arising from pending litigation and regulatory matters
  • commitments for environmental expenditures and…
  • any off-balance sheet arrangements

The MD&A should include a liquidity and capital resources section that provides a clear picture of the company’s ability to generate cash and to meet existing and known or likely future cash requirements. The discussion should focus on material changes and trends in operating, investing and financing cash flows and the reasons underlying those changes. The MD&A also must include quantitative tabular disclosure regarding the company’s contractual obligations.

Sarbanes-Oxley Certifications

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act created two certification requirements for the principal executive and principal financial officers of public companies. Section 302 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires a certification that is filed with each quarterly and annual report and which states that the reports are accurate and complete and that the company has in place adequate disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting. Section 906 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires a certification that is furnished with any report containing financial statements and which states that the report fully complies with Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act and fairly presents, in all material respects, the financial condition and results of operations of the company. Although paragraph 3 of the Section 302 certification may be omitted in certain circumstances, and plural references to “certifying officers” in paragraphs 4 and 5 can be made singular, the certifications must otherwise strictly follow the language provided in SEC rules.The SEC has said that it will not accept an altered certification even if the alteration would appear to be inconsequential. If a filed certification is not correct and complete, the accompanying report may be considered by the SEC to be materially incomplete and deemed not filed (thus potentially affecting Form S-3 eligibility, among other things).


The Form 10-K must be signed on behalf of the company by a duly authorized officer as well as by its principal executive officer(s), its principal financial officer(s), its controller or principal accounting officer, and by at least a majority of the members of the board of directors. When the form is filed by a limited partnership, it must be signed by at least a majority of the members of the board of directors of any corporate general partner that signs the report.

Watch video clips of different annual report styles to budget for 2017


Upload your 2015 annual report and we will send you a benchmark quote for your 2016 annual report/proxy production.

I know, I know… I have written more creative blog titles. But as Freud allegedly said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And to that, sometimes ink and paper IS just ink and paper.

Without exaggeration, knowing what you are buying can save you thousands of dollars.

Each year, we guide clients through their annual report journey, and a key aspect is the very tactile task of printing.  What type of printing works best for you? How can you set a budget for your 2016 annual report? Send us your 2015 annual report via the big green button above to get answers.

Below are video clips and quick descriptions of the core types of annual report printing.



  • Cover: 4-color gloss coated cover stock with a (creative) die cut
  • Pages: Eight pages – 4-color gloss paper stock for the shareholder letter and overview. The first page uses a UV coating (extra shiny “clear” ink) just on the barrels photo to make them pop off the page
  • 10-K: Black ink on 24 lb white paper
  • This booklet is perfect bound



  • Cover: 4-color gloss coated cover stock
  • Wrap pages: Two pages –  4-color gloss text for shareholder letter and overview
  • 10-K: Black ink on 24 lb white paper
  • This booklet is saddle stitched



  • Cover: 4-color gloss coated cover stock – shareholder letter on inside of the cover
  • 10-K: Black ink on 24 lb white paper
  • Even though this is a classic 10-K wrap, this booklet is perfect bound which gives it a nice finish


  • Cover: 4-color gloss coated cover stock
  • Pages: The inside pages are on the same paper stock as the 10-K. Very helpful financial summary on the first page, followed by shareholder letter, etc.
  • 10-K: Black ink on 24 lb white paper
  • This booklet is saddle stitched.



  • Cover: 4-color gloss coated cover stock
  • Pages: 4-color, gloss text for the shareholder letter
  • 10-K: Black ink on 24 lb white paper
  • This booklet is perfect bound – assumedly due to the thickness of the 10-K



  • Cover: 4-color gloss coated cover stock with a financial summary printed on the inside cover
  • Pages: The inside pages are on the same paper stock as the 10-K, including the three page shareholder letter.
  • 10-K: Black ink on 24 lb white paper
  • This booklet saddle stitched– a great example of a pure “10-K Wrap”



  • Cover: 4-color gloss coated cover stock
  • Pages: There is no shareholder letter or “marketing” within this book
  • 10-K: Black ink on 24 lb white paper
  • This booklet perfect bound– giving the 10-k book a very finished look

As you can see, the style and scope of hardcopy annual reports is varied: there is no “best practice.” Budget, quantity and shareholder expectations should drive your process and production.


How is your CACM IQ? (you know, the say-on-pay ratio math thing)

Understanding and calculating your Consistently Applied Compensation Measure may seem a tad premature, seeing how your company does not need to disclose its pay ratio in this FYE of December 31 2016’s annual reports and proxy materials.


For most companies, these disclosures must be included in annual reports and proxy statements beginning FYE for the first fiscal year beginning on or after December 31, 2017.

That means you need to work this math very soon and the CACM should be a consideration as you’re making 2017 compensation decisions.

Per Sullivan & Crowell LLP:

“Companies may find it helpful to conduct dry-runs of the calculation based on past compensation data in order to develop an appropriate methodology, identify and resolve interpretive, practical or disclosure issues, and ensure that systems are in place to capture information necessary to support the chosen methodology. Companies should also be mindful that the pay ratio rule requires disclosure of the methodology used to determine the median employee and any material assumptions, adjustments or estimates used to identify the median employee or to determine total compensation.”

On Wednesday, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance posted five new CDIs (FAQs) to help US public companies further work their the pay ratio disclosure CACMs.

  • Question: If a registrant does not use annual total compensation calculated using Item 402(c)(2)(x) of Regulation S-K (“annual total compensation”) to identify the median employee, how should a registrant select another consistently applied compensation measure (“CACM”) to identify the median employee?
  • Question: May a registrant exclusively use hourly or annual rates of pay as its CACM?
  • Question: When a registrant uses a CACM to identify the median employee, what time period may it use? Must the period include the date on which the employee population is determined? Must it always be for an annual period? May it use the prior fiscal year?
  • Question: When someone is furloughed on the date that the registrant uses to determine the population of its employees from which it is required to identify the median, must the registrant include the furloughed person in the employee population used to identify the median employee, and, if included in the population, how should the furloughed employee’s compensation be calculated?
  • Question: Under what circumstances is a worker employed and his or her compensation determined by an unaffiliated third party such that the worker is considered an independent contractor or leased worker under the rule? When is a registrant considered to be determining the compensation of a worker?

You can read their answers here. Also, ask your securities law firm for their interpretation.

What Vintage will be doing – throughout 2017 – is working with clients and partners to create best practices in regard to communicating CACM visually in your annual report and proxy materials. Our president, Liam Power, recently commented on this.

Beside’s Liam, Cooley’s executive comp blog is a good read, too.

PwC’s 2016 Annual Corporate Directors Survey is a must read

Exactly like our Shareholder Confidence 365 Study, PwC’s Annual Corporate Directors Survey delivers very straight-forward insights without bias or interpretation. It’s a must read for everyone involved with corporate governance and shareholder communications.

Titled The swinging pendulum: Board governance in the age of shareholder empowerment, the study is a statistical analysis of 884 public company directors, 71% who serve on the boards of companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. PwC even noted that the participants — 83% male vs 17% female — alighted with the gender board diversity. Per PwC, the goal was “to gauge director sentiment on board governance in this new age of shareholder empowerment.”

Selfishly, the area of “Vintage” interest is regarding proxy disclosures and producing better (more transparent) materials.



Making proxy disclosures more meaningful via Pwc:

Investors have pushed companies to enhance their proxy disclosures to include more detail and be more meaningful. Many boards have taken action to do so—or are discussing it; 62% of directors say their boards took action over the past 12 months to enhance disclosures about the company’s executive compensation plan. About one third say their boards have taken action to enhance the company’s proxy disclosures related to risk oversight, corporate strategy, and the audit committee’s responsibilities. ESG (environmental, social, and governance) issues are getting the least consideration for enhanced disclosure; 41% of directors say their board has not focused on these areas.

The directors were most certainly talking about the strategy and the content of the disclosure… not about the practical and tactical delivery of the materials. That discussion and “to-do” task falls firmly into the hands of the Corporate Secretary now in deeper collaboration with HR, Finance, Investor Relations and, yes… even the marketing group within Corp. Comm.

It is essential that proxy statements present information in a way that is compatible across all media – print, static PDF and dynamically across PCs,  smart pads and phones. Technology is helping the once painfully inaccessible proxy document (black ink printed on the thinnest paper possible) into a transparent, digital version that now can easily embrace multimedia formats, such as concise infographics, video and forms to contact a lead director.


Per last week’s article, the proxy is surpassing the “glossy” annual report as the shareholder communications tool to efficiently tell the corporate investor theses and help current shareholder continue their support of the company.

To learn details about our annual report and proxy production and solution, click here and select “Annual report services.”

Proxy materials take the lead in our post-glossy world

One causality from the evident rise in activism (whitepaper here) has been the evident rise in the importance of the proxy statement.

Once a cheaply-produced second cousin to the glamorous annual report, proxy materials are now a lead document that must work as both a SEC regulatory filing and as an uncluttered shareholder communications piece.


For the Ethisphere® Institute, global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices, recent article Today’s Proxy Statement—Where Accounting Meets Marketing, Aarti Mahara, Executive Editor, interviewed three experts on proxy:

  • Irving Gomez, Assistant Corporate Secretary and Managing Counsel, Corporate Legal Group at Intel Corporation
  • Jean Weng, SVP, Deputy General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Voya Financial
  • Liam Power, President at Vintage, a division of PR Newswire/ SVP Cision

Irving Gomez:

“When we draft a proxy statement, we think about the different readers on the receiving end. Proxy statements have shifted from serving as a compliance document to a way that keeps investors engaged and it should be carefully crafted.

The proxy statement should be treated like a story with a short table of contents, followed by a brief summary of highlights that contain keywords, which easily catches the reader’s eyes. We use graphs that show a history of executive compensation and how it relates to company performance and this is particularly important to our big institutional investors who are our long term holders.”

Jean Weng:

“Institutional investors often go through hundreds of proxy statements to help them determine how they will cast their votes at these companies’ annual shareholders’ meetings during the proxy season, therefore these investors have limited time to review their portfolio companies’ proxy statements. At Voya, our focus has been to draft the proxy statement so that an investor can understand the main components of our governance and compensation practices by just reading the first five pages of the proxy statement.

In our executive summary, we present color pie charts that succinctly provide the components of our CEO and senior management’s compensation as well as the portion of the compensation that is equity-based or performance-based. In addition, our executive summary includes a checklist of ‘what we do and what we don’t do’ on our corporate governance and compensation practices that allows the reader to understand our principles and practices in a quick glance. We listen to our investors during our shareholder engagement process and incorporate their feedback”

Our president, Liam Power, answered some direct questions for Ethisphere:

Q: From a content perspective, what are some trends in proxy statements that you are seeing these days?

“The most significant trend we see, from a production POV, is that the Proxy Statement is replacing the Annual Report in terms of emphasis of design and importance to both the issuer and the investor. Juxtaposed to the evolution of “glossy” annual reports into vanilla 10-K wraps, the Proxy Statement is quickly becoming the “marketing” document, specifically because the issuer needs to set their narrative and the subsequent call-to-action of voting in their favor.”

Q: In your view, why is it tough for some companies to create compelling statements that resonate with their audience/ the end user?

“I don’t think its “tough” for companies to produce successful proxy statements. I do think that many companies have been caught off-guard by the increased weight that proxies now carry, largely due to activists. We counsel companies to think of their Proxy Statement as an integral extension of their Investor Relations thesis. Historically, proxy materials were treated much like the annual shareholder meeting, a tactical one-and-done task.”

Q: What do you think investors are looking for in proxy statements?

“What investors want in a proxy statement is EXACTLY what they want the other 364 days a year. Investor want clarity – both in print and online. They want the information, presented in a logical narrative that will help them make an informed decision.”

The creation process for 2016’s proxy statements will probably be the most complicated and collaborative (corporate secretary, human resources, finance, investor relations and corporate communications) we have experienced, both with content (compensation and ESG) and using technologies like our uber-web-friendly interactive proxy solution.

From a tactile production POV, take a meeting NOW with your filing agent (Vintage) to assure you are maximizing the distribution and display technologies available.

Design your proxy materials with these in mind. Don’t just make a PDF.

REPORT: 84% of Wall Street read their holdings’ annual reports

The annual report is a key publication, both as a historical document and as a “visual voice” for a company’s future. New research (below) shows that only 11% of institutional investors report they don’t read it.



With such a high percentage of people reading the annual report, a valuable discussion for companies to have is how to not waste the marketing opportunity the annual report – literally – delivers. In fact, our print processes improve each year to help issuers maintain the “glossy” part and not just wrap the financial SEC 10-K. Both parts tell a story.

Furthermore, Vintage’s “Annual Report Journey” delivers a cohesive design: print – file – online – video – investor relations program.

One way to investigate your opportunity and budget (and creative design) is to audit your last year’s annual report. Simply upload your 2015 annual report PDF here.


About the study

Initially launched in 2012, the Shareholder Confidence 365 Study is an ongoing survey targeted at two key constituents with whom public companies communicate: institutional investors and individual investors. It was the first study of its kind — directly asking investors how they consume investor relations content. In 2014, we published an updated study.

For this 2016 iteration, we have segmented and compared the results between institutional investors and individual investors. To date. we have accumulated over 6,870 responses from a pool of 16,000 buy-side analysts & portfolio managers and from over 15,000 long-term holding retail investors. There are 29 questions.

Questions include:

  • How often do you visit IR websites?
  • Why do you visit IR websites?
  • Do you use Twitter for stock research?
  • Would a CEO video instill trust?
  • Do you use earnings estimates?

The inbound response ratio is 1:3, Wall Street to Main Street. All of the data is unedited, except for any typos within the comments and the exclusion of inappropriate comments.

Click here to request the free Shareholder Confidence 365 Study.

GE’s “Integrated Summary Report” is a superb example of both IR transparency and a really, really big IR budget

There’s no question that the investor relations team at GE is creative, future thinking and well-funded. That is the very DNA of GE, I suppose.

GECOVERTheir new “Integrated Summary Report” is excellent. Read it here. GE took it upon themselves, being self-aware that they are a ridiculously complex organization, to create this Edward Tufte-esque (Google him) document that… oh, let’s just read what their CEO wrote:      

“Public company reporting has become so complicated that what matters to investors can get lost,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. “Our priority is to provide meaningful information that all investors can readily access. For investors to make investment and voting decisions, we don’t believe that more information is necessarily better. Instead, we’ve challenged ourselves to provide better information.”

What’s key to appreciate is that this is not a required document, although most of the information inside it is. It’s a graphical and accessible version of three separate documents: 2015 annual report, the proxy statement and their sustainability report. It is an additional publication to their summary 10-K report, which is yet another non-required research tool. The IR team recognizes that even though the SEC may not require this level of transparency, their shareholders do.

What to do about transparency if your budget is not so “really, really big”

Interactive Annual Reports bring your already-designed annual report into a more digital “realm” for shareholders that want a digital research experience beyond scrolling a PDF. Here is an example as well as here.  Both are created directly from a company’s PDF.

As you’ll see, it has many tools and shortcuts to content, has graphical appeal and – importantly for IR, it is very easy to set-up and budget benign. This WILL fit in any budget. Click here to get a quote based on your 2014 annual report (you will upload your 2014 PDF).

Oh… not that they asked, but I do have a tip for GE when they produce next year’s “Integrated Summary Report.” Ask your art director to turn the creative canvas to landscape format (11 x 8.5)  juxtaposed to portrait (8.5 x 11). The horizontal PDF will fit our PC screens better and uses the same amount of pixels and paper.

PS: call me when it’s time to print.

Don’t let a damn CEO* interfere with your online annual report

*Creative Energy Obstacle

“Video” annual reports have been pitched and marketed for over a decade now – and learning from countless conversations, their execution failure always came down to three roadblocks.

  • Price
  • Workload
  • CEO involvement (yah, the other CEO)

Our new Animated Annual Report has been expressly developed to solve this. Please watch the example below.



You’ll note that although you are viewing a “video,” we have named this product Animated Annual Report. That’s purposeful – to eliminate the mental fee stigma that has burdened “video” annual reports year after year.  Animated Annual Reports don’t need costly per-hour video crews, travel to location, B-roll filler expenses, sound and lighting personal… and of course any re-takes (sigh, there are always retakes).

Animated Annual Reports are digitally created by our team of creative wonders. The efficacy is fiscally meaningful.


We’re all huge consumers of video. Hours throughout our lives. That’s not a bad thing (except for a few unnamed reality programs), however, the result of our consumption is that we are all VERY sophisticated video critics. We (and investors) know bad video when we see it – and bad videos are very easy to make. It’s a bad move for a brand.

Making a good, if not great, video involves a lot of work. Scripting, senior executive approval, legal approval, scheduling, shooting, reviewing, editing, re-scripting and re-shooting (sigh, there are always retakes).

Animated Annual Report are digitally created from your pre-approved annual report PDF. The key point here is “pre-approved.”

3.) CEO

The Creative Energy Obstacle or Chief Executive Officer, can cause a problem for video annual reports. Snarky antonym aside, having your CEO look and sound comfortable in the frame is a very herculean task – it often stalls or stops an entire production. Generally, a CEO’s participation is usually an abbreviated pitch from their shareholder’s letter. Too scripted. Stiff.

It’s absolutely essential that CEOs have a presence for shareholders, but video as a media may not work for all CEOs. Animated Annual Report remove that “obstacle” from the creative production timetable.

A fourth point to discuss would certainly be ROI. This is when IR puts on their creative marketing cap. An Animated Annual Report can be used and reused throughout the year – emailed as an overview to analysts, as a colorful opening remark for investors conferences and embedded with sales presentations… anywhere you a brand needs visual, if not intangible, support. Certainly, like all web-based video, you can track and measure its popularity.

Video is ruling the web. Too learn more about getting your annual report into the eyes of your online shareholders, click here and send us your 2014 annual report PDF. This upload is the first part of the annual report journey from creative to production to final distribution.

The first mile of the Annual Report Journey is, frankly, all about the benjamins

Even during the heavy lifting of “earnings seasons,” we’re now meeting with clients and prospects as they begin preparing for the production of their 2015 annual report and proxy. Amid all the strategic high-value conversations regarding messaging, transparency, engagement, access and compliance – the first words we almost always hear are “I need to save money from last year’s annual report.”


And that’s why we invite issuers to begin 2015 Annual Report Journey with a benchmark of their 2014 annual report. Yes, it’s a very tactical task, but having that dollar sign well-defined – especially for a tangible element of ink & paper – will define the budget allowances for strategic communications. This is the core of our “Intelligent Value’ mission.

To benchmark last year’s annual report, please upload your 2014 PDF here.


The journey after your budget is defined:

The Annual Report Journey unifies the three major initiatives within an issuers’ process and subsequently aligns production and tangible products.


  • Creative & concept
  • Design & create


  • 10-K file with SEC
  • Print & distribute


  • Interactive (online) Annual Report
  • Animated (video) Annual Report

This unification, the Annual Report Journey, can assure cohesive messaging and financial branding while simplifying the transition from traditional print distribution into highly engaging online versions. It can assure that the annual report, a coveted document, reaches each shareholder in the media – analog or digital – they prefer.

Click image to view

Click image to view The Annual Report Journey

It will also eliminate redundancies and identify savings. More benjamins.