Think outside the A4 box

by Renee Carter
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How is it that we often profess that our companies are defined by certain attributes, and yet when we communicate, we contradict this by conveying something different altogether through the medium we use and the way we use it. For example, we may claim to be 'progressive, innovative, dynamic and tech savvy' and then communicate about our company via a vanilla A4 printed document.

How is it that we often profess that our companies are defined by certain attributes, and yet when we communicate, we contradict this by conveying something different altogether through the medium we use and the way we use it. For example, we may claim to be 'progressive, innovative, dynamic and tech savvy' and then communicate about our company via a vanilla A4 printed document.

What A4 actually says is 'safe, practical, static, the same, dull...'

And print says traditional, not progressive and tech savvy (which could instead be achieved through an interactive, dynamic digital experience). Moving online may seem a scary prospect, but we can no longer bury our heads in the sand and miss the plethora of opportunities afforded by online communications.

We cannot claim to be different, and then be the same. We cannot claim to value quality and then cling to regularly communicating with cheap materials and methods.

We can say one thing, but unless we live out our brands - and in this case, through our communications, we will undermine our efforts to convey the right message.

In the case of a printed annual report, there is no requirement for this to be A4 (and yet most are). This is particularly so now that reports are often split into a shareholder summary and a compliance report. Reports can be customised to any size and format including broadsheet, square, or the size of an iPad. So think outside A4 constraints.

In the case of a printed corporate profile, this has even more freedom to be any size you choose. While you need to consider practical constraints - think outside the A4 box and determine a size and shape that depicts what you are about. Does the shape say solid and dependable, or streamlined and sophisticated? And how are you communicating this same information online?

One of my favourite communication pieces is the HermanMiller Annual Report from 2002. With the cover title "Coming through the storm stronger for the future", there is also a plastic rain poncho attached to the cover. On the pouch holding the poncho are the words "To our customers, investors and employees: Thanks for weathering the economic storm of 2001-2002 with us. We're grateful for your loyalty. When you need this poncho, remember that stormy weather never lasts forever." The report is honest, brave, creative, engaging and memorable. How many of our communications pieces can we say this about?

You may like to ask yourself these questions when preparing your communications:
  • What is the most appropriate channel/medium for this message (or multiple channels)?
  • What size (for print) would most suit what we are aiming to convey?
  • Do the colours and images support the message?
  • Are my online communications static or have I embraced the opportunity to use interactivity and dynamic features?
  • Are my communications one sided, or am I engaging with the audience?
  • Am I being constrained by fear of stepping out of my comfort zone?
  • Am I doing it this way just because it is the way it was done before?
  • If I have more visits to my online communication, why am I focusing on print communication?
  • What do customers/investors experience when they attempt to read company communication/information via other channels such as mobile devices?
  • Is our messaging consistent across all channels and communication?
  • Is the content tailored for the medium?
  • Is our communication honest? Is it brave?

Remember to utilise all aspects of communication available - size, shape, colour, text, images and medium (and perhaps other aspects such as smell or sound). They all speak to the audience.

I challenge you to brave communications and living out your brand. Don't just do something because that is the way it was done before. Bust out of the A4 box.


Renee Carter


Renee Carter
Renee Carter is the Managing Director of Designate Group in Sydney, Australia. With over 15 years experience in corporate and investor communications for great Australian brands, Renee leads the Designate team to inspire and enable companies to effectively tell their stories and communicate their brand.

More at: http://designate.com.au/

Published by kind permission of the author.



July 2014.
All rights reserved. Copying for other than personal or internal company use is prohibited. Quoting is authorized with appropriate reference

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