By Vilan Trub, MarketingIn the modern visual world, the demand for earnings data to join the multimedia club is greater than ever. Financial information, traditionally released in text-only format, can be presented along with infographics or other illustrations, even videos, to highlight key figures in ways that make it easier for investors to understand how a given company is performing. Presenting earnings data visually is a multi-prong approach to delivering a message to the public in an easy to consume package: the audience is engaged, entertained, and the information is better retained.
According to Dr. Lynell Burmark, education consultant who writes and speaks about visual literacy: “…unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about seven bits of information (plus or minus 2) […]. Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.”
For the financial sector, a new study confirms the validity of these claims. With support from 300 retail investors, more than 20 Wall Street professionals, and select financial media professionals, Business Wire and Edelman Financial Communications & Capital Markets spearheaded a study on the relationship between the investment community and earnings data. They set out to determine not only how earnings data is used and digested but specifically “how new visual approaches are being received by key stakeholders.” A combination of an online survey and in-depth interviews contributed to a series of points showcasing the consensus that visual story telling has become an integral tool for relaying financial information.
- The earnings release is considered to be an essential resource for all audiences, and provides fast, easy-to-access data.
- Ninety-two percent of institutional and retail investors believe the future of earnings releases is more visual and features creative storytelling; these investors also believe this is a step “in the right direction” for the industry.
- However, there is still absolutely a need for traditional financial data to accompany the visual-driven elements of an earnings release; it must be clear that these earnings infographics are in addition to, and not a substitute for, traditional earnings statements. In fact, this multimedia tool is most effective when used in addition to traditional releases, focused on quantitative data.
- Both institutional and retail investors agree they need earnings data “at the drop of a hat” and that visually-driven earnings releases are accessible, easy to read, easy to understand, and it is easy to find relevant data.
- Investment professionals and financial media value quotes from the highlights section, and presenting in a visual manner makes them more readily accessible for readers.
For a more detailed account of the study and complete set of data download Raising the Bar in Financial Disclosure here.
The conclusion is that visual, creative displays of information are a benefit for investor relations professionals. These findings also encourage collaboration. In an ever shrinking world, IR teams benefit from working closely with marketing and public relations departments, crafting messages that will be read by a wide variety of audiences, “all stakeholders, not just investors.”
“As we see more and more companies incorporating visual elements in financial reporting – whether through infographics or directly within their press releases - we wanted to take a step back to see how key stakeholders view this trend. The quarterly reporting process is not just about recapping historical financial results. It’s an important touch point on the health of an organization and the company’s vision for the future. Visual elements are a great way to incorporate brand image and company narrative into the financial reporting process.”
- Deb Wasser, Executive Vice President,
Financial Communications & Capital Markets at Edelman
IR professionals shouldn’t see a competition brewing between the “old” methods and “new” assets, but instead see this as an opportunity to amplify ongoing communications for better results. By supplementing text-only earnings releases with visual assets, a larger audience benefits from the provided information, and the investor community has more options for how to process the information, and present it elsewhere, to other audiences and decision makers.
Examples of visualized earnings releases include:
- The Hershey Company: http://bizwire.pr/CIxIE
- WWE: http://bizwire.pr/pHK8z
- Sovran Self Storage: http://bizwire.pr/68uO2
- Ace Hardware: http://bizwire.pr/cf0iW