February and March are busy times in the corporate news calendar, with an unrelenting schedule of annual results throughout the two months. But this does not mean corporate affairs managers should look to deploy non-ambitious publishing plans just because it is a crowded space.

Many stakeholders view an annual report: shareholders, clients, employees and potential employees, as well as the general public if published in the right way. While each audience will be interested for different reasons, they are all absorbing key information. If you want to be noticed, you can’t just compile the corporate numbers, add a quote from the CEO and call it a day.

Now more than ever there is a renewed focus on mainstream journalism as one of the most well-respected categories of influencers globally. Not every story is earned media worthy; what you publish must therefore be earned media quality to break through. It’s vital to develop and deliver stories in more compelling ways. Success requires a smarter approach that marries art and science to target media as influencers who can drive reach that builds reputations and supports business growth.

A business’s annual results should be one of the cornerstones of its annual corporate affairs plan. When published right is one of the most effective milestones to communicate a brand’s story. Here are five principles to help businesses get cut through:

Define the narrative – and make it interesting
Results should not just be a repeat of corporate messaging that was signed off in a workshop long ago. Stories should be reflective of the time we are operating in: invest the time to draft something that reflects your evolving purpose and values and highlights the positive corporate developments across the business. The narrative should be engaging on a rational and emotional level to reach the broadest audience. 

Use the right data to build the story
By definition, the timing and content of annual results announcements mean there is a wealth of corporate data to use. But this doesn’t mean you have to create something that only an accountant will read and understand. Businesses can deploy data to tell stories beyond the financial picture on the balance sheet, for example by developing insights into customer behaviour that tell us something about the wider economic and social backdrop. This can work particularly well for consumer-facing businesses whose data can be converted into relatable stories about shopping habits, which play well with media.

Ground it in the real world
Your results are not the only story happening right now. Contextualise your announcement against previous years and current industry trends that matter to the widest audience possible. The media that are likely to report on your results will want to tie your news to a digestible scale so they can either link to an existing trend or contextualise it into developments elsewhere. Take the opportunity to define your position in the world and include the context you want.

Demonstrate your impact + talk about the future
An annual report is an opportunity to highlight your accomplishments, build trust in your organization, and show your stakeholders your success. But to really make an impression and help your audience emotionally invest in your brand, you need to highlight the impact of these accomplishments: How does your business affect individuals, communities, or even the world? The announcement should not just be a summary of the year; it needs to lay the foundations for what is ahead, and explain the purpose of what was achieved.

Be smart with your media pitch
Media are one of many important voices shaping the conversation. And the practice of media relations should bring together art and science. Use data and analytics to develop smarter targeting of the publications, reporters and influencers whose reach matters most. And then bring this data together with the knowledge of an experienced press office to know when and to whom to sell in your media story.

Going beyond a list of five tips for this announcement is unlikely to be helpful for a single blog post, but that does not mean these are the only considerations or activities that should happen during this busy period as corporate affairs managers will need to think about all the communications channels and audiences for this milestone.

The top two goals for your announcement is anyone wanting to understand the business can read the annual results statement and come away with a very good idea of where it is at and where management wants to take it; and that those audiences you want to hear the news do actually notice with all the developments that are happening right now.