By Rachel Blondé
On Wednesday, February 21st, IABC London hosted Finance for Communicators – Embrace the Numbers where members took a deep dive in to the world of finance. With over 15 years’ experience, Rodney Burke, Vice President Global Finance at StarTech.com delivered an informative and interesting presentation regarding topics including financial reporting, annual reports and managing financial performance.
The first topic that Burke addressed was the often dreaded annual report. He said that companies use this report to communicate the company’s financial performance to stakeholders and the general public. Burke says it is a great way to communicate complex information in an easy to understand format. As communicators, it is our task to communicate the financial health of the company accurately so stakeholders can make informed decisions.
“If you think of the communication view and the finance view, really they are one in the same. They are just trying to make sure everyone is aware and transparent with the things that are happening at the company.” – Rodney Burke
Many communicators in the room had experience with annual reports but those who didn’t, learned that annual reports take on a very different look depending on the company. Burke says they could be five to ten pages or up to 100+ pages. How the reports look and feel depends on how much information the stakeholders need.
Burke said it is important to create a narrative that reflects the true substance of the report and asking questions of the finance department is important. Using a more detailed statement of the financial standing will give your stakeholders the information needed to make an educated decision while also showing the future of the company.
Non-Profit Annual Reports
For those creating a non-profit sector annual report, Burke says it is important to show the impact on investment, which shows how the finances have supported the community. He says it is important to express your long-term potential with the funding and fundraising that is going on to ensure stakeholders get the full picture.
When it comes to creating the annual report, Burke says a lot of non-profits opt for a more visual presentation as the reports will be given to members who may not understand the more specific financial information.
The second topic Rodney Burke addressed was financial statements. He said the key attributes of financial statements include relevance, faithful representation, understandability, comparability, verifiability, and timeliness. Burke says it is important to show where your company was the previous year and where it is at the present time. This is important to see in order to make a comparison on any savings or overspending. The financial statement created by the communications department does not have as much content, however, it is imperative that it is clear and concise. The financial statements tell a story when you look at all the pieces together and helps to showcase the positive narrative of the year. A great suggestion from Burke regarding the financial statements was to create a binder with more contextual materials for when stakeholders ask more specific questions. He said that a binder like this can be helpful to answer questions while also giving communicators the opportunity to become more familiar with the information.