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Prudential and IPad apps for corporate responsibility reporting

Prudential, the UK financial services group, has launched their latest CR report also in IPad format.

This means you can download their app, and browse the report on your mobile tablet device.

I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, new technology ought to be embraced by companies looking to communicate CR.

On the other, who is going to download this? More importantly, who will keep reading it?

The chances are, the sceptic in me says, that five SRI analysts who invest in the firm might download it, look at it once and then delete the app.

I’m not sure who else would read it, except the odd person in the Prudential CR team.

I’d love to be wrong about that. And see stats next year on the thousands of Ipad users who did use it, even just once. But I’m a little dubious.

One web marketing expert, the CEO of eConsultancy.com, said at a conference recently that most firms who make apps should perhaps instead focus on making their corporate websites better, rather than playing with a technology most IPad users will never see or use.

(To be fair to Prudential, their web reporting is pretty nice to look at, easy to read and simple to navigate. Although as usual with finance firms, stakeholder engagement outside the firm appears fairly negligible when you browse the website)

I can’t help thinking that the eConsultancy CEO advice applies to CR reporting. But that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t experiment. I’m just not sure a CR report is the best content for an app.

Apps are for a constant flow of new and useful information. Or silly games. This is neither. Perhaps its the right idea, but with the wrong content.

They are also using a technology called “Flashbook“, which is worth a look if you work on reporting. This ‘page turn’ technology, whilst improving hugely in recent years, is still just a little too slow, clunky and hard to use compared with a good old PDF. It’s nearly good enough, just not quite there yet.

Before judging further, I’d better download the Prudential app on my IPad and take a look. More on the results of that later in the week when I’ve had a chance to do that.

Not to be churlish about experimentation, we should say “well done” to Prudential for embracing new technology. It’s worth a go I suppose, if you can market the site to interested stakeholders.

Perhaps though, all the time and expense might have been better put to use working with outside parties to put together say, some interesting essays and independent think pieces on the future of their industry and the issues at hand.

That’s something I might actually read, as a opposed to flicking through a CR report for five minutes. If regularly updated, that’s an app I might even keep.

The question is, of course, is that a role for a company like Prudential to take? I’d argue it could be, if the output was sufficiently industry-challenging, constructive and informative about the future of finance.

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