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Five lessons from our reporting and comms conference 2011

Here’s five simple lessons I learned from our 2011 reporting and comms conference, held last week in London:

1) The debate about integrated reporting has still only just begun

Companies are confused: What’s integrated, what’s combined? Some investors are interested, others couldn’t care less. Does integration mean less helpful sustainability information?

There are a lot more questions than answers.

I presented some stats and a brief look forward to 2012. Next year’s event will be interested in terms of how far integrated reporting has come.

2) Assurance is something big companies are very keen to defend

I did my best to have a decent pop at the idea of report assurance. Volkswagen and Nestle defended the idea robustly. The audience agreed with them. I’m still dubious but I suppose in the absence of proper internal management controls (in the same way normal business is conducted) then I guess it may be perhaps better than nothing for a really huge company.

3) Emerging markets, with less pressure, need a really solid business case

I met some executives from the Middle East and Asia who were keen to show off their work. It’s early days in emerging markets, and its clear that bosses don’t yet understand the need for non-mandated transparency. Very understandable considering the cultural differences and operating environments. We get upset about phone hacking in the UK: In China it’s just standard practice!

4) Communications efforts, based on reports, are a long way from mainstream

I was very impressed with the International Post Corporation’s efforts on target setting, initiative-taking, public ambition, reporting and media and communications efforts. There’s much to learn from them for many a company. Other firms, BAA aside, seemed still incredibly nervous about communications. There are many good reasons for that of course. But that doesn’t mean a little more sensible boldness would not be in order.

5) Old conference formats are dead: We need to end PowerPoint today

This is an old adage, but the best sessions were the ones were we had little, or NO PowerPoint. We need to ban it completely in my view. I’m working on my colleagues on that one. Next year’s events will be a little different…