Tim Dyson, CEO of the Next Fifteen Group and therefore my old boss, points to something that he believes to be a world’s first; a company annual report that is also a blog.  It’s for his own company, of course.  I’ll always take a look at the Next Fifteen annual report as (a) I think, somewhere, I still own some shares (though they’re well underwater, wherever they are) (b) I know for a fact that my mum owns some shares and (c) I’m always keen to see how much Dyson gets paid.

I’m not totally convinced about how innovative the social media annual report is…it’s rather like an online annual report (which the company’s done before) with a bit of blogging literally added onto the side.  I mean, it’s not like you can comment on the chairman’s statement or other specific parts of the annual report itself (now wouldn’t that be cool…”so Tim, why did David Dewhurst get a performance related bonus but you didn’t?  What did he do that was so much better..?”)

But I’m happy to agree with Dyson when he says that more and more companies will be producing their annual reports in this way.  That hand on the front page is a bit odd though…I thought it might be some fancy biometric jobby and now my screen’s covered in sticky hand-prints.

A couple of years ago I had a chat with one of the members of the Egg plc PR team about – as I saw it – a new PR discipline which I rather cunningly called “consumer financial”.  The premise was that, as millions of individuals now own shares and are increasingly involved in managing their own share portfolios, quoted companies needed specific communications activities geared towards this audience.  Sure, they’d need all the standard financial info and regulatory announcements, but the tone and approach would be very different to those communications, say, pushed to institutional investors in the City.  While the numbers clearly matter very much to members of the “consumer financial” audience, they’re also, I believe, more inclined to want to understand the culture and ethics of the company in which they have invested.  I see the Next Fifteen annual report/blog mash-up as fitting right into this category.

As I said though, the blogging bit seems a little added on to me.  There are posts from key directors in the Next Fifteen Group, such as Dyson himself, “Social media – the new big thing in PR” (hmm…) Grant Currie of Inferno (a good mate of mine) and Aedhmar Hynes of Text 100.  They’ve kick-started the conversation by commenting on each other’s posts and roping in a few clients, but you can’t blame them for that (in fact Hynes’ post – about virtual worlds, natch – has two comments, one from Cisco, a client, and the other from a bloke called Tony Hynes.  No relation, I’m presuming…or is it?)

What’ll be interesting for me is how well they manage to keep the blog element of the report alive.  Neither Dyson or Hynes have exactly been the most prolific bloggers, and Currie’s contributions to the Inferno blog have been, ummm, sporadic.

Still, credit to them.  I do think it’s original and more companies will do something similar.  Of course, it would have been really cool if Next Fifteen itself had a digital team as part of the group that could’ve developed the social media annual report concept; I could have seen that leading to a load of new business.  But it doesn’t, so used a company called CGI Squared instead.