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Read about Europe’s IR innovators who won last year's awards
Europe’s IR innovators: Baloise shows innovation through design
Judges lapped up the creativity on show at the IR Magazine Awards – Europe 2022. In the first of a three-part series, Tim Human asks award winners what made their IR innovations stand out
The story of Baloise Group winning best innovation in shareholder communications begins with, well, a push for innovation at the 150-year-old Swiss insurance company. At its investor day in October 2020, the firm outlined plans for diversification through unlocking new sources of client acquisition, revenue growth and cash generation. Not everyone was convinced, however.
Investors and analysts questioned whether Baloise should be investing money in innovation, Markus Holtz, the insurer’s head of IR, tells IR Magazine. Some employees also viewed the changes skeptically. ‘They asked, Why do I need to change? The business is working well,’ Holtz says.
Markus Holtz, Baloise
At this point, the IR team realized it needed to explain the innovation strategy more clearly. ‘A lot of investors and sell-side analysts wanted more transparency on the topic,’ says Alexandra Engesser, investor relations manager at the insurer. ‘So we thought about how we could best explain the topic of innovation.’
With that in mind, Baloise developed an online ‘scrollytelling experience’ – essentially a long website where users gradually scroll down through a range of content, such as animation, video and interactive games. ‘We didn't think it made sense to have a PowerPoint presentation when we were trying to explain to people that we are more innovative than other firms,’ says Holtz.
Show and tell
Designed in partnership with Zense, a Zurich-based communications consultancy, the website explains why Baloise wants to innovate and then shows the various ways it is doing so.
Screenshots from Baloise's ‘scrollytelling experience’
At one point, users must connect a series of dots on the screen with their mouse to reveal new information. And interspersed throughout are videos of senior management members explaining the importance of diversifying the business.
The project saw strong interest both internally and externally – something that impressed the judges at the IR Magazine Awards. In the first few days after launch, the website received more than 1,000 visits, according to Baloise. A corresponding post about the site became one of the most-read items on the company’s intranet system. And the average retention time of the website stands at more than 15 minutes, with 50 percent of users scrolling all the way from the top to the bottom.
Alexandra Engesser, Baloise
How does Baloise plan to continue the conversation around innovation? That’s a tough one, says Holtz. The company is continuing to discuss its innovation strategy across its regular reporting. But what else it might do is an open question.
‘If we make a second iteration [of the website], we must be innovative again,’ Holtz says. ‘We want to… surprise people again.’
Europe’s IR innovators: Valmet brings IR to Instagram
In the second of a three-part series, Tim Human asks award winners what made their IR innovations stand out
Valmet is no stranger to the IR Magazine Awards – Europe. The Finnish company has previously won for best IR website, best use of multimedia and rising star. This year, it claimed the prize for best retail IR strategy – a new category at the event – thanks to the creative way it caters to private investors.
‘There is a great culture of doing IR really well and using different technological platforms,’ says Pekka Rouhiainen, who joined the company as director of IR in September 2019. ‘We’ve been trying to innovate and build new things that stand out.’
Pekka Rouhiainen, Valmet
A driving force behind Valmet’s inventive approach is its large following of retail investors. The company has more than 57,000 Finnish retail holders, who collectively own about 14 percent of the business. Like many other companies, Valmet saw its number of individual investors rise during the pandemic. In 2020 a new type of savings account also made it more tax-efficient for Finns to invest in stocks, attracting more private owners.
While Valmet has long provided a range of content and communication channels for its smaller shareholders, in 2020 it tried something new with the launch of an IR-focused Instagram channel. At the time of launch, Valmet hadn’t seen anyone else using an Instagram account to talk specifically to investors, says Rouhiainen.
The provider of technology for the pulp, paper and energy industries had two main goals with the channel. Firstly, it wanted to provide content in Finnish for its growing band of retail shareholders. Secondly, it wanted to offer a space where the company could have a two-way dialogue with this stakeholder group.
Prior to the pandemic, Valmet would host in-person events for private investors two or three times a year. Instagram offers an online version of this Town Hall-style engagement through its Q&A functionality, says Rouhiainen. ‘It replicates these events where there are optimally 100 people present. You talk more freely,’ he explains. ‘It has worked really well and the engagement has been excellent.’
The judges at the IR Magazine Awards were impressed not just by the use of Instagram, but also by Valmet’s broader approach to retail communications. Its other activities include using various social media channels, engaging directly with financial bloggers and posting retail-focused Q&As to the website.
The overall aim is to make information about a complex B2B technology company available in a quick, simple way. ‘We want to make it easier for people who don’t spend their whole professional life following profit-and-loss statements,’ says Rouhiainen.
Valmet’s approach has led to a growing following on social media. Collectively, the firm's social accounts have more than 1,700 followers, up about 25 percent from a year ago, and corporate news is regularly shared and commented on by Finland’s community of financial bloggers. What’s more, Valmet seems to have started a new trend: another Finnish company has now opened a corporate Instagram account, notes Rouhiainen.
Europe’s IR innovators: Ocado takes an animated approach to results
In the third of a three-part series, Tim Human asks award winners what made their IR innovations stand out
Another company that impressed IR Magazine Awards judges with its web content was online supermarket and technology group Ocado. The company picked up the award for best use of multimedia for a digital campaign that supported its 2021 full-year results.
For the project, Ocado created an animation inspired by the five categories of its investment case – leadership, speed, resilience, partnership and problem solving – along with short videos covering each area. The animation also provided the imagery that was used across all communication channels, from social media posts to the annual report.
‘We aim to lift our results out of a financial silo, engaging as many of our stakeholders as possible, both long-standing and those just starting on their journey with Ocado Group,’ says Chandler Benet, head of IR at the company. ‘The animations helped to bring to life the essence and characteristics of the business in an engaging and accessible way.’
The full-year results announcement – conducted via an online presentation – went ‘hand in hand’ with Ocado Group's annual report launch, which came a few days later, explains Yolanda Valery, the company's group head of digital engagement.
Chandler Benet, Ocado
‘The results phase was structured around a classic ‘pre, during and post’ approach, with the idea of driving registrations first, creating excitement later and extending the content’s reach and shelf life afterwards,’ she says.
‘With regards to the annual report, the animations were the main assets. We kept those for the launch day and post-release campaigns, with a view to engaging readers and attracting them to the document. But we also saw their potential beyond the report’s specific purpose – they offered an opportunity to help raise awareness of the business.’
Gifs with takeaways
Alongside the animation, Ocado produced other media content to support the release of its full-year results. ‘We created a host of assets, including gifs featuring key takeaways laid over some of our most iconic imagery, like the technology in our warehouses,’ says Valery. The online grocer also generated short video assets from its results presentation, such as an interview between the CEO and CFO, she adds.
The hard work appears to have paid off, with Ocado’s campaign registering impressive stats across various social channels. ‘We normally see a spike in traffic around the results and report, with the former being shorter-lived,’ says Valery. ‘As we experimented with formats like gifs and short videos and posted more frequently, without spamming, we drove increased reach and engagement.’
Images from Ocado's results campaign
Some of the best results came from the ‘during’ stage of the campaign, says Benet. Compared with the previous year, reach – the total number of people who see the content – increased four times on LinkedIn and eight times on Twitter and Facebook. Engagement – referring to likes, shares and other interactions – also climbed year on year, with activity on Facebook 20 times higher than before.
What’s more, the animation proved a big hit on YouTube. ‘We decided to promote some of the content from the post-campaign, which meant that one of the animations created as part of the annual results package is now the most-watched video on our YouTube channel, with more than 130,000 views,’ says Benet.
These articles originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of IR Magazine.
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