"It's the most comprehensive narrative about our company and it really helps define who we are," said Gary Sheffer, VP of corporate communications and public affairs for GE. "This really is the way we engage in a meaningful way with a wide variety of stakeholders."
Frank Mantero, director of the corporate citizenship program for GE, said the biggest change this year is an updated website, GE.com/citizenship, where the company is making the language more accessible to employees and consumers, while still reaching NGOs and socially responsible investors with technical information. The website will also be updated more regularly, as opposed to annually when the report is released.
"With our own communications strategy and messaging - and it's reflected in the report and website - we're trying to demonstrate that GE's CSR strategy is really its business strategy," Mantero added. The company will also provide hard copies of the report to stakeholders that have recently engaged with the company.
Sheffer said the annual reports have had a positive impact on GE in the past, building relationships with stakeholders and serving as a key point for interacting with recruits, employees, suppliers, customers, NGOs, and more.
"The communications tactics are almost secondary to the message," he added, noting that the annual reports help define the company and its culture.
But GE is using communications tactics to spread the word to various internal and external stakeholders by leveraging content featured in the report, posting articles on GEReports.com, profiling this year's messages from CEO Jeff Immelt and board member Sam Nunn.
"We've never actually discussed the report before it goes out, but we wanted to give employees a heads-up before the formal announcement," Mantero said. "We did pre-brief a number of green and CSR bloggers over the past couple of days with our chief responsibility officer."
GE will also target the blogosphere when the report is released today, and will promote it on Twitter. The company is handling communications internally, but turned to CSR and graphic design consultants for support, Mantero said.