We Vote “Yes” on the Plain Language Proxy from J&J

Johnson and Johnson proxy page 1

Johnson & Johnson Page 1

Johnson and Johnson once again leads the pack in well designed shareholder communications. Take a look at their proxy statement from April of this year – you can also click to enlarge the picture of page 1 shown at left.

Rob Berrick of Dix and Eaton recently blogged on the merits of the redesigned proxy saying ” the additions of the “at a glance” content (see pages 5 or 36, for example) enhances the transparency of document by infusing it with some much needed/long-awaited “plain” English. ” I agree with Rob that the use of plain English is a key benefit of the new design – but one could say that the entire design structure works together to make a complex document more approachable and useful.

The typography isn’t fancy but it is well done and consistent. They have made appropriate use of icons and graphics throughout the document and there is a suitable amount of white space. Johnson and Johnson did not try to save  a couple of pennies per proxy by cramming information onto fewer pages. There is still an opportunity to use color more effectively – particularly in the online versions of documents. Since their brand color is red – it is not particularly useful as a differentiating color in anything that might be photocopied or faxed, but, it certainly stands out from black in a PDF and can draw the eye to key points or provide additional navigational guidance through the long document.

Another point of note is that there are barcodes (QR) sprinkled throughout the document intended to allow viewers of the print version of the document to quickly access the online document via their mobile device – however I did not see any instructions for use of the code. In keeping with the multi-channel theme, Johnson and Johnson also made the shareholder meeting available as a live webcast and will have the recorded webcast available on their website for 3 months. Doug Chia, Johnson & Johnson’s Corporate Secretary was one of the first Corporate Secretaries I am aware of who embraced social media (Follow him on Twitter @DougChia ). It’s good to know that his communications savvy includes traditional media like print (and I suppose PDFs are more traditional than new these days as well.) This kind of clear communication is good for companies and their shareholders. I hope more companies will follow J&J’s lead in the coming year.



Elizabeth Gooding

Elizabeth Gooding is the editor of the Insight Forums blog and president of Gooding Communications Group

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