Recipes for Annual Reports

1. Focus on strategy

Like anything business, a sound strategy provides confidence. By summarising your key strategies upfront and even illustrating it early underpins the rest of the narrative. Great graphics highlighting corporate goals, strategic priorities and performance targets both financial and non-financial get your messages across quickly and clearly

2. Stick to key messages

Avoid clutter and be clear on the messages you want to send to the market. Push out your key messages through strong visuals such as photos and hero statements. If they read or see nothing else, they’ve got the message.

Having a strong theme and narrative running through the report can help to make it engaging and lift it beyond a long standard document. It can also appeal to a broader audience, making you stand out from the competition.

3. Good everyday writing

Your stakeholders may not always be familiar with business and industry jargon and acronyms. Clear, plain language minimises the effort required to understand relevant information and key messages and the reader will be engaged more readily.

The goal is to explain performance in a meaningful way, not to befuddle your audience with excessive, complex and distracting content. Formatting and the flow of content also play an important role.

4. Good design

It is worth investing in good design for your annual report – it will differentiate you give your report real impact. The choice of photos, infographics and diagrams, can create not only an immediate impression but send a message on the business culture and personality. Poor design can look cheap, unprofessional and underwhelming.

5. Go digital!

You should also consider different formats for your report. Producing lots of copies in print is expensive. It is also no longer mandatory to send printed reports to all shareholders, only to those who request them.

Consider digital. Digital is more not only more cost effective, it’s highly engaging. The merits of digital annual reports will be discussed more next month but in the meantime, consider its advantages:

  1. It’s resource effective saving on print and distribution costs; and is environmentally more friendly
  2. It’s interactive and more engaging. It’s a great medium for helping the reader navigate through your content with links and click throughs, pop-ups and even video
  3. It’s more easily accessible; anywhere, anytime through multiple devices
  4. It aids analytics intelligence, helping you to better understand your audience. Unlike a paper copy, every single PDF or piece of digital content can be tracked using analytics.

Today, we are seeing a trend to not only produce paper based reports, but an increasingly popular preference for digital versions. This means that there is an opportunity to combine great design with clever and cost effective digital tools.