Trends in Annual Reporting: What You Need to Know
Ah, annual reports – they’re big, detailed, and jam-packed with information. They’re also ripe with opportunities to show off your company, its goals, and its values.
These reports can be intimidating because by nature they contain a lot of important data: your company's activities, performance, financial conditions, and achievements from the preceding year. At the same time, they’ve got to set up your future objectives and goals. It’s a big task to sum it all up and turn it into a document that looks good and reads even better.
Who Needs Annual Reports?
Publicly traded companies require annual reports to give shareholders a financial and operational overview. They’re often used to celebrate the victories, too. A strong report also provides updates for potential investors and can be a formalized source of public communication.
Suppose you’re a small business owner or the head of a non-profit organization. If so, you’re not legally required to produce an annual report – but having one can be an invaluable marketing tool. Customers, government institutions, suppliers, and even your employees will find value in it (which is why it’s important to make it accessible to everyone).
You want these groups to read your report and learn something new about you. So, a good report is beneficial across multiple fronts. It offers transparency, trust, and appreciation.
Egg Farmers of Alberta Annual Report.
How to Create a Good Annual Report
1. Always Plan Ahead
It is no secret that we love strategizing at WJ, and these reports are no exception. If you don't take the time to plan, your report can feel scattered, irrelevant, or overwhelming to your audience.
Start by identifying the story you want to tell. You can share findings from the previous year and remind your audience of your core values, mission, and driving forces. This in turn provides a wholesome view of where your company is at now and forecasts your goals.
Next, ensure you have all the data you need from multiple departments. Use templates and ask for numbers well in advance so you can avoid last-minute crunches and missing data. A bit of planning goes a long way!
2. Flex Your Creative Muscles
These reports can get hefty, especially for bigger companies. That means a lot of information needs to be presented and digested. The best way to do this? Telling a great story.
An ongoing theme helps the audience understand and stay engaged, so break your report into major themes or chapters: current market performance, industry context, financial performance, and strategic objectives. Once you identify these themes, write the information within that context so it better speaks to investors and your industry, employees, and even your competitors.
Here's one way to look at it: imagine you’re a stakeholder, encountering your report for the first time.
- Does it make sense?
- Is it fun to read, or is it a slog?
- Is the layout engaging or does it make your eyes hurt?
- Is the report too long, or can you go back and summarize things better?
Questions like this will help guide your overall creative strategy. The information selected, order of content, tone, and specific word choices are vital considerations when crafting this report.
Saskatchewan Pulse Growers Annual Report.
Creative Designs: From Boring to Brilliant
Annual reports should always be visual, turning plain data and dry numbers into something more exciting. This especially applies in the financial area of the report where data is heavy, so use charts, images, and graphics wherever possible.
This offers a chance to create brand consistency in your colour, imagery, and graphics. Whether you are a small one-person design whiz or a large company with a dedicated design team, sticking to brand standards will resonate more with your audience and strengthen your overall narrative.
Not sure how to tell if your design is consistent? Pro tip: readers should recognize that the report is from your company, without even seeing the logo or company name. That means consistent font, colours, and imagery that your audience has come to know from your website and other branding efforts.
3. Include a Message from Leadership
Not only do investors appreciate hearing a personal message from your CEO, but the public will, too. This sets a positive tone for the story you are about to tell and humanizes your brand, going beyond financial and operational findings and offering a personal angle.
Audiences want to know who is behind the brand, what motivates them, and what their goals are, feeling that sense of community with your company. After all, investors and customers make your business possible. Include a warm, welcoming photo of your leader to complement the friendly message.
4. Consider Sharing Online
Annual reports are traditionally printed, but current trends are inspiring even the most traditional of companies to think a little bit differently and go digital. It saves you time, money, and distribution costs, and helps the environment, too.
Moving online to a format like PDF allows you to make the report interactive by adding links within the document. Done right, this can improve your website's ranking on Google if optimized correctly, and you can also track the report’s performance far better than a printed version.
And why not go beyond a PDF and make your report into a digital flipbook? They are even more interactive than a standard PDF, allowing people to flip the pages at their own pace and have a more tangible experience. These work great on both desktop and mobile devices, making your report more accessible.
Remember that your report is your chance to shine and share your accomplishments. It’s a way to have fun with your team and get creative while reflecting on key data and information. Telling a story about your findings will humanize your brand, build trust, and make a memorable experience – but only if the report is attractive, appealing, and easy to understand.
And if you need help or advice, our inboxes are always open!