Your annual report design is not just about reporting on the facts of the last 12 months but a chance to show the amazing work done and things achieved; proof that you have a proven track record, to create confidence in commissioning your service or buying your product today. For example, with corporate and social responsibility hot on the agenda your annual report can highlight this great work. Depending on the size of your company and industry, some people may be looking out for your next annual report, and this can feel like added pressure and the main focus – to answer the people that you feel most under pressure to present to. But with a mindset change, and a confidence to think more about showcasing and being proud, you will be able to create something worthy to give to eager stakeholders but also a flagship marketing tool.
Something that is often overlooked, especially if the annual report design is seen as an obligation, is how much it reflects on the overall company brand. Your annual report is a very strong insight in to your brand and personality. In nearly every industry clients buy and engage with companies they trust, and that comes from understanding them beyond just the obvious service or product. If your annual report is delivered as a functional but characterless document what does that say about the company? If it delivers the facts but is also insightful, easy to read, engaging, interesting, shows the great people that work there, how much more positive is that experience? Similar to a website, that has to reflect your brand and not just be online entertainment, your annual report should be your flagship marketing tool, not just a statement of factual history.
12 months in the making
OK we don’t mean that literally, otherwise your annual reporting would be like painting the Forth Bridge. But it is something that the whole company (or at least those staff who can contribute to the content) can be thinking about all year round. Very similar to a company newsletter, if you wait until the deadline of actual production to gather quotes, images, ideas, and potential content, it is often too late and the opportunity went past unrecorded. For example if you know that corporate and social responsibility is a key thing for your company going forward, you must record in words and pictures the events throughout the year, so they are ready for the annual report. So many times we have sat down with a client to assess the content plan, and the only things available to show are things that happened in the last few weeks once the reminder kicked in of “oh crap it is annual report time again”. Related to this is working out who can actually contribute content, and working with some surprising sections of the company workforce.
Very often annual reporting is seen as a top level responsibility only, perhaps combined with the communications or marketing team. But some of the best reports on great things that happened that year can come from front line staff, anyone that has engaged with customers and clients. But unless these people know they can contribute, and the annual report is a company wide opportunity, they won’t remember to record those nuggets of detail that can transform the report from boring history to a compelling story of the year.
So, perhaps with a different view of annual reporting, the challenge may seem bigger than ever. Your now thinking where to start, how to gather that content across different parts of the company, how to keep everyone happy, and now make it an amazing marketing project as well? Don’t worry, by approaching annual report design in stages it won’t feel overwhelming and providing you get the research and planning stages correct it can flow smoothly.