Brief your design company well
Prepare a comprehensive brief – your design company must understand your communication objectives, corporate strengths, market strengths, market position and industry trends.
Articulate your business strategy
What’s your message?
Deliver your business strategy with confidence in the first few pages – get straight to the point. Clearly communicate your goals, performance indicators and priorities. This will create a narrative for your report structure.
Report on the past year but also focus on the future. The annual report is no longer a pure historical document, it now addresses the interests of a large range of stakeholders which has spurred companies to report on their interaction with all stakeholders, market place, employees, environment and the community in which it operates.
Start planning early
The annual report is a time critical and complex project which calls for a strong project management and a detailed timeline. Meeting critical deadlines when many of the main contributors, especially the finance team, are facing their busiest time of the year can be challenging. Being flexible with your project planning is also paramount as senior managers are often overseas or otherwise unavailable.
Keep information accessible
Many annual reports are now read online or on an iPad or phone – design for impact on a small screen as well as for print and remember that Flash-based technology does not work on many mobile devices.
Transparency creates trust – clearly articulate your company’s strategies and goals.
The information documented in financial reports needs to be transparent so investors and other users will not be surprised by unknown events. Investors expect clear, reliable, consistent, comparable, and transparent reporting of events.
Keep language clear and free of jargon
Use plain English – avoid jargon and explain industry acronyms, you want your reader to clearly understand what you are taking about. We see too many annual reports laden with technical jargon and industry speak.
Research how your stakeholders like to receive information
Research how your readers want to receive the report – it can save money in the long-run. For example, you may find that the majority of shareholders might like to receive a printed Review rather than a full Annual Report saving you dollars on print and postage.
Look to the new media mix to add significant value – incorporate print, interactive websites, PDF downloads, video, digital apps and webcasting.
Make your message stand out
You’ve got a complex story to tell – make your report engaging with compelling design and keep it simple. The reader needs to be able to access information quickly. A well designed report (digital or print) with snap shot information and powerful images can do this well.
Put information that people want to know up front and balance that with the compliance information at the back of the report. Pull out key figures, quotes and case studies that help tell your story. Use graphs and diagrams to convey numbers trends and statistics and use explanatory text to help readers understand your story.
Use “natural” not “staged” photography to improve authenticity
Use professional photography – an annual report is a flagship document and often the only opportunity to show off your brand. You want it to send all the right messages. Good photographs in an annual report inspire confidence and communicate what the company is doing. This reassures investors. Poor quality images can create doubt and may raise questions about the company’s professionalism.
Shareholders want to see the company’s employees and real images of operations not generic stock images.
Videos tell compelling stories too
If you’re creating an online annual report, you can also link to or embed videos into your report to illustrate stories, or use still shots or brief clips from a longer video.
Ensure you have written approval from all employees for use of photos and videos which they appear in.
Proof reading is vital
A good proofreader will scrutinise content for spelling and grammar and will also ensure there is a consistent style to all copy including the use of capitalisation, how figures and dates are shown, typography and spacing issues. A good proofreader will work on both print and digital channels.
Having a writing style guide in place before writing commences can help with consistency and save time and money with changes.
Research paper stock options
Look at environmental credentials of the paper stock – there are many options and environmental certifications to consider – a good design company will guide you. There is much more to consider than recycled content in paper – look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC certification), renewable energies, soy based ink printing and efficiency in printing to minimise waste.
Promoting your use of environmental printing practices on the back of your report sends a strong message and can motivate others too.
Investigate paper stock weights for your annual report– there are huge cost savings to be made in postage if you can get your report mail pack under certain weight categories.
If you need help getting started on your annual report, feel free to give Twelve a call or send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org