10 Tips for Annual Report Success
Guidelines for Getting the Most Out of Your Annual Report Design and Planning Process
Regardless of when your fiscal year ends, it’s never too early to start preparing for annual report season. The process for this yearly requirement can be daunting and time-consuming. As a leading designer and producer of corporate reports, Curran & Connors has 10 simple steps that will help you maximize this process and ensure that you’re effectively telling a story that connects with stakeholders.
1. Start early.
Build in time for planning, developing concepts and design, gathering imagery, writing, review, typesetting proofreading and printing. If you want to deliver your report by the end of March, the annual report kick off should begin as early as November.
2. Make the most of your kickoff meeting.
Include the highest level executives you can so everyone hears the same message from leadership. Start with the end in mind: what do you want your audience to come away with? Clearly define the goal and build a story around that goal.
3. Include environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts.
With nearly a quarter of all US invested dollars taking sustainability into consideration, do not miss the opportunity to highlight these achievements. And don’t forget about the other audiences looking at your report: potential business partners and employees will want to know what kind of company they’re working with.
4. Use the CEO letter to your advantage.
The CEO letter is the most widely read section of the annual report. Use it to communicate vision, strategy, values and thought leadership. And focus attention on recent initiatives that helped your organization realize corporate goals.
“The annual report is the singular opportunity each year to focus the results, strategy and vision of an organization in one place for all your key stakeholders,” say Barbara Koontz, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience, Curran & Connors. “Companies need to be sure they are fully leveraging this opportunity.”
5. Incorporate video.
Whether it’s a background stock video or a custom talking head, the use of video adds visual interest and engagement to an online annual report. If you’re setting up a photoshoot, plan to shoot some video as well that day. Even if it’s not used in the report, it makes a nice addition to your corporate media library for future uses.
6. Make data more visual.
Use of infographics and pull quotes are a great way to visually communicate key metrics and other critical data and messages.
7. Turn your requirement into a marketing opportunity.
For many companies, the annual report is an opportunity to not only reach investors, but other key stakeholders as well. Online annual report microsites can showcase employees, case studies and ESG efforts, among other things, while reaching unlimited audiences.
8. Plan to repurpose content and design.
The annual report is your “financial brand” for the year. Make the most of your investment by repurposing the look and feel into other communications documents such as fact sheets, investor presentations, the proxy and quarterly reports. Dissect and share segments from the annual through social media. This conveys a consistent message across mediums and departments, creating brand awareness and building credibility.
9. Don’t forget your proxy.
It is quickly becoming a primary communications tool for companies to reinforce key strategies. Take some time to stylize and clean it up. Add some color. Pull out important information to make it easy to read. You can even turn it into an online experience.
10. Use partners with relevant experience.
Annual reports are not just another corporate brochure. You need experienced writers who understand your stakeholder audiences, designers who know how to create visuals that offer the greatest impact, and a project management team that oversees your process, keeping efforts on target and within deadline. Your annual report is a high stakes document and there is no room for error.
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