Annual reporting probably isn’t something you love. But it plays an important (and possibly legal) purpose in your business. And if you want to set your business up for success, you need to pay more attention to this all-important task.
Importance of the Annual Report
The annual report is a powerful piece of content that can be used to coalesce stakeholders around important ideas, cast vision for the next year, and catalyze people to pursue bigger and better things. It’s as much a motivational asset as it is a communicative tool. And while it technically looks backward, it simultaneously serves as a launching point for the future.
While it’s a legal requirement in many industries, an annual report does much more than simply check off a box. It gives you an opportunity to engage with a variety of audiences, including stakeholders, employees, prospective employees, colleagues, competitors, and even the general public.
An annual report can be used to share your mission, create trust, establish leadership, humanize your brand, showcase your company culture, educate customers, celebrate success, rally around a new vision, and lay strong groundwork for the future.
5 Tips for a High-Value Annual Report
No two annual reports are the same. So much is dependent on what happened over the year and how that information is contextualized and shared. But regardless of the successes or failures, the following tips will help you create an impressive report that connects with the right people.
- Plan in Advance
One of the reasons so many annual reports are disorganized and ineffective is that they come together at the last minute. A little proactive planning can go a long way.
While you might not have the finalized numbers until the end of the calendar year, you can begin planning for the annual report weeks ahead of time. From the narrative (which we’ll discuss below) to the layout, there are plenty of design choices you can make ahead of time.
- Construct a Core Narrative
If your annual report is nothing more than tables of data and big graphs, you’re missing the point. The only way to effectively communicate data to your audience is to construct a core narrative that contextualizes the raw information you’re sharing.
What do you want people to know about the data? Is there a particular correlation that traces through each data point? Is momentum building in a certain direction? Were there certain initiatives that you swung and missed on, while simultaneously discovering new opportunities in other areas?
The right copy, images, and ordering of insights actively work to construct a narrative that people connect with. And as important as the data is, it’s the story that people will remember long after they finish reading the report.
- Prioritize Quality
The look and feel of your annual report is important – especially if you’re printing the report and giving it to stakeholders. By working with a trustworthy printing service like Printing Center USA, you can enjoy the benefits of low cost, quick turnaround times, and attention to detail.
- Frame the Impact
It’s one thing to show stakeholders that you’ve been successful based on raw data and trends. It’s much more powerful to frame the impact of the data.
You grew top line revenue by 23 percent last year, but how does it impact the future of your business?
You improved efficiency by 11 percent in the warehouse, but how does this lower costs?
You broke ground on a new building that’s projected to reduce overhead by 23 percent, but what does this mean for manufacturing?
Always ask and answer the question “why” when revealing an important data point. Framing is not manipulating the data – it’s explaining it in a sensical way that connects people to the numbers.
- Use Infographics
Infographics aren’t just for marketing and social media. They can be leveraged in annual reports as well. In fact, we’ve seen a huge uptick in the presence of infographics in annual reports over the past few years, and they almost always increase engagement and strengthen recall.
Adding it All Up
If you want your annual report to become more than just another “report,” you need to be intentional in your approach. This means strategically designing it in such a way that it serves your brand’s big-picture goals and future vision.
If this article gives you any inspiration, consider putting these ideas to use in your next report. And instead of viewing it as a necessary requirement, begin looking at annual reporting as an opportunity to connect with the people who matter most.