4 Ways To Improve Your Next Annual Report
29 August 2018
It’s almost that time of the year again where you sit down with a few colleagues, yawn a couple of times and debate with the rest of the team on what you’re going to place into this year’s Annual Report. You pick a few growth stats that look good and identify some events where you know some good photos were taken by staff or a professional photographer and do your best to scramble the rest of the content together as quickly as possible because, well, there’s only 4 weeks until your Annual General Meeting and WOW did that come around fast.
NO…. don’t let this years annual report happen to you, take control of it early and change the game!
Remember everything people see that is associated with your business is considered Marketing. Including the way you answer your phones, what your reception area looks like and yes, even your good old Annual Report. Your Annual Report will most likely be available for download on your Website and will also be available on the ASX for anyone to view. Some people are also using your annual report and the data in it to make a decision on whether or not to invest in your company. So make it great!
This year, you’re going to create a bigger, better and more impressive annual report to supply to the board members and all those other people who absolutely LOVE (are required by law) to receive one. This year your report is going to be different isn’t it (this is where I hear you all say “Yes”), everyone who receives one this year is going to be so impressed they will be on the edge of their seat in anticipation just to see what the next one looks like.
How are we going to achieve this, simple…. we’re going to give them more of what they want, and less of what they don’t want with a few drops of wow factor.
1. FIND OUT WHAT YOUR ANNUAL REPORTS AUDIENCE WANT MORE OF (And give it to them)
In order to give your annual report audience more of what they want, you need to understand what this is. If you don’t already know, one of the best ways to figure this out is to ask, run a quick poll on your website and get their feedback NOW! We know there are certain pieces of information which are a requirement by law to be within the annual report. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the report can’t be amazing or that you can’t jazz those boring sections up.
If you’ve left it too late again this year to run a poll/survey or run around the office like a crazy person asking everyone in the office what they want to read more of in this year’s annual report, you can at least get yourself on the right track for next year.
Think about the power of your website and the ease at which you can (or should be able to) pull a report on every piece of information from every single page of your website. Why not use this as live data from everyone who reads the online version of your annual report. Don’t upload it as a PDF file, that’s a waste, you can’t learn anything from that. Upload each of your annual report pages as web pages. Create an overview page that includes an index, so your web visitors can go directly to the page they want. By this time next year, you’ll have all the data you need to improve those sections which are viewed the most.
It will also increase your website’s SEO rankings as you’ll have a ton more pages on your website with keywords, images and stats all to do with your business and its industry. Google’s going to LOVE it.
Point 1 – find out what your readers enjoy most about your annual report, focus more on these areas and make them as enjoyable and entertaining as possible.
2. THINK OUTSIDE THE DESIGN BOX
This is soooooo cliché I know, but seriously it’s not hard to create a different annual report that will be remembered. We create plenty of annual reports every year and 97% of them are A4 in size. Why? We can only assume that’s what the norm is and you’re doing it because everyone else is. But you can’t be remembered by doing what everyone else is doing, so let’s shake things up a little, and here’s some ideas how to do that.
You could create a video or presentation to add to your website so those who don’t really care enough to read or download your Annual Report may still watch this short stint of the most important points you’d like to convey. Not to mention when your competitors see something that you’re doing and they’re not doing, they’ll feel as though they’re falling behind.
What about an electronic version of your annual report. Why not give your AR (Annual Report) readers the option to download an interactive PDF. This opens up a whole new Star Wars Saga of ideas to choose from. You literally have a thousand different things you can do with interactive PDF files as opposed to a print version and the most impressive of those is probably videos, moving and zoomable images and also image slideshows which work with the swipe of a finger.
There’s a good start, but your best option is to sit down with your design agency and let them do the heavy lifting in the “Impress Our Readers” department as that’s what they specialise in. You’re not expected to come up with all the ideas, all you need to know is that you’re sick of the dead boring annual reports you’ve allowed people to fall asleep in front of over the past few years and it’s time to do something about them.
So point #2 is – Think outside the box, or speak to your design agency a lot earlier this year so they have time to do the creative thinking for you.
3. ALLOW YOUR READERS TO FEEL IMPORTANT
This is such a simple yet effective idea that no one is doing…. why? Probably because exactly that, no one else is doing it…. and also because a lot of companies like to say there’s just not enough time (cough cough – excuse me) to think about MORE things to add/change/get creative on for the upcoming annual report.
Yes, there is, it doesn’t need to be a huge deal but just adding a box on a page that speaks directly to your reader and asks them for some feedback or tells them that this annual report is also available for download as an interactive PDF or can be read directly through your website gives them some flexibility and freedom of choice. Everyone likes to think they’re in control of their choices, so give them some and allow them to choose their own AR adventure.
Running a poll or survey on your website (as we mentioned in point 1) then mentioning this in your annual report. There really is no law that says your annual report needs to be dead boring and isn’t an annual report unless the person reading it falls asleep in an upright position at 2:47pm on a Wednesday afternoon after finishing their 3rd flat white for the day.
Stop it…. Just stop it…. Let’s make annual reports READABLE and FUN. Just in doing that your readers, current and future investors will thank you. Giving them options and trying to engage with them may just make their cheeks blush a little too.
Point #3 – Impress your readers by giving them options, asking them to partake in something of value, something they can feel a part of, even if it’s asking them what they think of your latest annual report design and the final presentation of the way it was printed. They’ll feel important and you’ll get more brownie points.
4. DRESS IT UP LIKE IT’S THE NEXT BIG VIRGIN IDEA YOU’RE PROPOSING TO RICHARD BRANSON
Make it what and what now? Yes, you heard me and yes, I’m still talking about annual reports here, some are really bad, most are super boring, but a select minority are really quite impressive and we ourselves usually do everything we can to get our hands on these select few for a little eye candy.
Why not attempt to make yours impressive and memorable by everyone who views it. Create a cool landscape version this year….. print a square Annual Report for once, if not just to be different and memorable, do it just so it sits better on your square coffee table in the reception room.
Choose some different paper stocks, paper weights, paper colours, sizes, transparency etc. There’s so many ways to print differently you could spend an entire day just trying to choose from the huge range of options available!
Do something different, and if it truly is different your next annual report will be remembered for quite some time and in being so different, your readers really will be looking forward to receiving your next years annual report.
Here’s a few more ideas just for good measure….
Add some humour into your content. Most people won’t read your report from start to finish, but if they do stop to read some bits and pieces, they may just read a little more if it was informative AND had some humour to it as well.
Make sure you’re using infographics, these have been around for a while now and it’s a LOT more exciting looking at an infographic than it is looking at a flat chart straight out of excel. Hmmmmm excel, YuK!
Print it on recycled paper, add a personalised note within the report that says it’s recycled and possibly where the paper came from, how many trees it saved by being printed using recycled paper. This is a good idea, regardless of the impressiveness factor as you’ll be loved by mother nature and hopefully the universe will reward you for that in good time.
Print a nice sleeve for it to sit in, send it out as a parcel not in a window envelope where the first impression of the reader is “my tax is back” or “not another superannuation statement”.
There is a plethora of ideas when it comes to printing, interactive files and creating engaging online annual reports, so get on the blower now (our number is…. No just kidding) and give your design agency plenty of time to conjure up an impressive annual report recipe that leaves your readers and investors wanting more.
Point #4 – is all about impressing your readers and being remembered for what will appear to your readers as care, time and effort put into your annual report. But remember it’s not YOUR time and effort, this part is mostly up to you Design Agency, so just calm back down please.
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So far I’m sure you’ve received the 1 big message (not) hidden in this article which is “try something different on for size, take a different angle, take 15 different angles if you like and make sure you take your readers into consideration.”
Hopefully you’ve made it this far because I have one last tip to share with you, and it’s a killer for any printed or online material. Always, always, ALWAYS use professional images and illustrations throughout your annual report. Nothing kills the look and feel of a beautifully designed and printed piece than amateur photography. Make sure your images are bright, have life to the colour and are clear.
Your readers may not read your annual report from front to back but there’s a very high chance they’ll flick through the pages and view all the images (you know you’ve done it more than once yourself, and yes others do it too).
Hopefully this article has excited you enough to want to try SOMETHING different this year and impress your readers, good luck, let us know what ideas you’ve tried in the past, and if you have any questions about your upcoming annual report, feel free to get in touch.