Annual Reports are often perceived as an annoyance and something that companies just try to get done as painlessly as possible. Many companies miss the opportunity to use their Annual Report to reinforce their brand, make a strong emotional connection with their target audience, and show investors how they stand out from the industry. An Annual Report should be seen as another marketing tool and a way to engage with your key audiences. Here are some tips on how to create a successful Annual Report that recipients will want to read and keep.
Use Professional Photography – You’ve heard it before, the old saying, “a picture speaks a thousand words.” The first thing you should invest in early every year is your photography. A professional photographer will not only help you tell your story, but it will make a lasting impression on your shareholders when they get the report and they flip through the pages to find beautiful, full bleed, crisp and clear images guiding them through the year in review. Not ordinary stock photography. The easiest way to make an emotional connection with your reader is through a beautiful photograph. So, don’t fall short and try to make stock photographs or worse — snapshots from your iphone – fill in the gaps.
Don’t be afraid to use color! – The world is full of greys, blues and blacks. Liven it up a little and use color to help tell your story. You can use color to help guide your reader through the different sections of the report, highlight call outs from the year or financial earnings. Color plays an important role in the emotional connection you want your readers to have with your story, so use it to your advantage. If you had an exciting year and you want to share it- use exciting colors, don’t get stuck using the safe, boring greys and blues. Even if you are a conservative company, there are many variations of colors and textures available that will help to spice it up a bit.
Stop using Excel to design your charts and graphs –- Get a designer. Nobody wants to review all your financial highlights from the last year in a teeny, tiny Excel chart you exported and dropped into the design. Break out of the mold and hire a designer to help make those numbers ‘pop’. The majority of your story is in your financial section, so don’t be afraid to make it interesting and clearly show last year’s earnings in an engaging way.
Make it flow – This is the most important story your brand has to tell all year, so make it read like a story. Overcrowding sections with facts and highlights will make a reader confused and stranded in a sea of copy. Break your content down into chapters and your chapters down into sections. Write it as if you are having a conversation with another person and telling an exciting story about the awesome year you had as a company. Don’t fall into the trap of bulleting out all the charities you were involved in and listing all the new hires on one page. Why did you get involved with those charities? Why was it important for you to participate? What made you care? These are great questions to get you to tell your story in an exciting and brand-centric way.