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Is your company’s annual report working hard enough for you?

Your annual report is the single most important measure of your company’s reputation. If it’s not doing its job effectively, then it’s time to revisit your corporate communications strategy.  

In this article, I’ll share how the right annual report can really elevate your company, and how to evaluate the effectiveness of your current annual report.

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Your Annual Report is Your Company’s DNA

The best annual, financial or sustainability reports help differentiate you from your competition and enhance your sector position. They can substantiate key strategic decisions and enhance the credibility of the management. They can demonstrate the depth of your team’s commitment and attract bright employees to your company. They can even help sustain your share price and ensure it trades at a premium.

Download our free guide to learn how to plan, budget, produce and distribute  an exceptional annual report for your company stakeholders. >>
In difficult economic times, a well-written, engaging reports can strengthen the relationship with your community. It can genuinely help make a difference. Honest, clear communication and great annual report design can build investor loyalty, attract the right people to your firm, provide insights into your long-term strategies and help people see your vision for the future. Is it bright?

In these days of instant communication, is your company annual report that important?

Do stakeholders really need annual reports when they know your performance figures before it is even produced? Feedback from analysts indicates that annual reports are a valuable source of reference that investors regularly delve into. Ultimately, because the document is stamped with the authority of independent auditors, it simply carries a lot more weight and credibility than any of the other communications you generate.

Whereas a preliminary announcement will certainly provide analysts with a good overview of business performance, the annual report puts the flesh on the bones, adding the context and understanding behind the figures.

The truth is that for most companies, your annual financial report is the single most important strategic communications vehicle you'll produce. For those without large marketing budgets, it’s the only way to communicate the company's strengths and growth strategy. Plus this information can be disseminated to the world with an online version that demonstrates innovation.

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How to Rate Your Own Report

To take an honest look at your company’s annual or sustainability report, start with these questions:

  • Does your report present your annual figures, or sustainability objectives in a concise and transparent manner?
  • Does it explain your management strategy in a compelling and credible way?
  • Does it act as a powerful sales and marketing tool for prospective business partners?
  • Does it enhance the credibility of your brand?
  • Does it act as a positive source of motivation for your staff?

Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a good idea of where your report currently stands. Then, go ahead and use our benchmarking system below. It will allow you to gauge the performance of your annual report against the main investor relation value drivers.

Here’s how it works:

Rate your annual report’s performance on a scale of 1 to 10 for each of the following criteria: 1 = not at all, 10 = absolutely. Tip: these could also be used to rate your company's sustainability report.

Editorial Content

Developing a clear message is key to demonstrating your company's operating philosophy. Your target audience needs to know what the company stands for and what it envisions for growth in the future. Here are some questions you can use to evaluate your annual report content:

1. Can the reader get a clear understanding of your vision and strategy and where the value of your company lies?

2. Has the editorial content been tailored to the target audience?

3. Is there an overarching theme running through the report that adds clarity and insight into the business strategy and the achievements of the year?

4. Do you properly cover your Corporate Governance and Social Responsibility requirements in a transparent and material way?

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Annual Report Design and Imagery

This is what your reader sees first. It’s beneficial that you put your best foot forward to engage them to dive deeper into your company's story and financial performance. Some questions you should ask yourself:

5. Does the annual report cover design genuinely engage the reader?

6. Is the typographical treatment clean and coherent?

7. Has the report been designed to appeal to both the skim and in-depth reader?

8. Does the photography have story appeal and add value and context?

Delivery Mechanism

The annual report historically has been printed on paper and has always been a reliable financial document. Technology has disrupted traditional forms of information delivery. Don't underestimate what possibilities are available digitally to distribute your report. The more people you can reach with the least amount of cost the better.

9. Is the printed document logical and cost-effective?

10. Does your online version demonstrate your company’s innovation?

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Total Up Your Score

A score of fewer than 80 means you’re not exploiting the communications potential of your annual report.

You scrutinize the financial numbers of your business—why not have a critical review of your annual report? It is your yearly consistent communication to your investors, staff, clients and to the world. A well crafted annual report is a sound investment with beneficial rewards to match.

Next Step:

To help you create a truly exceptional annual report, we created a free guide you can access below. Download your copy below.

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Creating an Exceptional Annual Report: A Macro View

Download this comprehensive guide to create an annual report your stakeholders will love to read and remember.

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