It’s that time again—the end of another fiscal year. Now your company must collect its records, calculate figures and compile them into an easy-to-understand format for stakeholders. Yes, it’s time design, create and send out your annual report.
Your annual report tells consumers and stakeholders how your business is doing. In the typical AR, there are lots of numbers, statistics, quotes and graphics, but let’s be honest, after a while, they get pretty repetitive. Of course, each year you can spruce up your graphics, the cover, and visuals within your annual report, but those changes only do so much. You can truly strengthen your annual report design by adding a Q&A.
For a journalist writing an article, including a Q&A in your article can come across as lazy; however, for an annual report audience consisting of stakeholders, analysts, providers and (potential) employees, it can prove beneficial in several ways.
Your business’ stakeholders want to know the ins and outs of your company, and not just the numbers that result from each year of business. They want to know who is running the business and making the important decisions. Because they’re invested in your company, they want to ensure that those in charge are making decisions in the best interest of the company.
A Q&A will not only allow stakeholders to hear from the executive officers, but also understand the processes that lead to decision. Incorporating a Q&A into your annual report can also:
- Help convey depth of your company’s entire management team vs. the commentary from only the chief executive
- Allow your senior management to demonstrate their knowledge of the company by addressing specific stakeholder questions
- Allow you to tailor questions to represent the united perspective of the entire leadership management team
- Answer targeted questions that illustrate reader opinions in a way that is both expansive and thorough
- Convey a sense of company strength and unity from the stakeholder’s perspective
- Enable the reader to scan for the most helpful information without having to delve into the entire letter to stakeholders
However, there is more to strengthening your annual report design than simply adding a Q&A. It’s important to consider the design and layout within your annual report and select questions that your consumers want to hear answered by the leaders of your company.
Introduce Who’s Talking
Including photos of the individuals answering the questions can help readers “put a face to a name” and allows them to develop a better sense of the executive who is providing the information. You could also place the Q&A next to your executive photos and biographies to achieve this same result.
The end goal is to ensure that your readers are able to truly understand your company, executives who run it on a daily basis and the decisions that affect stakeholders. You want to give your business a person, so that your stakeholders know your business is not just run by a money-hungry machine, but rather, it is run by real people.
Deciding What to Ask
When designing your Q&A, ensure that there is a balance of questions (e.g. financial, operational, developmental, etc.) and use design to graphically highlight them to pique readers’ interests and ensure optimal reading and aesthetic design.
Be sure that your range of questions appeals to the diverse interests of the individuals reading the report. Consider having each of your executives answer one major question to allow for each part of your company to address stakeholder interests.
However, don’t turn your Q&A section into an in-depth interview of each company executive. Keep questions short, direct and highlighted, so they can be better addressed with more detailed answers. To truly strengthen your annual report design, the section should not include more than three questions per interviewee. If you do plan to include several interviewees, one question per individual is best.
Giving Sufficient Answers
When having your executives answer questions, remind them to keep answers succinct—this will keep the reader interested and informed. Readers prefer Q&As because they are easier to read (and shorter) than the more in-depth parts of your annual report, so try to keep answers short, sweet and to the point.
While your annual report is a corporate production and you want to appear professional and business-like, your Q&A should read as conversational, yet maintain an intellectual tone throughout. Avoid using too much jargon or terms that your readers may not be familiar with. Give answers as if you were explaining to a colleague that doesn’t work in your field.
Building a strong annual report takes more than a successful business year. To strengthen your AR design, you must consider the individuals who will be receiving it once it’s completed. Your stakeholders keep your company afloat, so it’s vital that you give them the information they need in a format that they can understand and want to read.
A Q&A will engage readers by introducing them to your company leaders and giving stakeholders insight into the minds behind the important business decisions. Take the time to listen to what your stakeholders want to know and let the executives answer. Not only will it strengthen your annual report design, but it will also enrich your stakeholder relationships.