The end of a fiscal year can be a hectic time. Businesses must gather financial records and compile the information in preparation for their annual reports. In the scramble to meet SEC rules and regulations, the importance of a well-designed annual report can often be overlooked.
While your annual report does contain valuable financial and corporate information for investors, it is much more than a book of numbers. It is a vital communication tool for your business that not only recaps the year financially but also shows stakeholders who is making decisions and how they are beneficial to the company’s best interest.
Because the majority of annual report content is financial information, one of the biggest challenges of creating a well-designed annual report is to keep readers interested while showcasing a positive representation of your company. Luckily, you can easily do this through some consumer insight and design techniques.
Make Information Accessible
Traditional annual reports are printed out in booklet form and mailed out to stakeholders. While this is still the most popular method of distributing annual reports, many companies are taking their printed annual reports and providing access to interactive PDF versions online. Some businesses are even scrapping printed reports all together and moving to strictly digital annual reports.
The most important factors in deciding whether or not to provide additional PDFs or transitioning to a completely online annual report are the preferences of your stakeholders. Choose your delivery method based on the media your investors interact with most. If a majority isn’t spending time online, printing is probably the best way to go. If your stakeholders are spending equal time on and offline, consider offering both printed and online versions. That way consumers can either read their hard copy or hop online to view your annual report at any time.
Do More Than Reporting
It’s no surprise that a majority of the information in your annual report will be the result of number crunching. While this is important information that your investors need to know and understand, let’s be honest, numbers all start to look the same after awhile. This is where your annual report design comes in.
A visually appealing report highlights achievements from the fiscal year and can set your company apart from its competitors. Pictures, infographics, and a mix of other aesthetic elements keep readers actively engaged with the pertinent content. Take time to put some personality and spice up graphs and charts so that they display your financials in a way that is easy to understand and allows readers to find the most important information quickly.
When describing the non-financial recap of your business’s year, don’t just state the facts and get it over with. At its most basic level, your annual report is truly a marketing tool. It markets your business to stakeholders so that they continue to support you. Use your annual report to tell a story about your business’ past year and really show your business off.
After all, annual reports are a great place to brag about your accomplishments because stakeholders want to hear about your success. Just be sure to reflect your brand’s image in the tone and voice throughout each part of your annual report.
Really Show Your Business
Stakeholders make an investment in your business, so use your annual report to show the ins and outs of the company. Take time throughout the year to document your business on a regular work day. Take photos, get to know employees and truly show how your company operates at its core. Then share that with investors in your annual report.
One of the most important elements of your business are the leaders and decision-makers. It’s important that your investors get to know the individuals sitting in your business’ driver’s seat. A well-designed annual report will not only introduce your executive board, but it will also provide background information for stakeholders to really get to know the leaders of the company. A good way to let investors into executives’ minds? Consider an Q&A or “meet the executives” section.
Use Design to Put Emphasis on Your Brand
Again, your annual report can be thought of as a marketing tool for investors, so why not use it to reinforce your brand image? Start by evaluating your brand persona, values, mission and vision. Identify all of the elements that help tie these together and how you can display it visually. Consider developing a central theme, just as you would when developing a marketing campaign, that you can use and reference throughout your annual report.
Think of a visual representation of your brand and the industries and consumers you serve and the best way to visually represent them. Create a design package, step-by-step, rather than combining several different design elements. Begin by choosing a theme. Then move on to cover designs, and finally, decide on an internal display of information, including colors, typeface and graphics. This will help you create a cohesive package of design elements that together, truly represent your brand and build a well-designed annual report.
As always, it’s important to keep the final destination in mind. A well-designed annual report is built with stakeholders in mind and designed in a way that best suits their needs. However, don’t forget to keep the creativity flowing throughout your annual report. Even the simplest financial data can be made more interesting if it is presented in a visually-appealing way. So rather than viewing your annual report as a “necessary evil” to display dry financial material, use it as a marketing tool to present your company in a unique and interactive way and see how truly beneficial it is to your business.