Be Smart – What Should Your Annual Report Include?
At its most basic (and boring), an annual report is a gathering of information that tells the story of your business.
It provides a detailed account of how well the company has done in the previous year, for the shareholders and other interested parties.
It’s also a legal requirement but that doesn’t mean it has to be rigid or intimidating.
Your annual report can instead be a great story which tells the tale of how far the business has come, and the number of bumps it encountered on the road.
Approaching your annual report as a story will breathe life into your data and make it come to life.
Make it fun and interesting!
The approach to annual reports has changed over the years.
Rather than the dry, boring print reports of the past, there are now a plethora of exciting and engaging ways to tell your brand’s story.
The goal of an annual report is to highlight your company’s accomplishments in a meaningful way. The format you choose will most likely be influenced by your target audience as much as it is the product, service, or mission of your company.
It’s vital that you choose the right format for your report. This could be the standard print version, or you can explore other avenues with digital and interactive versions.
You could even make a video.
This is a great way to get people to engage with the information (we all know that numbers on their own can be boring!).
This is where the design aspect takes control.
Captivate and sell through design
It’s important to sit down and work out a ‘theme’ for the document rather than just create a standard annual report.
Start by asking yourself a few questions.
- What’s happened in the last year?
- What’s coming up in the next year?
- What do you want people to know about your organisation?
- What do you want them to DO after reading the report?
Take these questions and create engaging visuals and designs. (Or ask a quality design agency to do it for you!) The visuals will help to engage your audience and enhance the information.
Instead of it being a dull presentation, the design you choose will have a great impact on how the numbers and data is received. The viewer’s interpretation of the data will be influenced by the images, photos, colours, and any other visuals you use – they’ll feel the report, rather than simply read it.
The basics to include in your annual report
Once you’ve gathered and structured the information for your report, you can turn it into something more creative and innovative.
The start of the report is an opportunity to highlight the company’s mission statement and values.
This is where the story begins, and we’ve got two tips for making it leap off the page.
- Start with a letter from the Chair or company founder. Paint the picture of why you started, and how you got to where the company is today.
- Write about the vision for the business and an overview of all the investors, directors, and the products that generate revenue.
Oh, and don’t forget to nod towards your competitors; it’s important to establish who those people are, right from the start.
Humanise the data
This is your chance to keep hold of your audience’s attention.
Ignore the temptation to simply slap a bunch of graphs and numbers onto the page. Instead, explain them – reveal how they paint a picture or tell a story. Indicate why you’re sharing the data and what it means to people.
Be honest and give real examples that reflect what is working – and what isn’t.
Focus your efforts on the sales, profit margins, and revenue over the last year. New products, employees, and any changes regarding sales will also add to the narrative.
The balance sheet, cash flow statement, income statement, and statement to shareholders are among the details that will also need to be present, but don’t lose yourself in the numbers. Start with an introduction that explains why they matter and why the reader should care.
Annual reports aren’t easy to create. They have to be comprehensive, data-rich, and yet completely engaging. If you fail with the latter, it won’t be read by anyone – it’s that simple.
Branding plays a huge role in the best annual reports, so why not get in touch with the Be Smart team to find out how we can make yours come alive?