The Benefits of a Great Annual Report
July 20, 2017
Oh, the end of the financial year, how stressful and tedious it can be! Crunching numbers, chasing invoices and tangled paper trails, trying to get it all make sense and look good on paper to present to the world. It’s no doubt a busy time, when coffee consumption peaks and office hours seem to disappear before they’ve started.
Preparing an annual report is a standard part of this mid year/end of financial year process for many organisations. Collating a year’s worth of corporate activities and finances to present to shareholders, stakeholders and interested parties can be a time-consuming task. But really, this is the one part of the EOFY you should actually be excited about - this is where you get to show off all the hard and exciting work you’ve done over the year! This is your time to shine.
An annual report is an important representation of your business. A well written, well designed and well presented annual report is a great reflection on your organisation and can help with future growth opportunities.
So what should your annual report contain to be of any benefit to your business? What should it look like? And what is it good for?
Your annual report should highlight your achievements and promote your organisation, it needs to be the best possible representation of your business in both its design and its content.
While an annual report can be a pretty information-heavy piece of reading material, its content should be engaging and should tell the story of the organisation - where it has come from, where it is going and how it plans to get there.
Including mission statements and goals are a great way to create continuing momentum from your report. This makes your business relatable and from there you are able to create a story. Achievements and milestones are also helpful for this. Things like sales increases, community involvement, equipment upgrades may also be considered achievements. It is important to make investors feel like their contributions have made a difference and are growing the company in a way that justifies their investment and builds upon the purpose of the company itself.
Of course, you can’t get away with creating an annual report without including a tonne of financial figures - it would hardly be a report without it! This is the stuff that people want to see. You’ve got the warm fuzzy stuff to draw them in, and the numbers to prove that what you’re doing is working and worth supporting.
A business report full of facts and figures doesn’t need to be boring. In fact, if you want people to remember those facts and figures, you need to make the effort to make it anything BUT boring! There are heaps of design techniques you can use to present your annual report in a way that transforms large amounts of data into something that is easy to understand and remember. Infographics and visual information are easy to absorb and give your report a break from all the large amounts of text around them. Using graphs and charts is another good way to break down information that would otherwise be hard to understand.
Using good design to present your report is a great way to make information accessible to a varied audience.
Your annual report should do more than just reporting. Your annual report is a great opportunity to slide in some subtle marketing with your regular operations. Using real stories from customers or staff, emphasising milestones and achievements make your report more interesting to read.
In order to use your annual report as a marketing tool it needs to look good and entice new investors to pick it up and actually read it. Using professional design and visual communication tools is the best way to do this. People don’t want to read huge chunks of text on a page if they can avoid it. Making your information easy to understand through visual tools, bright colours and well-designed layouts will have more people reading the report you’ve worked so hard on for longer.
Having a polished and beautiful annual report published and on hand can create opportunities for your organisation for the whole year that follows and beyond with the impression that it leaves. Annual reports can be used in tender submissions, in the recruitment and orientation of new staff and as a lobbying document as well as any other time you might need to give a detailed explanation of what your organisation is all about.
While it can be a time-consuming task, it is an important one and one that adds huge value to your organisation’s operations and growth every year. Don’t forget that this is something that you can get professional help with as well. You can’t expect everyone to be a designer, that’s why we’re here!