How To Develop An Effective Annual Report

The annual report is a business staple. But no matter how many times your company has developed an annual report in the past, it’s always a good idea to look for ways to improve. This article will provide you with some suggestions that will empower you to create effective and influential reports that allow your business to continually improve.

4 Tips For Better Annual Reporting

Whether you’re a public company, private business, or nonprofit, annual reports play an important role in coalescing information, reflecting on the past, and identifying a clear path for the future.

It gives businesses an opportunity to highlight achievements and set expectations for the coming year. An annual report is intended for all company stakeholders, including the executive leadership team, employees, board members, investors, business partners, and even customers.

As you look for opportunities to improve your annual reporting, here are some timely tips to consider:

1. Design The Right Cover

While it might not be as important as the information contained within, an annual report’s cover is the very first thing that people notice. This makes it the “first impression setter.” So rather than viewing it as an afterthought, you should be intentional about designing with a clear purpose in mind.

Any good annual report has a theme. This theme will be fleshed out in a variety of ways throughout the report, but it starts with a clean, high-value cover that sets the table for what’s inside.

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At the very least, the cover should include the year, your company’s name and logo, and a brief title or subheading explaining the theme. It’s a good idea to keep a fairly consistent cover style from year-to-year, making slight changes to account for new thematic elements.

 

2. Pick The Appropriate Binding

Though it might seem like a small detail, the right binding can make a huge difference in your annual report’s look, feel, and quality.

Remember that your annual report is a reflection of your business. From employees and board members to investors and customers, the quality of this yearly report says a lot about your company. Spending a little extra money to create a professional report that looks and feels good in your hands can make a difference.

One of the best options for annual report binding is wire-o binding. This binding uses a black metal wire and offers a lower page count than typical spiral binding. This makes it ideal for short-form guides and reports. (Not to mention it looks great and holds up for years.)

 

3. Use Stories

Data is valuable, but people only get so much out of raw numbers. Telling stories humanizes your results and tells people why they should care. This is especially true for nonprofits and companies that are built around the idea of doing good.

“Stories are more likely to stick in your supporters’ minds because telling a story helps associate emotions to events,” Donorbox mentions. “Sharing statistics is very important and can indeed be more comprehensive, but it just doesn’t provoke the same emotional response. That makes it less likely to stick in people’s minds.”

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A good story starts with the cover and gets fleshed out throughout the report. Story-based reports also tend to be more focused and consistent, as there’s a common thread holding everything together.

 

4. Avoid These Faux Pas

In addition to implementing the mentioned suggestions, we’d also recommend avoiding the following faux pas (which are, unfortunately, quite common):

Vague corporate-speak. Nobody likes corporate-speak, buzzwords, industry jargon, and blanket statements. Be specific with your language. Whenever possible, use numbers to back up claims. If there are acronyms, be sure to spell out the full phrase the first time you use it. Specificity makes a big difference!

Raw data. Never copy and paste a CSV file or raw data table into an annual report. Instead, pull out the best nuggets and summarize the data. (If you must include the full data, include it in the appendix.)

Too much information. It’s tempting, particularly after a really good year, to ramble on and on about your business. However, the annual report isn’t intended to be a week-for-week explanation of everything that happened. (It’s designed for identifying the big trends and takeaways.) It’s better to have a short and focused annual report than a long-winded and poorly organized report that people fall asleep reading.

By avoiding these mistakes and oversights, you can add maximum impact with minimum effort. And instead of dreading the annual report, you’ll begin seeing it as an opportunity for growth.

 

Put Your Business On A Positive Trajectory

An annual report isn’t going to make or break your business, but it will make a difference in how stakeholders feel about the direction you’re going. An annual report can provide encouragement that better days are ahead in bad years.

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In great years, an annual report can capitalize on the momentum and allow you to continue building on these results. Either way, these reports are a useful tool for growing a business – don’t miss the opportunity!

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