Does your company need to produce an annual report? If so, it’s worth thinking about taking the time to make it a little more than just a statutory reporting document. And as tempting as it is to do the bare minimum required to fulfill your reporting obligations, there’s a lot more that can be done! So why gamble with your annual report when you can turn it into something to be truly proud of?
“It is timely to say that we are very proud of the latest report. It has received many compliments, and we owe a great deal to you for the impact of the presentation of our company activities. The report looks strong, it looks industrial, it looks highly relevant to our business and there is a sharpness about the pages that is very positive.”
Mike Smith, Austpac Resources NL
Why is my Annual Report important?
Simple! An annual report has three main purposes – financial reporting, shareholder engagement and marketing. The financial reporting side needs no explanation – ASIC requires that certain information be lodged to ensure that the company is properly reporting its activities to its shareholders, and this information forms the bulk of any annual report, and the temptation is just to leave it there – but in doing so you might be missing out on a great opportunity!
Okay, who cares about my annual report?
All your stakeholders do! Investors, shareholders and employees all care that your company is meeting its goals and that it’s being well-managed.
“We take pride in our annual report because I think it’s important to show that you have a clear set of plans about what you are trying to achieve and how you are getting there. It tells people that you are clear about how the organisation is being run.”
A good annual report provides a narrative that encompasses the important financial details and presents the vision that your company represents to everyone who reads it. It also serves as a valuable marketing tool, providing potential investors with a wealth of information presented in the context that you would like them to read it.
And more than that, a company who reports openly and clearly (including being upfront when things aren’t going so well) are often perceived as more trustworthy than their competitors:
“There’s far less uncertainty associated with [these companies]. For better or for worse based on performance, they’re informing their shareholders,” says Kaplan. “There’s a lot of things that factor into your decision making as a shareholder, but one is what is the company doing.”
So the obvious question is how do you go about producing a report you can be proud of? Well, there are some important questions you should ask yourself when writing your report:
- Is the writing clear, written to reduce jargon and include readers who may not be financially literate?
- Are your figures presented cleanly and easy-to-interpret?
- Is your information clearly cross-referenced where important?
- Is there a balance between text and visual elements such as pictures, diagrams, maps and so on?
- Does it clearly convey the message you want your readers to take away – not only in what the company has already done, but in what it’s planning?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions – then congratulations! You have the beginnings of a great annual report.
Of course – think of it like building a house. Good, well-written copy is the foundations you lay, and the frame of the building. Good layout and production is the walls, doors, windows, floors and furnishings that really make your report useful.
Yes, but I can just do it in Word, right?
Well, you can – but there are more effective ways of getting your story across:
“If designed well and presented in the right format, annual reports are a great way to present company milestones from the previous year, as well as highlight your company’s unique culture—without 10 point type and 30 pages of tables.”
By taking the time to combine data and narrative, you can impart more meaning to your report – don’t forget that most of your readers will probably not be financial advisors or investment brokers, so putting in a little effort to create a report that reinforces your brand and puts your achievements forward in the best possible light can be invaluable. Appropriate use of pictures, diagrams, pull-out quotes and other design elements can make reading and understanding your report so much better!
So… it’s got to be pretty too?
In a way – but in the same way that a skateboard and a sports car both have four wheels and take you places, there’s much more that attractive looks to a well-designed annual.
A well-designed report should:
- Encourage people to open and read the report.
- Visually show a strong statement from the cover to the last page.
- Make understanding your key points and ideas easy and engaging.
- Use colour, images, graphs and charts to add to the communication.
- Feel like a quality product when printed, and not lose it’s meaning when read online.
Which is much more than just ‘pretty’… it’s pretty, with purpose! APM has been designing, producing and publishing annual reports for more than 25 years, and has the skills, knowledge and contacts to help you with your annual report every step of the way.
So, if you’re convinced, and would like us to give you a hand in producing a more effective report, call us for a free quote today.
- Edmund Douglas Hayward Flack , The role of annual reports in a system of accountability for public fundraising charities.
- Kathryn Dill, America’s 100 Most Trustworthy Companies, www.forbes.com
- Ross Cooks, 5 Brands That Nailed Their Annual Reports, www.forbes.com