Make your annual report your company map
Three ways to get more out of yesterday’s numbers – and how to use your annual report more effectively.
The annual task of collecting, compiling and structuring a company’s data into a coherent report is often a dreaded one, regularly delegated to an obligated new colleague or delayed to the last minute by a reluctant content owner. But some simple changes could breathe new life into the process, from structure and design to a greater emphasis on storytelling. Opportunities abound.
Done right, the process can also unlock new opportunities for engaging external communications. Fresh stories which emerge could be used in media interviews, reshaped into concise blogs or adapted to inject a bit of character into a corporate website, for example.
But where are the easy wins? From our extensive report-writing and design experience, we’ve identified three easy ways to get more out of yesterday’s numbers
- Use the introduction to set your course: A well-crafted introduction gives readers a flavour of what’s to come in the report and, crucially, what’s to come in the next 12 months. The intro needs to spell out the problems you’re trying to solve and why you’re the right company to solve them. Done right, a visionary intro can become your company’s master plan. Take a look at Mark Zuckerberg’s Manifesto and Elon Musks’ master plans for two great examples.
- Bring the company to life: There are many ways to make your reports more human and soften the edges of such an imposing document. The report is about what makes you, you. So, use interviews and stories from your colleagues and your suppliers. Use pictures of actual employees in real-life scenarios. Content based on reality creates internal ownership, engages colleagues, and shows the world who you really are. Include stories and commentary on the latest market trends and show the reader how your company is at the vanguard of those trends – this is tangible thought leadership.
- Structure the annual report to make it an annual reference point: Information overload and cumbersome, complex websites can leave readers overwhelmed. Craft the annual report so that it becomes a reference point for journalists and other stakeholders who want to gain a better understanding of your company. A carefully-structured report can be navigated easily, ensuring readers can access the exact information they need, when they need it. Online versions of annual reports are a must but there’s also something to be said for an elegant hard copy printed on recycled paper that you can take to your next sales meeting.
Even if you have solid reporting protocols in place, there’s always scope to give the reader more value. Get in touch with your customers and other stakeholders, ask them if there’s anything they would find particularly useful. Where there’s utility, there’s value. Both for you and your stakeholders.
It’s not too early to start thinking about your 2017 reports. Whether you want to discuss how your report might be improved or explore creating one for the first time, get in touch.
Ingrid Helsingen Warner
Senior Advisor, International Communications, based in Oslo
Ingrid is currently on maternity leave. At Leidar she supports internationally-minded leaders and companies with their positioning and thought leadership activities.