Traditional annual reports have fallen out of favor with many organizations. But, despite assumptions that they are tedious or expensive to produce, there are tens of thousands of impactful reports published each year. Why — and how — are leaders and communicators still using this classic tool to communicate their value?
1. It’s about vision.
Effective leaders understand that annual reports can fill a gap to connect with critical constituents beyond shareholders. While Securities and Exchange Commission filings help investors make buy/sell decisions today, there are other communications that transcend stock value. An annual report can present a streamlined dashboard of success, supported by brand storytelling, to enhance longer-term relationships. It’s not just about looking back — it’s about engaging partners and helping them to understand your point of view and strategy.
2. Annual reports are for everyone.
Annual reports can be effective for any entity, from small entrepreneurial businesses and local service organizations to national membership associations. Customers, partners, donors and other interested parties all benefit from understanding the value an organization provides. An annual report is an opportunity to build trust, paint a future vision and encourage engagement, support and involvement.
3. Tell your strategy story.
The Dream Charter School used its 2016 annual report to help reposition itself. High-level driver messages connected its strong mission and brand equity to the launch of a new name. Compelling storytelling created an engaging document that demonstrated structure and organization for future success even during a time of change.
4. Explain your brand promise.
The top reason any business publishes an annual report should be to support its value proposition: Who do you serve, and why is that relevant to me? Charity Water’s very simple 2015 annual report used large photos and dramatic, direct impact statements to illustrate its commitment to saving lives around the globe by providing safe drinking water. It’s compelling, and it makes you want to be a part of the organization’s success.
5. Consider unexpected platforms.
While there’s still a place for printed materials, consider a unique platform — or multiple platforms — to make your report engaging and memorable. Videos and interactive tools help engage and connect to your viewer. Kickstarter presented its 2016 annual report as an interactive slide show, harnessing compelling statistics, images, videos and technology to position the business. Digital reports have the benefit of being sharable and reach beyond the initial recipient. As a bonus, tracking those shares can help you better understand about your key audiences and identify potential prospects.
Share your favorite annual report tips or examples in the comments below.