How to Craft an Annual Report People Will Actually Want to Read

CEO Lauren Parker shares best practices to developing an annual report worth reading

By: Lauren Parker

Most companies, both public and private, produce annual reports to communicate their achievements, financial performance, and strategic initiatives to internal and external stakeholders. In most cases, those documents incur large printing costs and then sit on a shelf collecting dust. Why do so many annual reports miss the mark? They’re so damn boring and over-reliant on fluffy, jargon-ridden text. 

There’s more opportunity than ever to move beyond the stodgy, old-school model of annual report writing and craft a compelling piece of content people will want to consume – and share. If you’re on point to develop your organization’s annual report this year, consider some of our best practices: 

Tell a Story.

Just like a great novel or a blockbuster movie, your annual report should have a compelling narrative that captivates the readers. Instead of presenting dry facts and figures, imagine your annual report as an enthralling superhero origin story where your company overcomes obstacles, evolves, and ultimately saves the day for its stakeholders. This narrative approach helps connect with stakeholders on a deeper level, making your report more memorable and engaging.

Embrace Sustainability and Social Responsibility.

In today's socially conscious world, stakeholders are increasingly interested in a company's environmental and social impact. Incorporate a section in your annual report that highlights your commitment to sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and ethical practices. Include relevant metrics, initiatives, and success stories that demonstrate your dedication to making a positive difference. When possible, bring in the voices of those within the organization who are living out those commitments each day. 

Visualize Your Data.

Numbers and financial data can be intimidating for some readers. To make your annual report more accessible and visually appealing, leverage data visualization tools and techniques. Infographics, charts, and graphs help distill complex information into digestible visuals, enabling stakeholders to grasp key insights at a glance. And for digital versions of your annual report, you can take this further. Look for opportunities to integrate interactive charts, animated graphics, and dynamic visual displays to create an immersive experience for your readers.

Engage with Multimedia.

Enhance your digital annual report by incorporating multimedia elements like videos (with closed captioning), interactive presentations, audio clips, social feeds and interactive quizzes/polls. You can also provide links to more in-depth information and outside resources for those who want to learn more. These additions can provide a deeper level of engagement and convey information in a more memorable way.

Design for Mobile and Digital Platforms.

With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, it is crucial to ensure your annual report is optimized for mobile and digital platforms. Just like a mobile app that seamlessly fits into users' daily lives, your digital annual report should be effortlessly accessible and engaging, capturing the attention of stakeholders wherever they are. Consider responsive design principles that adapt the layout and content to different screen sizes. This allows stakeholders to access your report conveniently on the go, increasing its reach and impact.

Writing and designing a company's annual report is an opportunity to showcase your organization's achievements, values, and aspirations. By embracing new storytelling techniques, data visualization tools, multimedia integration, and mobile optimization, you can create an annual report that captivates stakeholders and leaves a lasting impression. Remember, your annual report should be more than just a collection of numbers; it should be a powerful testament to your company's journey and vision.

If you’re looking for a team to help craft your annual report, contact us.