Seven ways to make your annual report a more enticing read to a wider base of stakeholders

Seven ways to make your annual report a more enticing read to a wider base of stakeholders

Given the different types of audience and their embedded personas, here are seven practical ways that your company could make your digital annual report a more enticing read, and deliver more engagement around your company’s brand.

1. Choice of media.

Gone are the days of the simple annual report with a series of spreadsheets, pro-formers and accountants notes. Most media today has a dynamic aspect to it. Even static images in a digital document can be brought to life. So let’s look at how you can use this.

Use video for the CEO’s introduction
Consider using a video from the CEO as the opening introduction. A transcript should still be provided. Keep the video relatively short, keep to the most notable messages and keep it inspirational. It’s always worth getting a few tips from a video coach before producing the video as not everyone takes to video in the same way.

Animations can aid in explanation
Use animations to make financial data more meaningful and understandable to a wider range of people. An animated chart, for instance, is likely to be clearer, more likely to hold the readers attention or draw them to it.

Use presentations to describe an activity
Presentations can easily be incorporated into a digital document and even made into an experience that behaves just like an interactive presentation online. Presentations are very powerful, capable in bringing focus to a specific activity, allowing it to stand out to a particular audience if necessary. In short, just like videos, which they can also contain, they add an extra dimension of engagement.

Many office and home computers are endowed with large screens these days. Spectacular imagery can make a significant impact, not just in gaining attention, but also in creating a specific mood. The strategic use of images throughout a document can help make it more readable, breaking up longer pieces of content. Images can also help punctuate or provide figurative support for what is being described.

Don’t forget mobile devices
Also, it’s very important to note that globally, mobile devices represent over 53% of online content consumption. Imagery is still very important, but for mobile, optimisation is critical. A digital publication can be optimised entirely for mobile use, including all media assets. This reduces the bandwidth requirements for the document on the user’s device and helps increase speed of access.

2. Typography

We are a big believer in the use of bold typography to draw attention to a subject. Typography is also key component of your Brand too. Whether a headline, a CTA or an in-page feature or call-out. Typography has many ways to enliven a page, including:

> Font type – serif and san-serif
> Font spacing – character spacing and line spacing
> Font-size – varies for headings, callouts, first letter, etc.
> In page columns
> Arrangement – left, right, centre.
> Bullets and lists

3. Use of colour

Don’t be afraid of colour. While it is important to bear in mind brand colours, this shouldn’t stop you in the creative use of colouring. For instance, colours or colour tinted images used as backgrounds to areas of text, or with headlines and call-outs.

Contrasting colours can really help a section of importance stand out more than the rest of the content on a page or presentation.

With the multitude of different device and desktop monitors in use, colour isn’t always accurately reproduced, so if you have an image or illustration that requires this, it’s probably a good idea to point this out.

Also consider that some people are colour blind, and certain combinations such as red/green, may present specific challenges to these people.

Don’t forget to try and keep a balance with the colours used in your brand, such as your logo and other contrasting aspects of your identity – such as the power certain colours evoke. 

4. The artful use of additional information

Not everyone has the time to read everything. Digital documents offer many different ways to present information in a selectable fashion.

Some readers may just want an overview or the highlights, while others maybe more interested in certain aspects of a company’s activity.

Consider breaking up your document, so that the relevant information types are independently accessible. This way, this information could be used in combination with tab sections or as an accordion information display. In both cases, only one section, for instance the introduction, need be open and displayed to the reader, allowing them to delve deeper if they wish.

This type of information partitioning can be used with any type of content media and could be used to section-off videos, charts, presentations, etc.

Approaches such as those mentioned above, make documents far more readable and engaging to a wider range of readers interests. The net result is that overall the document is brief and quite simple to flow through on the surface, but rather like an iceberg, 90% is hidden to all but those who choose to explore.

5. Dynamic flow & engagement

It’s essential these days to recognise that companies can have a considerably diverse range of shareholders. Diversity can range from level of ownership, level of responsibility, investment experience, geographic location, language use, motivation, degree of access to the internet and devices used.

While no one document can cater to everyone’s needs, information can be neatly segmented based on typical requirements, needs and media capabilities. As mentioned earlier, some individuals may require more financially focused and performance related content. Still others maybe more interested in how the company spent its money and the returns achieved, perhaps in terms of social good. It depends on the readers priorities and interests. So why not display information on that basis?

The terrific aspect of a digital annual report is that you have full control over how people arrive at the information they seek. This could be as simple as a traditional index, where clicking on a section title takes you directly to that page in the document. However, more sophisticated and visually engaging mechanisms are available. These might include:

Interactive imagery

Interactive images can be used to direct attention and used as part of the documents navigation scheme.

Once the formal instructions and summaries are complete, the reader could be directed to a section that asks some basic questions as to their interests or information priorities, and once the answers are collected – perhaps through check boxes, the user could be taken to the relevant section of the comment.

A fully customisable experience
It is entirely possible to build on the Q&A experience, and use the answers given to collate the specific information a reader needs, then deliver it as a customised document for “their eyes only”. The document could simply gather and rearrange content, omitting that which is not required, and then reassembled into a readable document.

6. Linking outcome to benefit

An area often overlooked in annual reports, especially those that tend to be more financially driven, is outcome and benefit. By this we mean associating particular achievements a company has made with the benefits it has brought. Quite often this is left as an ‘obvious assumption’; perhaps because it’s obvious that when a company makes a profit, it can increase share value and drive a higher dividend. However, this is just one outcome.

An increasing demand on companies by shareholders is associated with ‘social good’. For instance, how have employees benefited? How have suppliers in other countries benefited? How have the company ’s profits been used to drive greater efficiencies and improvements in its ecological footprint. All of these areas benefit from presentations or animated descriptions as to how the company may have delivered benefit in different ways from the outcome it has achieved in a particular financial year.

7. Virtual tear-outs

Tear-outs and leave behinds are old school ways to provide access to additional information to different people. A magazine uses them to allow others to send in a postal subscription or request additional information, perhaps a PR or press kit. These have largely been replaced by features available on a company’s website. However, the lessons of the past still have value.An annual report is a gateway, potentially to a huge amount of information for shareholders and other stakeholders, and one that could be shared many times. This is especially true for NPO’s where almost their entire business model is based on some form of social good and where detailed case studies of their activities would be appropriate. There’s probably too much information to include in an annual report, so a quick way to access it would useful.The beauty of a digital document is that it can act as an all encompassing, shareable gateway. It could be used to quickly link a reader to a full page or sections of content on a website, or to a summary downloadable and redistributable document.

Furthermore, with social media so prevalent, certain information could be highlighted and structured so as to make it readily shareable though Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others.

In short, the capabilities of a digital annual report make it extremely valuable as part of the company’s overall PR, sales and marketing activities, if it is structured appropriately.

In conclusion

We hope this post has been insightful and will help you think about your next digital annual report in a different light.

The world of capabilities digital reports can offer is virtually limitless and can appear daunting, especially if you know your company needs to get ahead of the curve and stand out quickly.

In creating your next digital annual report, it’s important to work with a partner that both understands how this world of capabilities is evolving and the potential benefits such evolution could bring to your organisation.

As ever, the team at The Creative Tree are ready to help answer your questions about getting the most out of your digital annual reports. So why not give us a call to discuss.




At The Creative Tree, our annual reports process is systematic, and we’ll leave no stone unturned. Our annual reports process will result in your brand having a renewed sense of purpose, a clearer identity and a new level of excitement both within your company and with its audience.

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