An annual report is a powerful marketing tool for your organisation to make your brand stand out. An annual report is considered a standard document, often required by law, to be published annually, which describes the company’s operations and financial conditions so that current and potential shareholders can make informed decisions about investing in it. Presenting these insights in a manner which grabs attention, supports brand messaging, influences investor relations and strengthens market positioning creates lasting impact. Below are the top 5 tips for transforming an annual report into a company’s strongest asset:

1.     Turn the annual report into an expressive story collection

Just like a story which starts from the past, addresses the present and gradually transits to the future, an annual report should allow readers to visualise the same. A well-articulated annual report can not only proclaim company’s vision, but also showcase the work culture, together with achievements, milestones, and accolades. By preparing the annual report in an impressionable way that aligns with the company’s value and reflects business objective can easily wins the appeal of the target audience. It is especially effective when the report contains large data sets. With so many ways to spin and distort information these days, data become the mighty tool to support a compelling story. Thus, “data storytelling” is crucial for making your annual report stand out. Many companies often use charts and tables to display data, with the belief simple graphics work better than plain statistics. The fact is, annual reports have evolved over the years (in a good way), and there are all sorts of exciting and engaging ways to tell your brand story, whether it is on the paper or a screen. Looking for more annual report design best practices? Check out the article maximizing use of infographics from our blog for some annual report design inspiration! 

While the visual effect matters, tones and styles play an important role too. Writing in an informal style by using a conversational style will help readers feel more connected on an immediate level while increasing readability.   

2.     The CEO's message provides the company's vision

The CEO’s message is always located in the front section of the annual report and provides an update of a company’s performance over the previous year. It typically covers all the activities that the company engaged in throughout the year, as well as the business results brought along. Thoughts and vision of the CEO towards the company, the industry as well as the operating environment will also be included. Readers can have a glance of the key business drivers and understand the major risks and opportunities the business is facing. It is, therefore, an extremely important communication tool between the company and the audience. Be personal, concise, and direct, stay consistent with the overall tone and presentation style of the annual report, and the CEO’s message will shine.


3.     Enhancing corporate culture through humanising stories

Humanising the annual report helps the readers, especially stakeholders, connect with the company’s core values and allow them to feel like they know something beyond business facts and hard numbers. Non-financial topics including the governance, work ethics, and corporate social responsibilities demonstrates other sets of business purposes, transforms preconception, and lays the foundation for more sustainable and human-focused business footpath. Sharing company’s contribution to the business environment, the community and the society can impress the readers, which not only helps in humanising the annual report, but also draw investors who are inclined to do business with socially conscious organisations.

Employees being the heart and soul of any company, are also audience of the annual reports. It is therefore important to include acknowledgement to the high-performing employees in the annual report. Featuring nice photos of the company-wide activities, showcasing different business units, and those who make the business move and thrive in the annual report helps humanise the brand more than words.


4. Using the annual report to engage with investors and stakeholders

When preparing the annual report, always highlight the most significant achievements and accomplishments of the year and areas where the business reached new heights. That will really make an impression and help the readers emotionally invest in the company or its brand. For prospective investors, it is also a way to demonstrate opportunities for potential returns.

Solid investor relation is at the forefront of brand building. Well-maintained and consistently reinforced investor relations not only build trust but act as a strong buffer around the brand name against uncertainties. Word-of-mouth is always another powerful marketing tool for the business!

Don’t forget to add a section, even a few pages, of the long-term operating strategies and development goals for the next year. While business results take time to achieve, pathing the future allows readers to join the ride with the company, which again nurtures trust and loyalty.


5.     Choosing the right media for distributing your annual report

Choosing the right promotional strategy and distribution for annual report is the final crucial task. Should it be print or digital?

According to the “Global Print Advertising Market Report & Forecast 2021-2026[1] ”, the market reached US$ 67.3 billion in 2020, among both print and digital media with print advertising still accounting for a significant share in the global advertising market. 

Another survey by MarketingSherpa[2] in 2017 showed that 82 percent of internet users trust print ads when making a purchase decision because it carries more emotional weight than digital ads. Additionally, in the Power of Print Marketing, produced by Canon Europe in 2018, Terri White, an editor of the film industry ‘bible’ Empire, mentioned that there is no doubt that what brands gain from print is “Trust, Authority and Credibility.”  In another book, “Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World[3]”, written by Naomi Baron, a professor of Linguistics at American University in Washington, D.C. surveyed students in the US, Japan, Germany and Slovakia.  He found a near-universal preference for print, stating that people are 70% more likely to remember businesses seen in print compared to online. So before choosing the media for publishing your annual report, the above research may give you some ideas on how to enhance the relationship with your audience.

While print media is still the most common annual report medium,it cannot be denied that the new digital world demands digital documents. Besides being more easily accessible, digital annual reports help companies reduce their environmental impact and convey a modern image. Digital annual reports open new opportunities to showcase information that is limited in print versions, such as sharing statistics across all social media channels, and allow easy tracking of who view the reports when and where. With the readers’ data, the company can effectively finetune its search engine optimization (“SEO”) strategies, which is to accurately index the information and direct people to the annual report or website based on particular search terms. It is also helpful for the organic search result that appears on a search engine results page of the company.

In a nutshell, a company should never underestimate the power of its annual report, it can be a powerful marketing tool that transforms the brand and strengthens the relationships with its stakeholders. And when it comes to distributing the annual report, it is better to combine the strengths of print and digital for promoting your annual report to get twice the result with half the effort.


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