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The well-designed annual report with the strategic intent of communicating with ALL of a company’s audience goes well beyond your investors and pages of financial and legal notes to serve as a signature channel for your brand. In fact, the Annual Report is an important tool in your brand arsenal. Delivering that information and your story is critical, but many brands don’t yet seize the opportunity by integrating their annual report in their overall brand strategy.

While mandatory for many organizations and a powerful tool for others, this single communication presents information about your organization to many different audiences. How those readers engage with your Annual Report content influences their perceptions of your company in powerful ways.

While an annual report is different from other brand content and narratives, it can (and should) employ great storytelling…

Not Just for Investors Anymore

Far more than a financial document and legal requirement, brand pros should embrace the annual as an opportunity not only to report, but also to make a bold statement about their brand and engage with many different audiences, including:

  • Stakeholders/shareholders

  • Customers

  • Employees/Potential employees

  • Industry and competitors

  • General public

Beyond the Fine Print

As everything has become increasingly digital, it’s no surprise that annual reports have too. Online annual reports are easily accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere – thus increasing audience reach. But whether print or digital, audiences engage with your annual report for different reasons. So,

  • Share: A brand’s mission, vision, and values guide everything you do. Inviting your audiences to learn more about you through your annual report helps them feel more connected and invested in you.

  • Showcase: In addition to the standard executive communications, give a face to the people who make the company what it is. And highlight your culture through brand voice, presentation, stories, content, etc.

  • Celebrate: Show their investments at work, invite your various publics to support you, and congratulate your employees.

While an annual report is different from other brand content and narratives, it can (and should) employ great storytelling to keep your audiences:

  • Engaged: By applying the effective elements of storytelling, you bring much more than financials to light.

  • Educated: Presenting information in user-friendly formats helps audiences better understand what you’re all about.

  • Connected: Telling a powerful story, enhanced by data, examples, and results helps your audiences invest emotionally.

Amp up the creativity and put your brand front and center. Consider:

  • Format: Tell your story with photography, infographics, video, and interactive data visualization.

  • People: Feature your leadership, employee initiatives, or customer successes.

  • Design: You invest in great design in your company’s other communications – align the Annual Report with the visual and verbal personality you’ve worked so hard to build.

  • Data: Don’t just report the numbers. Make them tell a story. Create ways for readers to follow your progress and understand your impact through clear and compelling data illustration.

And finally, do some homework. Keep abreast of key trends in Annual Reports. Read those produced by your competitors. Watch for design and communications awards that celebrate best-in-class work.  Do you have an example of an excellent Annual Report that tells a great company brand story? Share it here!

— Katharine Ramsden

Katharine Ramsden has produced award-winning and innovative Annual Reports for a wide range of public companies in the financial, information/media and technology industries for over 30 years. She believes inside every “boring” report is a missed opportunity to tell a more compelling story and engage a bigger audience for your brand. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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