Annual Reports: Talking to your People

Understand the elements of a good Annual Report and you will communicate the successes of your organisation, help investors to understand your future direction and utilise the opportunity to ‘polish’ your firm’s image.

An Annual Report is a comprehensive, statutory report through which you can communicate your company’s accomplishments. Published once a year, it is intended to give shareholders and other interested people information about your company’s activities throughout the preceding year, demonstrating your accomplishments, financial performance and future direction.

Tackling a project as important and involved as an Annual Report requires organisation. Here are our top 10 tips to ensure your report doesn’t become a burden your company could do without.

1. Be prepared. Your Annual Report chronicles a year of history and accomplishments so ensure you keep good records. Backtracking year-old information is difficult and detailed records will limit the risk of incomplete or inaccurate results.

2. Start early. Allow enough time to conceptualise your report, appoint a project leader and establish a budget. Think about a strategy early so that your report can be delivered on time and with confidence. Forcing it into a shorter amount of time will only increase cost, errors and stress.

3. Develop a theme. Decide on key messages and build a theme that encompasses them. Your message must be concise, true in good times and bad, and should convey the essence of your organisation. A theme will help you present your information succinctly and provides a framework for your text and graphics.

4. Use compelling design. The design of your Annual Report is just as important as the content. Decide what size while considering how the report will work with other printed pieces such as your letterhead. Use a consistent style, choosing type fonts and colours that are keeping with your existing marketing materials. Differentiate your report from others and make it stand out while still presenting a professional appearance.

5. Good, short copy. Using clear, concise, minimal text with powerful images can make a strong statement fast. Keep it short, accurate and straight to the point. Compliment your message with photographs, illustrations and graphics that relate to your theme.

6. Organise your information. Present your report in an easy-to-follow format, put your most significant projects and activities at the front and think about the use of sections.

7. Proofread. Accuracy is critical to your credibility. Proofread your report again and again. Give it to someone else to read, a fresh set of eyes may pick up on something you have missed. This will limit the risk of errors.

8. Don’t neglect the envelope. Think about how to break through the mailing pile. Unusual sizes, colours or an intriguing headline on the envelope are all ways to make your mail piece stand out.

9. Be smart. Your Annual Report is a means of talking to your supporters but it’s also a great opportunity to talk to a new audience. Send your Annual Report to potential new customers.

10. Think about production. Choose a printer and mailing agent early. It’s important to know what your deadlines are for advising shareholders when meetings are to be held and to communicate this to your designer, printer and mailing house. It is important that your reports are distributed in a timely manner. Confirm the quantity, due date, stock choice, binding option, delivery information and any special instructions.


Demonstrate a well constructed, credible Annual Report and cultivate new partnerships, authenticate your community development and show that you are operationally and financially sound. Remember an Annual Report is your chance to talk to your people so create an upstanding publication they can appreciate!