5 pitfalls to avoid when producing your Annual Report

Doing it all yourself

The preparation of an annual report is an intensive exercise that almost always runs over. It is important that, as an organisation, you evaluate the possibility of hiring an agency to lead the documentation of the report as this will free up many of your human resources to focus on your core business. It is definitely important to have contact points within your communications department to provide guidance on direction and expectations, but it is advisable that you let an agency handle most of the writing and design work. 

Rushing through the process

The annual report is one of the most important interfaces between your company and its stakeholders. As a summary of the past 12 months’ activities, it is crucial that you give ample time to its production. So it definitely won’t hurt to start the preparation well before the end of the year, allowing you enough time to finesse it in time for an early release the following year. Scheduling the production of the annual report on your corporate calendar is key to ensuring a high-quality publication that covers all of your key achievements.

Getting the report to ‘almost ready’ before involving senior stakeholders 

Key company stakeholders, including directors, presidents and board chairpersons, should be involved in the production of the annual report right from the start. This is necessary to align everybody’s views; avoiding the time-wasting back-and-forth that usually arises when teams or individuals are brought in late into the process. Set up your key task force from the off, and ensure scheduling of regular touchpoints with all involved.

Passiveness and insufficient evidence in reporting

It is important to take complete ownership of your annual report – and this starts with its tone of voice. Use active language, placing the emphasis on the stats and stories that count. Clear evidence of the year’s achievements will constantly remind the reader of your influence and impact. On the same note, it is critical to highlight ‘independent’ voices within the report, as these will speak directly to the force of your organisation and its work. Case studies and impact stories come into play here as they provide dynamic insight into exactly how your activity affects your most important audience, your customers or beneficiaries. Try to capture these external voices throughout your engagements across the year, which will make their inclusion in the annual report a whole lot easier!

Rigidity with design 

Often, organisations stick to corporate designs that they are familiar with, regardless of the fact that their audiences may have changed over time. It is important to note that the annual report is an important communications tool that provides a quick snapshot of your activity. Be creative, and go for designs that really push the boundaries. There’s safety in familiarity, but there are greater benefits in exhibiting innovation, a willingness to adapt to emerging times, and in reflecting your organisation’s readiness to soar into the future. Use infographics and lots of imagery to tell the story of your organisation’s year. In the end it’s humans who will be reading your annual report, it needs to be engaging and impactful or it will get added to the pile of boring reads. And nobody wants that.

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