What’s the right annual report for you?

Annual reports have evolved radically in the last few years, not only in form but also significance. More readers are getting their information online, and they’re also getting information more continuously by doing so. With access to daily real-time updates, the need for one big end-of-the-year report has been, in many cases, displaced.

Yet the AR can still be an important marketing tool. It gives organizations the chance to summarize progress and put it into context; to tell strategic stories and position their brand.

The question for many today is, “What kind of AR should we make?” An online web shell that can be refilled each year? An interactive PDF? A traditional glossy “book”? Some organizations will even take a hybrid approach — printing a highlights document for key audiences while posting their full AR online.

Choosing a format depends on the answers to a few key questions:

1. What do you need to achieve?
Being clear on your core purpose helps “set the goalposts” for what you need your AR to be. Is it to communicate strategy and financial results to shareholders? Demonstrate to Parliament responsible use of public funds? Recruit new talent? Drive sales? Build your approach around your goal.

2. Who are you trying to reach?
Knowing how your audience prefers to receive information helps narrow down the ideal format for your annual report. If you’re a national association with thousands of members, an electronic AR may be most efficient to push out. If you’re a company whose sales teams use your AR to market to prospects, an impressive print version could still be the best way to go.

3. What’s your budget?
A PDF annual is typically far more economical to produce and distribute than a printed book or an HTML-based AR site. But good PDFs still require design and layout, and any extra interactivity can add cost and complexity. An HTML site may be pricier to build, but over time the costs should come down as the architecture gets reused. There’s also the question of whether or not your AR needs to meet accessibility requirements like AODA. And increasingly, it’s becoming key to ensure your online AR is mobile-responsive.

In the end, the medium is the message — and format dictates execution, with printed and online annual reports having very distinct requirements for structure and storytelling approach.

If you need help figuring out the right approach for your next annual report, contact us.