A successful annual report contains the following key elements:
1. Visual appeal
What is the look and feel of your annual report? Is it attractive, interesting and unusual, or boring and unimaginative? The clever use of design, graphics, artwork and typography can make the difference between a winner and an also-ran.
2. Good readable text
Don’t be tempted to choose a fancy typeface that will be difficult to read. Remember your aim is to disseminate your information – it will not happen if the document is set aside because the words are illegible.
The document must look AND BE easy to read. Write it in plain English (or the language of your choice) and take care that the lay-out has plenty of “white” space to give the eyes a rest.
4. Length of document
Do not make it too long. In today’s information age with instant information on the web, the last thing people want to do is to wade through endless pages before they reach the relevant information. On the other hand, the document must not be so concise that it does not cover the important sections.
Credibility, once lost, is just about impossible to get back. Take care to back up your statements with facts and refrain from wild and untruthful statements – even if you think nobody will know better.
Your planning should not only focus on what you want to say in the annual report, but include the production cycle of the writing, printing and distribution of the report as well.
7. Paper quality
When selecting the paper for the report, keep your end-user in mind. Do not save money by using paper of an inferior quality on a project of this importance. Nowadays, recycled paper is very in vogue, but it must enhance your message, not detract from it.
Your images must compliment your text. Full-colour photographs are the norm. Use a B/W photograph only when you can be assured that it will have the right impact. Although graphic images, maps and other illustrations usually enhance your site, too many can have the opposite result. As with most things in life, too much is not good.
Budget – control it, don’t let it control you. Know your options and get quotations before you agree to anything. Above all – set a realistic budget.
You’ve written the annual report, it has been printed and posted. Now you can sit back and relax – or can you? How do you know whether the report achieved its objectives. Is there room for improvement? Feedback on your annual report is almost as important as the report itself, because it will lead to possible reviews, amendments and improvements.