Why your annual report isn’t wowing shareholders (and what to do about it)

Too many companies approach annual reports like one of those “necessary evil” tasks.

Producing annual reports is time-consuming, arduous and no one even expects the final product to be engaging! That’s where it all goes wrong – because low expectations often lead to lacklustre results.

So pick up your game and take a positive approach right from the get go because a spectacular annual report really could do amazing things for your business. Not convinced? This article shows how some of the most successful annual reports have managed to become “viral”, achieving thousands of social shares. Topping this list, one of Kickstarter’s annual reports scored an incredible 15,212 shares over the year after it was published.

That kind of publicity sets you apart as an authority in your industry and often operates as a source of new business.

Not working on an annual report at the moment, but still intrigued? These tips can be used for all kinds of reports and data or text heavy documents, so we encourage you to read on.

Let’s talk about the five big problems we see with annual reports an how to fix them.

#1: There’s not much to look at!

People often make the mistake of including far too much in their annual reports with lengthy chunks of text. Just because it’s a report doesn’t mean it should just be endless copy.

Trust us, it’s far more effective to show people things than tell them. Studies show that words alone only result in a 10% recall but visuals increase that to a remarkable 65%.

Relevant eye-catching images will back up the copy, while dynamic elements such as infographics, diagrams, charts and graphs can enable audiences to easily grasp concepts, facts, trends and context – all the tools needed to draw their own independent conclusions.

#2: Failing to tell stories

The most engaging annual reports use persuasive stories as a vehicle for illustrating organisational achievements or even explaining the strategic direction of the business. In other words, a story is a strong and consistent narrative that should underpin key concepts in your report.

Need inspiration? Why not think about how your company could be kicking new financial goals by changing the lives of customers, how it’s engaging people inside and outside the business, or even, how the company is contributing to social change and what lies ahead. In each case, comments from employees, the CEO and a variety of case studies could all help to tell these persuasive real-life stories.

Going through a Narrative Finding session can also help you understand the steps you need to effectively weave storytelling practises into all of your communications.

#3: It doesn’t pass the skim test

Most people who receive your report will be extremely busy, which means it’s unlikely they’ll have time to read your report word-for-word. A report that is hard to navigate make it tough for the reader glean key information quickly. In those situations, it isn’t likely to deliver the desired impact.

However, there are a few things you can do to ensure all those key messages come flying off the page at super speed (and with minimum effort).

Start by making sure all the information contained is appropriately segmented (colour coding is highly effective!) and logically ordered with subheadings that indicate exactly what the reader will learn.

Highlight key facts and figures with break out boxes or by incorporating them into graphics. Lastly, with the human brain processing visual data 60,000 times faster than text, be sure you’ve made the most of visual tools such as infographics, diagrams or even animations to explain those key concepts.

These graphics can also be repurposed for social media, too.

#4: Missing out on the human element

Human beings are social creatures, and that means we generally love to see and hear about other people! It also means annual reports that churn through facts and data without showing how they involve or relate to real people can quickly become boring.

It’s easy to make a report much more personable. Choose language that resonates with your target audience and don’t be afraid to include images, profiles and testimonials of customers and employees, where appropriate.

#5: Including too much information

When creating an annual report, many people have a lot of information and insights at their fingertips, but fail to understand what is worthy of inclusion and what could be left out.

Readers very quickly become lost interest in a report if finding information that’s relevant to them is like hunting for a needle in a haystack. What’s more, a reader experience like this could bring down the credibility of the entire report.

The best way around this is to put yourself in the audience’s shoes and consider whether every bit of text and every image and infographic has a point to deliver. If not, leave it out!

Need to bring in the big guns?

We’ve got your back. The Persuaders team are annual report design pros! Get in touch with our team today to discuss your project.

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