The Moment that Matters: Your annual report is the medium for a memorable message

Published on
May 6, 2014

Drier than dry. If this is your company’s perception of what annual reports have become post-GFC, it doesn’t have to be so. In the past few years a number of organisations here and abroad have been bucking the trend with innovative and creative approaches to content, design, and format.

With recent post-GFC trends (especially in government sectors) seeing the production of dramatically scaled-back annual reports — some even opting for little more than a typeset Word document — you could be forgiven for thinking we were still in recovery mode. While these trends are partly due to the lingering effects of post-GFC budget cuts, reporting information and the corporate messages surrounding it are also being absorbed by a mixture of other mediums including promotional print materials, traditional advertising, and digital avenues such as online platforms (web, blogs and mobile apps).

CLH AR 2013 Spread Mockups 2 WEB2

Despite this however, there are many organisations for which the annual report is still the primary chance to communicate their story. Accordingly, many still recognise the value of sending the right message and ‘look’, and have retained a standard of design integrity (albeit with reduced reliance on expenses such as commissioned photography).

CLH AR 2013 Spread Mockups 2 WEB3

Others have gone one step further and seized the opportunity annual reports offer to craft and shape the narrative around the facts and figures of results — whatever they may be — to engage with audiences proactively and build brand reputation in the process. It is these organisations that retain the competitive and influential edge, whether through attentive writing and design, or fresh approaches to content in both print and online formats. Some innovative reports with varying approaches in the online space are showcased in these case studies:

Mailchimp: By the numbers Report 2013

Microsoft Annual Report 2013

Some overseas companies such as Austria Solar have broken away from the conventional with great success. It has produced an astounding printed report that is not only concise — presenting a pared-back report of facts and figures through infographics in a visually bold design with considerable marketing clout — but also innovatively and directly references what the company does and what they are about.

With scaled-back budgets, many companies are opting to summarise information in concise printed and online reports which often take the form of brochure-like publications or micro-sites that increasingly characterise the reporting landscape. These have an essential place, and clever companies are communicating the information they contain in a targeted, visually arresting and on-brand way via infographics. These inject company reports with a much-needed directness, marketing presence and design flair, allowing their creators to create a context around which to structure engaging messages, commentary and discussion. See Rowland’s ‘why, what and how’ introduction to infographics for further information.

In distilling the essence of the company direction or year’s results in a highly visual way across multiple platforms, the future of the annual report is strong as a highly effective vehicle for communication innovation to all stakeholders.

To find out more about how your annual report can take you further, please contact
Pip McConnel-Oats, Executive Group Manager, Creative on (07) 3229 4499 or
pip.mcconnel-oats@rowland.com.au