WHETHER your audiences are shareholders or stakeholders, annual reports are key to orchestrating successful investments and effective corporate communication.

Income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements may sound like tedious content to drag your eyes through, especially when the crucial messages are as dry as dust.

This is even more so with the dramatic shift to visual culture in recent times — where people have become more interested in seeing information, rather than reading about it.

A picture paints a thousand words, yet in financial reporting, it is difficult to strike the perfect balance between aesthetic storytelling and conveying facts and figures.

The annual report has become more than just a legal obligation of public and listed companies. It is now a highly effective marketing tool that serves to inspire and intrigue, while meeting the knowledge needs of its readers.

For example, Nissin’s 2012 annual report entitled Taste The Pride (right) came cleverly packaged in a padded plastic sleeve, designed to imitate their instant noodle wrappers and promising comprehension “in three minutes”.

A photo of pre-cooked instant noodles and a packet of soup base is stretched across the cover of the booklet inside, bearing a cheeky resemblance to Nissin’s mainstay product.

Allow your company’s annual report to engage, excite and educate your target audience, without compromising on function and content quality.

Keep it short

Be kind to your readers — avoid “corporatese”. Think about what your shareholders, stakeholders and potential investors would want to read about and deserve to know, and eliminate everything else that will end up in fine print.

Details you may want to consider leaving out could be lists of staff, board news and administrative activities. Focus on news that will interest the public. With less text, you will also be able to use a larger font that will be more eye-catching and easier to read.


Be original

Your annual report is the mouthpiece of your business or organisation. Reach out to your audience personally in a manner they can relate to, be it peppering your report with entertaining humour and trivia, or including tactile treatments and techniques (die-cuts, folds and so on) to make the booklet truly stand out.

Don’t use stock photography that has been done to death — invest in a professional photographer for outstanding images that belong to and represent your company alone.

Tell your story

Every brand has a story to tell. Infuse your annual report’s design, copy and colours with the right corporate tone and style of your brand’s image.

Your annual report can leave more impact on its reader’s minds with first-person accounts, testimonials and relevant real-life stories, preferably from your customers, that will reinforce your company’s achievements.

Make an emotional appeal through the work you do, while staying true to the facts. Every company has its own character, energy and spirit. A good annual report tells that story.

Article by Reni L. Witt, president and founder of the global awards organisation, MerComm. She has overseen the Annual Report Competition (ARC) Awards for 27 years and counting. For more information, visit www.mercommawards.com