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4 Things You Need to Know About a Well-Designed Annual Report

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The end of a financial year has come. Are you busy gathering financial records and compiling information for your annual report? While scrambling to meet the rules and regulations of Singapore Exchange (SGX), the importance of a well-designed annual report may often be overlooked.

Yes, your annual report contains valuable financial and corporate information for investors, but it is more than a book filled with numbers. It is a vital communication tool for your business that will not only review the year financially, but also show shareholders who made the decisions and how they have benefitted the company.

As the majority of annual report content is financial information, one of the biggest challenges of creating a well-designed annual report is to engage the readers while showcasing a positive representation of your company. Fortunately, it can be achieved through some consumer insight and design techniques.

1) Make Information Readily Available

While most businesses distribute their annual reports by printing and mailing them to shareholders, some companies are providing access to digital versions through other forms like CD-ROMs or USB flash drives, or even interactive PDF versions.

Choose your delivery method based on the preference of your investors. If a majority isn’t spending time online or on their digital devices, printing may still be the best way to go. However, if your shareholders are spending equal time online and offline, you may want to consider having both printed and digital versions.

This not only allows investors to choose between hard copy and digital copy, you’re also enhancing brand awareness and delighting them with a corporate gift (such as a USB flash drive), as well as choosing a greener and more sustainable solution as compared to printing (yet without having to spend a lot more!).

2) Go Beyond Just Reporting

It’s no surprise that a majority of the information in your annual report will be made up of numbers and figures. While these are essential information for your investors, let’s be honest, numbers all start to look the same after a while. This is where your design comes in.

A visually appealing report highlights achievements from the financial year and set your company apart from the competitors. Pictures, infographics and other aesthetic elements keep readers actively engaged with the pertinent content. Take time to put some personality and spice up graphs and charts so that your readers can find the most important information easily.

When it comes to the non-financial review, don’t just state the facts. Your annual report can be a great marketing tool to build shareholders’ trust and confidence in your business. Use your annual report to tell a story and show your accomplishments as shareholders want to hear about your success. Just remember to reflect your brand image in the tone and voice throughout the annual report.

3) Showcase Your Business

Shareholders make an investment in your business, so use your annual report to tell them about the company. Take time to document your business, take photos, know your employees and truly show how your company operates at its core. Then share them with the investors in your annual report.

One of the most important elements of your business is the leaders and decision-makers. It’s important that your investors know the people sitting in the driver’s seat. So how can a well-designed annual report present the information needed to get investors into the executives’ minds? Consider a Q&A or “meet the executives” section!

4) Use Design to Tell Your Brand Story

Since your annual report is an important marketing tool for investors, why not use it to reinforce your brand image? Start by evaluating your brand persona, values, mission and vision. Identify all of the elements that help tie these together and how you can present it visually.

Think of a visual representation of your brand and the industries and audience you want to reach. Create a design package, rather than having several different design elements. Begin with a theme, then move on to cover designs, and the internal display of information, including colours, typeface and graphics, so as to create a cohesive package that truly represent your brand.

It’s important to keep your end users in mind. A well-designed annual report is built with shareholders in mind and designed to best cater to their needs. Even the simplest financial data can be made interesting if it is presented in a visually-appealing way. So rather than viewing your annual report as a “necessary evil” to display dry financial material, use it as a marketing tool to present your company in a unique and interactive way and see how your business can truly benefit from it.