The annual report project can be a pretty large undertaking. There are many elements to consider – different stakeholder groups, the mandatory elements, how to make it an engaging piece, etc.

We’ve collaborated on many of these projects with organizations of all shapes and sizes. We know it’s a big undertaking! Here’s a round-up of our top 7 strategies to incorporate into your next Annual Report plan that will leave people looking at you in wonderment.

Plan Ahead – way, way ahead.

So, you’ve just finished up this year’s report. It’s been proofread over and over and, it’s finally off to the printer, e-delivered to everyone on the list. Time to take a deep breath. You did it!

Enjoy the break. Get back to being focused on some of the other projects that have taken a back seat while the AR marathon was happening. But, don’t wait too long before you open up a new folder for next year’s report. Gather the team for a debrief and brainstorming session. This is a great low-pressure way to get the ideas flowing without a looming deadline hanging over the team.

Milestones

Get the calendar out and circle some key dates – the earlier the better! Take into consideration last year’s schedule and any unforeseen circumstances that came into play. Also be sure to consider any new elements that could impact the schedule this year:

  • Taking on a complex creative theme?
  • Adding in a new media element?
  • Going digital?

These are all things that could impact the schedule. Plan for them now!

Start with the big milestones and continue to build out the schedule as your plans take shape. It will help to keep the team on track and add reminders in their calendars!

So Many People, So few Pages

So many different stakeholder groups receive the report – and they are all probably viewing it from a different perspective. We all know how creating personas can be a powerful approach in your marketing strategies – why not dig them out and apply them to your annual report? Consider how you can structure the report to make it a pleasant read, no matter who’s flipping through the pages.

Stand Out

The goal is to have the report be more than a fleeting flip-through before being destined for the blue box. It’s a great opportunity to create a document that is worth holding onto. Consider how to marry together different types of media, create interactive elements and develop content that serves not only as information but also as a resource for years to come.

Consider Weather

Using photography in your Annual Report is ideal. It humanizes the organization, brings content to life and can pull together the creative theme. So often, photography is thought about too late in the process and it becomes impossible to capture a great shot outdoors with bare tree branches or a big slushy mess outside.

There will likely be many types of photographs included in your report – portraits, candid/event shots from the year and some curated shots to bring the creative theme together. Select a photographer (or several) that match the creative vision you have decided on. Bring them into the discussion, brief them on the creative and develop a schedule of when to complete the photography throughout the year to get the best results.

Eyeballs

Build your team of proofreaders. Recruit people that are involved in the project, an arm’s length from it, and some who are totally clueless about it – ask your neighbour, ask your grandmother! When you finally hit approved and the report gets sent to print, you want to be able to sit back and know that it’s error-free. No 3am wake-up in a cold sweat worrying that something didn’t get caught! Different people will be great at catching different things, so find a grammar wizard, formatting master and an everyday reader to ensure you’ve covered all of your bases.

Control What You Can, Plan For What You Can’t!

Inevitably, there are things in the process you can’t control. With many different elements coming together from many different sources, something will happen. A printing press may breakdown, a snow storm may happen, the auditors may be delayed, The CEO may request a change at the eleventh hour. These things are out of your hands. What you can do is build contingencies into your plans. When you start planning early enough (see point 1) there’s room for life to happen without having your stress level skyrocket.

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