Well, PR Departments in public companies are surely beginning work on their annual reports. They can smell spring in the air – when these symbols of capitalism come rolling off the presses once more. In a reprise of my past admonitions, with a few additions, I implore writers and designers to keep a few things in mind.
- Please make the report more exciting. Notice I did not say interesting. Splash some color on the pages, use a large typeface so oldsters can read the copy, especially if you’re using reverse type. Use bold, brash headlines. Most readers will be viewing the report online so make it compelling and dispense with flash and any other doohickey that slows down loading or distracts the viewer.
- Remember the company has employees. Yes, many fewer of them, but they still are the backbone of the company. I was shocked last year when I perused the annual reports of several of the largest Fortune 500 companies and found they had not a single photo or story about an employees. It is disappointing to think they merited so little recognition.
- Make it sell. The report should very strategically position the organization as the leader in its space, developing new paradigms of products and services.
- Use Testimonials. Words out of the mouths of your customers and employees can bring the vision statement to life. Let them tell the reader what a great company this is.
So, if you’re assigned to create this year’s annual report, how do you ensure it accurately represents the organization and has a long, active life after it’s been printed and distributed? Here are my suggestions:
- Get the CEO involved from the get-go. Do not even think of hiring a writer or design firm until you have met with the CEO to understand how s/he wishes the organization to be positioned in the document. S/he cannot delegate this discussion to someone else.
- Write a creative platform that describes the overall theme and tone of the annual report, its content and “look.” Get the CEO to sign off on it.
- Solicit in-put from the key people in your organization who would most likely use the annual report throughout the year such as the head of sales, director of development, director of public and community affairs, and so on. What do they want emphasized in the report? Find out what would make them use it during the year to help them achieve their goals.
- Make a mock-up of the report, page by page. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Take some legal paper and fold the sheets in half. It’s essential to know the content of every page and ideas for photos, charts, etc.
- Now you can meet with your design firm and writer, if that’s not you. Everyone should be working from the approved creative platform and mock-up. Believe me, they will love you for it.
- Show two to three designs to the CEO with the mock-up. If you’ve done your job right, s/he will have a tough time picking out the winner, because s/he will love them all.
- Be true to the creative platform as you go through the process of developing the report. Be excited as it begins to unfold as a living, breathing document that will take on a life of its own for a year. Don’t be afraid to be a little gutsy with the copy and design. You’re not creating the next Bible, after all.
So, with these humble bits of advice, good luck and go forth!