Planning your annual report

In part two of our blog series, we'll show you the importance of planning in the annual report design process.

JDJ Creative are annual report design specialists. In this series of articles, we look at best practices regarding the design of these documents. In our previous article, we looked at why businesses should create exceptional annual reports. In this article, we investigate how to plan your report…

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  1. Why create an exceptional annual report
  2. Planning your report
  3. Choosing the right channel
  4. Design pointers
  5. The JDJ process
  6. Disseminating your annual report

Three steps to planning an effective annual report design process

When designing an annual report it’s essential to consider your messaging, goals and objectives from the outset. Taking time to map out these elements will save hours in the long run.

Here are our three steps to planning an effective annual report design process...

  1. Define objectives
  2. An annual report is an investment that costs money and time, so it needs to be done properly. Start your planning process by defining clear objectives. Although the definition of success may vary from one company to another, meeting the needs of investors and employees are likely to be key goals.

    Involve key stakeholders early on to gain their buy-in to your vision for the report. Their input can also help to ensure you include all essential content.

  3. Set key messages, goals and strategy
  4. Just like a newspaper or magazine, annual reports should have a strong editorial proposition. You want to tell a compelling story that covers different aspects of your company’s success. Your annual report should be a creative expression of your key messages, goals and strategy. Good design can help the reader access these key messages quickly and easily.

    What do your stakeholders want to read? What do they look at first? Research shows most readers initially scan the financial highlights and the first few paragraphs of the statements made by your chairman and CEO, so it’s important that these make a powerful positive impact.

    Will the report be printed or take the form of an interactive web page? Or both? This decision will influence the report’s design, which needs to ensure a strong user experience. It will also help with budgeting and finalising timeframes for delivery.

  5. The creative brief
  6. When developing your creative brief, we recommend starting the process with a meeting to discuss the overarching theme of your annual report. The creative team will then have a firm basis to start crafting the report. Inviting key stakeholders to the meeting can ensure everyone is on the same page.

    At the end of the meeting, you should have decided on your:

    • Key communication objectives - Clarify what you want to achieve with your annual report. This will help the creative team (including the copywriter) to bring your vision to life using the most appropriate medium.

    • Key points - Research indicates that most readers only spend two to three minutes scanning through an annual report, so it’s vital that the design team understands the key points you want your readers to take away.

    • Corporate branding requirements - Include all relevant details to help the creative team develop a report that aligns with and reinforces your brand.

    • Target audiences - An annual report can be targeted at a wide audience, including investors, employees and suppliers. Make sure you understand who your primary audiences will be, so that you can include content to meet their needs.

    • Company and market overview - Explain the context in which your company operates and how it differentiates itself from competitors.

    • Outline of financial performance - Include key performance indicators that you may want highlighted in the report.

    • Outline of editorial structure - Reports can vary substantially in length, but all need a coherent structure in order to communicate a clear story about your company.

Engaging the right design & content agency

Choosing the right agency is an important step in planning your report. When choosing who to collaborate with, look for an agency that listens rather than lectures; and a team with a personality aligned to your values, that understands your vision and your brand.

Your preferred agency should have the ability to deliver both a printed and digital version of your annual report, and the capacity to meet your deadline. The team should also have the necessary expertise to advise you on how to achieve the best results within your allocated budget.

JDJ Creative has worked with numerous clients in the professional, financial services and high-growth technology sectors to create annual reports that are beautifully laid out and on-brand. We always take the time to research the client’s industry and collaborate with them to produce a report that fully resonates with their target audience and meets their key objectives.

Engaging with a design agency when planning an annual report infographic

When engaging with your design agency it's important to:

  • Define processes from the outset - Who will be responsible for creating what content? Who needs to approve certain parts of the report? Clarifying such details will avoid conflicts between stakeholders. Assign a project manager to map all the stakeholders, their roles and responsibilities.
  • Determine delivery and key deadlines - It can be stressful producing a report, especially when printed copies need to be sent out. Establishing key milestones and clear final deadlines is essential. This includes ensuring the mailing schedule allows sufficient delivery time to meet your requirements.

It’s also vital to allow time for final checking of content, including key numbers, before your report goes to print. We recommend that the design is completed three days before it goes to the printer. This allows time for a printed proof and a final scan of the content to ensure all is correct.

Now you’ve planned the design and production of your report, we will look at whether print or digital mediums are best for your annual report.

Part 1
Why create an exceptional annual report
Part 3
Choosing the right channel for your report

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Contact JDJ Creative

If you’re looking for an annual report design partner, JDJ Creative are the specialists. To find out how we can work with you to create exceptional reports, please get in touch.

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