The flight from print… migrating to online annual report design

The flight from print… migrating to online annual report design 

online annual reporting image

For marketing communications managers, the annual report design season comes around fast. It’s enough to send a shiver down the spine. Pages and pages of detailed report and accounts, all generated last minute with an immovable print deadline looming. Is online annual report design the answer to a less stressful future?

Your pain becomes our pain. Which is why many organisations are taking their annual report design online. While it may appear that thinking is changing fast, it’s actually a wonder the migration from print didn’t pick up pace sooner. The ‘digital first’ philosophy is nothing new, but how many companies actually subscribe to that model? Stakeholders want to consume report and accounts information in different ways – on their laptop in the office, on their mobile phone while travelling and on their tablet at home. These different contexts require adaptive annual report design that make each experience a positive one for the reader.

Putting your company annual reports online is an effective way to create an exciting multi-media marketing tool. Your online annual report design will be a vital marketing tool that tells people what you have achieved and where your organisation is going. It’s a great opportunity to engage with shareholders, stakeholders and customers and attract high-quality employees, funding and new business. And, because it’s on-screen, and not on-paper, it’s available to access by anyone from anywhere, 24/7. That’s the beauty of annual reports online!

But there’s an art to communicating online. Posting a copy of your printed annual report on your website may seem like an easy solution, but this is now considered a crude means of communication. Besides, PDFs are full of memory-hungry illustrations and reversed print, which means they can be slow to download and frustrating and awkward to read. If you really want to grab people’s attention, you need to get your annual report online, and you need to make sure the design is imaginative with an emphasis on usability. Don’t forget copy content, a professional writer can take your statistics and figures and turn them into something infinitely more digestible.

Providing what your stakeholders want
People of all ages are spending more and more time on the internet, including the over 50’s, who represent a considerable online age group. And that opens up all sorts of possibilities.

A real benefit of online annual reporting is that a good site structure makes information more accessible than reading a weighty printed document. For example, if a stakeholder is interested in a specific aspect of performance, they can choose to go into this area in more detail, while reviewing other material less thoroughly. This puts the user in control, not the publisher.

Of course, there will still be people who prefer to read a printed annual report – you will need to cater for them and for the people who don’t or won’t use the internet. But you will probably find that most people will prefer a concise, well-written executive summary, backed up by a user-friendly online annual report design that provides more information if they need it. Remember, users are just as likely to be viewing your report and accounts on a phone or tablet, so ensure the technology is responsive from the outset.

This multi-device approach will impress your shareholders and other stakeholders, showing them that you are keen to communicate in a cost-effective way that meets their needs. You can also reduce your carbon footprint, print bills and postage at the same time and that has to be a good thing!

Annual reports online have many advantages, here are some:

Provide instant information at the touch of a button
Your target audience doesn’t need to wait for a posted copy or plough through frustrating online PDFs to find the information they want. An online annual report provides instant access.

Satisfy legal and regulatory requirements
Organisations can provide shareholders and stakeholders with the information they are entitled to, or like to receive, in a range of formats. Because an online annual report design is multilayered, secure – password protected – areas can be set up.

Bring your annual report design to life
Having an online report enables you to post video and audio clips, bringing the year to life in an exciting and vibrant way.

Reduce the need for bulky print items
Having an online annual report means that you only have to send out brief executive summaries to your mailing list and provide cost-effective digitally printed reports to people who can’t, or don’t want to, use the internet.

Provide clearly signposted and fully searchable information
Posting your report online means that people can search for specific information, quickly and easily.

Offer different languages
Company annual reports online have an international audience. It’s easy to create multi-language options, without the need to print and distribute.

Meet web-based disability requirements
Annual reports online are easier for people who are partially sighted or blind, as they can increase font and browser sizes and use special software to translate the written word into audio.

Make the process easier year after year
Once you have established a successful framework for your online annual report, it makes the process smoother and easier in subsequent years.

Get the most from your annual report budget
The cost savings on postage, packaging and staff time are considerable.

Help to meet your company’s environmental targets
Think of how many trees you’ll save! We recently worked out that it takes one tree to produce less than 350 average-sized annual reports, excluding packaging.

The creative and technical expertise required to make the transition from print to online is readily available, and the effort of setting up your initial online annual report will reap rewards in subsequent years. From here, it will be a simpler task to edit content and add imagery. Depending on your technical knowledge and internal resources, you might even decide to manage future online reports entirely in-house. That’s not to say that you can’t tap into your creative agency for a ‘concept’ or input with messaging, copywriting, graphics and illustrations. Not forgetting your executive summary, which might still be delivered in the traditional way!

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About the author...

Steve Harvey

Client Director. Captain of calm. Armchair football fan. It’s 18 years since Steve turned his back on investment banking (and any chance of early retirement) to plough his own furrow in creative services. Experienced. Knowledgeable. Meticulously well-organised. Keeps Fabrik running like a well-oiled machine. His temperament is cool. But his peppermint tea is piping hot (with a Fox's Crunch Cream on the side).

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