Annual reports are boring (but they shouldn’t be)

Planit Agency
February 28, 2014

Ask anyone if they’ve read any good annual reports lately, and you’re sure to be met with a look of disgusted confusion. The fact is: An overwhelming number of annual reports are decidedly dull. A letter from the CEO followed by some more words on pages, ending with numbers and charts. Yawn. But, your reader needn’t be bored. In fact, an annual report should be seen (and utilized) as an opportunity to reach your audience in an exciting way. To connect with them. To show them you’re much, much more than numbers. Sure, the figures need to be in there. After all, it is a “report,” and any current or potential investors will want that info. But, don’t make the mistake of missing the huge opportunity that lies beyond the data. Here are four things to remember that will put you on track to a kick-ass annual report.

1. You have a visitor.

Opportunity. Most of us eagerly wait for it. Well, here it is—knocking on your door. Invite it in! Annual reports are the perfect opportunity to share your story. Do you have a brochure? Probably. What about a website? I’ll bet you do. These mediums are known for being the place to strut your stuff. An annual report has the same power. Don’t leave it out in the cold.

2. Your audience already has tickets to the show.

I’ve attended many concerts over the years in venues ranging from arenas to intimate clubs. Lots of bands. Lots of fun. I had a ticket for every show because I wanted to see the band. In turn, most of the bands treated the audience with a performance that shouted, “Thanks for being here!” They appreciated their fans’ loyalty. You don’t need to hope your audience is interested in you—they already are. This is a big advantage, so treat it that way. Make your audience feel like rock stars.

3. Everyone likes a good story. (This is where it gets fun.)

So, you’re at a dinner party. Everyone is seated at the table enjoying their meal. You point to a serving dish and mechanically state, “Green vegetables.” Right? Of course not. You and the guests are sharing stories and anecdotes. Dialogue fills the air. There’s discussion and discourse and laughter. And don’t forget the beats of silence that punctuate the conversations (this is called “white space” in the design world). You’ll be happy to know your annual report can be the perfect dinner party. Your story is important, but no one will hear it if you don’t tell it. Engage the reader. Don’t speak at them. Make this an interaction; give them something worthy of a positive response. Is your story interesting? Is it emotionally moving? Aim for a relevant story that communicates clearly and your guests are sure to come back.

4. No one likes boring. (If you remember just one thing…!)

Without starting a debate regarding the subjectiveness of “boring,” I’ll cut to the chase: Be passionate. That’s the key. Passion isn’t boring. Remember, your audience is already on your side, so they’ll be open to your passions. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you like to hear your story? If not, no one else will be interested. Give your reader the opportunity to engage. Entice them. Be clear and informative. Touch their emotional side. Or their sense of humor. Or their curiosity. Any time you can grab your audience by the brain and heart, you’re well on your way to achieving the ultimate goal toward which we all strive: connection. There you go. The almighty annual report. Properly utilize its strength and you’ll separate yourself from the boring.