Preparing an Annual Report is a big and often stressful task. If you are charged with the responsibility of preparing the Annual Report for your organisation, you will be managing complex stakeholders, large volumes of data and information, ensuring legal requirements are met… and trying to pull all of this together into a polished and professional report.
Whether this is your first, or your tenth Annual Report, before diving in it’s important to take the time to plan your approach to ensure deadlines are met and errors are avoided. Get off on the front foot this year with our list of 10 considerations for the Annual Report season.
1) Know your Annual Report timelines
If you are a publicly listed company, you’ll know ahead of time when the shareholders meeting is scheduled. Work backwards from this date to plan your content, financials, concept design, layout design, proofreading, printing and delivery. It often helps to prepare a basic project plan to give everyone a visual snapshot of what’s happening and when. Make sure you allow some buffer time in case there is a hold up anywhere along the line, to minimise stress and ensure that a delay at one stage doesn’t jeopardise the project. Don’t forget to allow adequate time for proof reading, thorough edits are critical to minimise risk and ensure a polished report.
Don’t run out of time. Our Annual Report Checklist will help you plan the production of your report from start to finish.
2) Know your stakeholders
Jot down a list of everyone in your organisation who will be involved in the preparation of the Annual Report, from the board, to the CEO, finance and marketing. Document them and find out their availability during the preparation period. Knowing that a key board member is taking a 3 week holiday to Europe slap bang in the middle of your content preparation phase can be good information to know ahead of time!
3) Lock in your Annual Report designer early
It takes time to pull together content for the Annual Report however that shouldn’t stop you from getting your creative ducks all in a line. Chat to your designer about the timeline and give them a brief about the project in advance. You can get started on the creative concept and styling for report pages well ahead of time. Designers can also help you by recommending print methods and timelines for your project plan. Some may even manage the print production quoting and process for you, helping with your budget allocations for the project.
Get some tips on Annual Report design trends here.
4) Know your print quantities
In the printing world, the print method is usually determined by timeline and volume. It’s the classic quality, cost and speed debate: you can’t have all three. Basically, if you need it printed quickly or you only require a small quantity of copies – digital printing is the way to go but the cost per print is generally higher. If you are printing a large volume (over 500), you are best to allow yourself the extra time to get the documents printed offset. This is considered a higher quality result and generally allows more selection in paper stock, print techniques and colours. Subscribe to our blog if you want to learn more about how to design and printing tips.
5) Supply clearly labelled content
If you are managing the project, it is your job to pull together content from all stakeholders and pull it together in one clearly labelled document. Generally you’ll prepare all written content in a Word document or Google doc and financial information in Excel or Google sheet. Jot down the structure and how you see the information flows through the document. Remember, you know your organisation, your designer may not! Clearly outlining your vision for the end product will help your designer bring your vision to life.
See how to pull all that content together with our Ultimate Guide to Writing your Annual Report Content.
6) Think about version control
When there are multiple stakeholders involved, version control can be a challenge. Scribbled hand-written notes from one person, email edits from another, conflicting opinions and a sea of documents flying around doesn’t just lead to big headaches for you, it also presents a big risk for your organisation that incomplete or incorrect information slips through the cracks. As project manager it is best practice is for you to be the manager of the centralised edit document, resolve any conflicts and use markup mode to track changes from all stakeholders in the one document. For collaboration, Google docs is a great way to keep everything in one document and it allows multiple people to track their changes at the same time via the cloud.
7) Get ready for the first proof
Generally designers will be laying out your Annual Report in InDesign or another design program and supplying a proof to you as a PDF to review. This means you can no longer make edits in your original document.
Talk to your designer and discuss a method for supplying edits ahead of time. Use PDF markup mode to show where edits are required. For large sections of text replacements, supply page and paragraph references and supply to text in an unformatted word or text mode. Your designer will love you if you can collate and review all edits before supplying them and it will save time and your budget when it comes to edit rounds!
8) Avoid budget blow out
The main area where we often hear clients have had bad experience and heard the dreaded words “out of scope” usually comes with the rounds of edits. This can be avoided by managing and collating all stakeholders edits before supplying edits back to the designer. We all know the first round is unlikely to be perfect, but the effective management of edits and sending them through to the designer in bulk, not dribs and drabs, will go a long way to preventing budget blow out. Another handy hint is to allow budget for colour proofs to insure against no nasty surprises, or budget blow outs, at the end of the project!
9) Protect sensitive information
As you are preparing your company’s Annual Report, a lot of highly sensitive information is likely to be handled by different people within your organisation, as well as external service providers. Consider getting your chosen design company and printer to sign a non-disclosure statement. This will ensure that the designer will know to be more careful with your sensitive information. Most decent design studios and agencies should have confidentiality clauses in their employment contracts to cover this off.
10) Get your imagery right
If you have dreams of big glossy image pages the break up your chapters, pull them together early and get your designer to check the quality. You might find that the resolution does not allow for nice big image pages, which will mean you either have to go digging for other versions or purchase stock imagery. This can take time and cause a lot of stress, so best to get this out of the way early!
Want to achieve more?
Got any questions or want some more information about designing your Annual Report? Give our team a call on 03 9347 7828 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.