Annual reports: Creating a digital experience

19 November 20207min read

Your Annual Report is more than just an annual compliance. It is a vital communication tool for your business. It is the opportunity to celebrate your company's successes, showcase your company’s culture and deliver your key messaging to all your organisation's stakeholders. Digitally, your Annual Report becomes far more engaging.

Getting your Annual Report organised can be daunting and of course challenging no matter how many times you’ve delivered it. As a Project Manager you're not only tasked with communicating the right message to your audience but getting these people to read, engage and share your report with others.

The rise of digital Annual Reports

It's no surprise that traditional, printed Annual Reports are quickly being overshadowed by digital, interactive versions that are not only more engaging, but are an avenue to rapidly increase your readership and overall ROI.

More businesses are now investing in creating digital Annual Reports as more readers turn to digital platforms to consume their content. With digital, Annual Reports can be dramatically transformed to become digital marketing assets that come with all the added benefits that digitalisation offers.

It’s also no surprise that management are in favour of digital Annual Reports as they give your asset and organisational investment more accountability. As a manager, by going digital you can also track and report more easily on your report's performance. This gives you the power to see who is reading your report content, when and from what device. This data is invaluable if you wish to continuously improve your reports performance year on year.

How to transform your Annual Report with digital

Digital Annual Reports deliver an entirely different user experience (UX) for the online reader. It creates a platform to captivate, surprise and intrigue your readers with the latest digital functionalities. It seems every year companies are getting better and more innovative in this space.

To ensure you are keeping on trend, my team and I have listed a few ways that you can optimise your report for digital:

1. Dynamic content: You can embed videos, create audio elements, use animations and interactions as an alternative way to show your story as opposed to telling it in slabs of text. This makes it easier for your reader to digest what you have to say. It also keeps your reader engaged for longer.

See how true to Twitter fashion this Annual Report uses video to captivate:
Twitter's 2018 Annual Report

Twitter Annual Report

2. Data visualisation:
Turn your data from static to dynamic with data visualisation. Your digital report allows you to bring to life the data that matters, highlighting it to your readers eye in an engaging way. Digital also allows you to bring depth to your data with links to inspiring blog posts or other related content.

See how Vodafone's total on-brand report visualised important data:
Vodafone 2019 Annual Report

Vodaphone Annual Report

3. Create movement: Movement is a big trend in the online space already. Your Annual Report can be made more fun to consume with subtle movements that drive your reader to explore your entire report. See how pharmaceutical giant Roche use movement to create interest.

If you’re like me you’ll find it hard to stop scrolling and exploring this report:
Roche 2018 Annual Report

Roche Annual Report

4. Boost interactivity: Parallax scrolling is a big trend boosting interactivity for digital reports. It allows your reader to navigate their own path. Scroll speed is a key feature of parallax scrolling that helps your users interact with your content.

The Habitat for Humanity annual report is the perfect example of parallax scrolling done right:

Habitat for Humanity 2018 Annual Report

Habitat for Humanity Annual Report

5. Mobile responsive: Single page Annual Reports are a hot reporting trend. Not just because of the intuitive navigation allowing the reader to scroll logically through the report, but because this makes them highly mobile responsive. With the trends of mobile usage also going up, make sure your Annual Report is ready to be displayed optimally on mobile.

See how Operation Smile use a one page approach:
Operation Smile's 2017 Annual Report.

Operation Smile Annual Report

A little goes a long way

While there are endless ways you can present your report with digital, it's important to remember that often less is more. There is a real science into capturing attention and it's important that you find the balance of keeping your audience engaged without distracting or overwhelming them. You still want to ensure your key messages are easily interpreted and received.

“There is a real science into capturing attention and it's important that you find the balance of keeping your audience engaged without distracting or overwhelming them.”

The digital rewards

Beyond the functionality of digital reports, taking your report digital can kick more goals for your company:

  • It’s environmentally sustainable: By taking your report digital you not only save on print costs but you are producing this project in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way.
  • You create an accessible report: With digital you can ensure you’re meeting the AA compliance and deliver a report that is equally accessible for all to consume.
  • You increase your reports availability: Your Annual Report can be optimised to be read on multiple devices. No need to lug around heavy tombs of paper to your next meeting.
  • You have created another marketing asset: It's no secret that Annual Reports are increasingly being used for marketing purposes. But with digital your readers can share your content with hundreds within an instant.

Tips for promoting your Annual Report online

Once you’ve created your Annual Report online, a critical factor to its success will be how you go about promoting and sharing the content. After investing time and money in this asset, here are some quick ways to get more ROI on your project:

  • SEO: You can optimise your reports findability (SEO). This doesn’t just mean focusing on keywords within your content, but focusing on the overall user experience and creating content that answer your stakeholders questions. It also means ensuring your webpage has a fast load speed and is optimised on mobile. Here is a quick beginners guide to SEO if this is an area you’d like to learn more about.
  • Links: Make sure your Annual Report is easy to find with links. It seems simple but it's a common mistake of most companies to not prominently promote their Annual Report on their own website. Consider adding a subtle pop-up or dedicating a space to this report on your homepage.
  • Share with your database: If your organisation has a database with relevant stakeholders, you can send your digital report out with an engaging email that gets your stakeholders excited. Try segmenting your database and sending personalised messages depending on the type of stakeholder.
  • Social media: Social media is the new word of mouth and what better way to spread your amazing report to those who are already loyal followers of your company with platforms such as LinkedIn and even targeted Facebook advertisement. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is powerful because you can send a targeted InMail of your report to those key stakeholders you’re really looking to impress.
  • Press release: Your report can be an opportunity to secure some free PR. It's common practice for journalists to publish stories from data and statistics. With digital you can highlight important newsworthy statistics to journalists.

“A critical factor to your Annual Report’s success will be how you go about promoting and sharing the content.”

More Annual Report resources

Delivering your organisation's Annual Report is a big task and if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed don’t be. We've created resources to help you get on track and deliver a report beyond your stakeholders' expectations.

  • Annual Report Design Inspiration: Create an Annual Report that truly reflects your brand and organisation. Focusing on design strengthens your reports ability to become a comprehensive marketing tool that captivates the attention of your audience. Read the full blog post here.
  • Writing your Annual Report- the ultimate content list: Get started on the right foot to writing an engaging report this year. Learn how to tell a story that ties all your components together. Achieve more with your copy by reading this post.
  • Download the ultimate Annual Report Checklist to step you through every part of the Annual Reporting process. Keep on track and on task by downloading your free checklist here.

Need more inspiration? Take a look at some of the Annual Reports we have worked on:

WIRE Annual Report

Banking Code Compliance Monitoring Committee (CCMC) Annual Report

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Annual Report

Achieve more with your Annual Report this year

If you're looking to achieve more with your Annual Report this year, our experienced team is here to help. Our team of graphic designers, web developers, content writers and publication strategists can help you maximise your audience's engagement with fully integrated and interactive communications and designs.

Click here for more information on our Annual Report design packages.