Annual Reports... Why?

Are Annual Reports still relevant? Over the last decade or so we have witnessed the demise of the annual report, at least in its traditional paper, bound, format.  Do they still matter, and if so in what form?

Annual reports used to be a treasured possession, a prized giveaway to valued stakeholders, a symbol of a company's success and achievements. If the company had a particularly good year and made a few bucks, often they were totally over the top and screamed excess (think gold emboss, foil stamp, varnishes, die cuts, late eighties, bad hair and acid wash jeans). Then along came the internet, social media, instant gratification and thing called being 'time poor'.  Suddenly a static reporting method such as a printed annual report lost its immediacy, so why would you bother printing one?  And don't they cost a fortune?  Well yeah some did, and when you can distribute digitally what's the point. Why send out to people who no longer read them and would rather look at a screen. 

Sure, all true. Today, you're likely to find a company's report buried as a pdf download somewhere in the back blocks of it's website. Then, when you do find it, it'll be the mandatory, obligatory information, presented in glorious MSWord. They are treated as a compliance done only out of necessity.

So... what does this create?  A bit of a vacuum, really.  They are boring, un interesting and read mainly by accountants. There's very few good ones out there. Opportunity anyone?  

There are some murmurings of a renaissance, some brave companies have ventured back into the water, even with a return to good old fashioned paper.  Why?  Because at the end of day the annual report is a great way to communicate with stakeholders.

Providing its done well... keep it short (often 8 or 12 pages is enough), think about different mediums including online and video, maybe even a cool fold out infographic wall chart,  Keep all the boring documentation and numbers in separate appendums, show the key info only, use great graphics. Use the annual report as way to give your stakeholders an insight into your organisation, don't bore them to death with tables of figures they don't understand. Integrate and leverage with your other media channels and maybe even promote together with a fun AGM event (yes it can be done). Here's an example of one we prepared earlier.

So, vale annual reports? Not quite.