Strategy for a successful annual report design and workflow

A well-designed annual report is part of a company strategy to engage board members, stakeholders, potential investors, and customers for your company. Using good design and creative storytelling are key strategies for a successful annual report. 

Whether this is your first or tenth report taking on the responsibility for producing this important publication is a huge job. There is extensive planning, designing, and production that goes into a well-produced annual.

Graphic designer as your strategic planning partner

Hiring a graphic designer (like Ruzow Graphics) at the beginning of the process is key. Including them in strategic discussions enables them to better translate ideas into custom annual report strategy design. A graphic designer who has experience in document design — specifically annual reports is the smart way to go. This route provides you with an annual report that has more of a wow and engaging factor above and beyond the template style and looks simply following a brand guideline. This benefits companies with both an in-house marketing department as well as a company without one. Working with a graphic designer earlier in the process helps to create strong visual narratives that drive reader engagement and captivate your audience that is also true to your brand.

Here at Ruzow Graphics, we work best as a strategic planning partner in the process. We find being involved early in the process improves communication and improves the outcome for both your company.

Annual Report Workflow Process and Schedule 

A lot of organizations and companies consider creating their annual report to be an intimidating process. It doesn’t have to be this way. Great design can help you create an engaging annual report. What follows are some foolproof tips to help you plan out an annual report that can knock their socks off!

Annual Report Workflow

1. Strategy

We start by meeting with your key decision-makers to clearly outline the deliverables and outcomes your company would like to benefit from their annual report. We focus on the user experience as well as the content.

2. Content Audit

Next, we work with you to go over your copy or we can loop in our writers if you’re in need of additional copyediting support. We help organize your materials in a design-friendly way as well as suggest places where visuals will enhance your content. It is this type of support that you benefit from when you include us as collaborators.

3. Design & Layout

While we are working with your content auditing, we start the creative process of designing page templates for the content in your annual report. This will provide you a visual of the feel and look of the design that we can edit and adjust together. Once you’re happy with the overall design template, we flow in your content so we can move to the proofing stage. 

4. Proofing 

This stage should be more focused on design elements and any copy edits that do get missed in stage 2 of content audit. At this stage, providing edits is within the low-resolution PDF file we provide. We provide a document that outlines how to work with Adobe Reader/Acrobat and their commenting tools if you need some training. 

It is important to understand, the more work editing content before the layout and design stage, the less effort needed in the proofing stage. When project fees include only a defined number of revisions, reducing back and forth with the designer will keep your budget on track without extra revision fees. 

5. Printing

Our job doesn’t stop once you’ve approved the final design. We take the next step to work with your  printer of choice to bring your annual report to production and ensure the print quality of your document. We also have several trusted printers we can recommend, who have printed reports for us in the past. We want to make sure that the result will be a report you’re proud to share with employees and stakeholders.

6. Distribution & Digital

Now that you have an annual report you are proud and happy with, it’s time to share it with the world. Working with your mail department to distribute to all stakeholders can happen in digital and print form. You will want to make sure you have it available in digital format as well. You can post it on your company website, distribute it through a company newsletter, or share the highlights on your social media platforms. You have invested so much into this that it makes sense to squeeze the most you can out of it.

Infographics are a great way to tell a story

Planning tips for a smooth annual report project

  • Plan ahead: work up a schedule, line up the key contributors, and choose your designer.
  • Sum up your year: it is great to have a theme that you can carry through your report. This would demonstrate initiatives, accomplishments, and even struggles that define your year. As your designer, I will help you reimagine your accomplishments, reinforced in your copy, photographs, graphs, tables, and infographics.
  • Tackle the job of collecting content over time. As you’re writing content for your annual report, start filling a folder with photos, numbers and statements that back up your narrative. 
  • Digital, print or both? Know in advance if your report is intended for a larger digital or print in hand audience. Does your audience expect a dynamic and high quality printed report with all the press quality bells and whistles? Or is your budget aligned with a digital distribution model? The answer to this question will determine how to utilize the best of each platform to its best. Ruzow Graphics can deliver on both platforms.
  • Give Ruzow Graphics access to the resources you have collected so they can create an engaging design. Photos help tell and highlight your story, and you can break up the text with memorable quotes and well-designed charts and graphs. 
  • Stock imagery can be used when your company doesn’t have enough quality images. Tasteful use of images can help highlight the trends that helped propel you to success. I will do a search to make sure your stock image has not been used in multiple places, or for companies that are not in line with your vision.
  • Bring your data to life with infographics. Help your audience come away from your report with key takeaways that demonstrate your accomplishments by using data visualizations to place the numbers that matter front and center in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Small design tweaks can enhance your images

How to Promote and Repurpose your Annual Report to make the most out of your investment

1. Promote news and events.

Did your organization break into a new market, have a standout sales year, or lay the groundwork for years of future success? Let me know. While you’re compiling information for your report, highlight the numbers that back up your narrative and brainstorm about how this might be visualized. I can find ways to turn even the most mundane of figures into attractive displays of data.

2. Use as a pre-developed content marketing strategy.

While a print annual report is typically standard, don’t stop there. An annual report can be a great piece of content that drives website traffic, social shares and builds brand awareness when it’s distributed in a digital format. Take advantage of features you can include online or in your PDF document to make your annual report more user-friendly and engaging.

3. Engage Annual Report readers with dynamic content.

Include links to your website to elaborate on relevant services, case studies, or pages. Bake in clickable CTAs that might guide a prospective new client or investor towards the desired action. Include share links that will allow your readers to post about your report on their LinkedIn page or retweet key stats about your year. Use document navigation to allow a reader to click through the table of contents to quickly find the information they need. When your annual report lives online and in print, the opportunities for additional engagement are endless.

4. Quality design delivers a professional image.

No matter what your timeline or budget, you can always enhance your annual report with engaging design if you plan properly and know the tools at your disposal. Your annual report is a great opportunity to advance your brand and make a bold statement about your accomplishments. Don’t let it pass you by.

Professional custom or stock photography enhances your report.

For 364 days your company has been making a difference for your customers, audience, supporters, investors, and communities.

Your report needs to fully encapsulate your impact, learning, growth, and development to ensure your support in the next year. As an annual report designer, we help bring your vision to life by partnering with you and your company to brainstorm on how to make your design engaging and memorable. BOOK YOUR ANNUAL REPORT CONSULTATION even before you think you are ready to make the process not only less painful but actually kinda fun.

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