A lot of us in this business have come by a particular quote — the best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. What does this mean? Just that your target audience doesn’t want to be sold to. They want to be spoken to. They want to be told a compelling story that makes them feel something. This is what determines whether they buy into your brand or not, and yes, it applies to collaterals across the board, even functional legal requirements like your brand’s annual reports. Believe me when I say that I’ve read more of these than I can count, and not many stood out. Here’s why — they didn’t speak to me.
Sure, they are primarily meant to give your stakeholders a picture of your financial situation, achievements, and future plans, but I believe when done well, annual reports can be so much more. Last year, my communication firm bagged an award for a popular mental health NGO’s annual report. And I’d say the magic ingredient we used in our strategy was storytelling. I was certain I didn’t want it to be run-of-the-mill. So, throughout the document, we told a story that’s authentic, creative, and stood as a testament to the brand’s impact.
Want to give it a shot? Just follow these steps:
- Cut out the noise
An annual report is meant to depict the highlights of the year. As a reader, I want a comprehensive yet understandable overview of the brand and its activities. And after working on multiple annual reports, I’ve realised that when you don’t complicate the story, and stick to vital information such as accomplishments, financials, and donors, your report is more likely to be received well, and more importantly, remembered.
- Plot a story
Now, plot the story into neat sections, which when read together, read like a seamless journey. In my experience, I’ve seen that alongside the usual sections, adding testimonials, human interest stories, and other elements often evoke an emotional response from the readers. Remember what I said about marketing making you feel something? This is how it’s done!
- Choose a theme
Next comes my favorite part — choosing an overarching theme, which is critical to how the report comes together. Take for example, our ‘Fireflies’ theme for the award-winning report mentioned earlier. Fireflies represent light and are symbolic of what the brand stands for — showing people light in times of darkness. This one, impactful idea was carried through the report in the headlines, the body, and the visual expression.
- Use compelling visual elements
While depicting finances with graphs is usual practice, try making it interesting with contextual graphics and relevant iconography. No one — and I mean no one — wants to read pages and pages of information, so represent it with the help of clean flow diagrams, evocative picture stories, and simple timelines. Honestly, that’s my approach to almost every collateral, and more so when you’re trying to present a year’s worth of information in one!
Finally, finish strong. End your report with a compelling CTA that’ll leave a long-lasting impact on your audience. So that’s it — with a little bit of thought and a dash of creativity, you’ll have an annual report that will effectively convey your brand’s ethos, achievements, and future plans!
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