Your annual report is a great ‘shop window’ for your brand and its success stories, so it’s important to give it the attention it needs.
“Your annual report (indeed, any corporate report) is a great ‘shop window’ for your brand and its success stories, so it’s important to give it the attention it needs,” says Clare. “While we do have clients who only want a printed report, we always aim to open a discussion about their needs, audience, the available channels and what’s appropriate for them.”
“A microsite does enable a client to add value, enhancing the user experience for their audience,” says Andy. “Print and online aren’t mutually exclusive, and actually work brilliantly together to tell clear and interesting stories. With an online platform, you can share rich content and a level of detail that’s not possible in print. You can add a level of dynamism too, with interactive visuals, maps and charts that allow the user to filter and compare new and historic information.
It’s not about uploading pages of your printed report to a site. Think about the information that users want and how they will use it.
Good design is all-important
Jez says: “When you’re considering a microsite for your annual report, it’s important that you consider how you’ll visualise data. It’s not about uploading pages of your printed report to a site. Think about the information that users want and how they will use it. A considered site structure and menu will enable them to get to what they need quickly. Interactive charts and infographics can help you to tell specific stories. Download, bookmarking and media sharing functionality will add to the user-friendly functionality and help to expand your audience.”
“But there are all sorts of things you can do with print,” says Jez. “I remember that the Islamic Development Bank’s annual report team hadn’t used infographics before they started working with us. Our infographics brought the first report we did for them to life, and they haven’t looked back. We’ve also used the inspiring forms of Islamic art and pattern to enhance their reports and highlight themes.”
Andy says, “I think the tactile, reassuring qualities of print will always play an important part. For one thing, a prestigious-looking printed piece can bring physical impact and presence to a big event, such as an AGM. And in some cultures and institutions, sending someone an important printed publication shows that you value them – it’s a personal gesture. Remember too, that the internet is pretty inaccessible in some parts of the world, which can rule out a microsite as a viable option.”
For me, the annual reports with the most impact and relevance are the ones that tell powerful stories.
Consider your content
“For me, the annual reports with the most impact and relevance are the ones that tell powerful stories,” explains Sally. “There will be a few clear themes that flow throughout the piece which provide structure to the narrative, but everything will be clear and succinct. The key is to keep it simple and include impactful headings and quotes.
While themes are useful for structuring online content, linking stories and giving users another way to find what they need, it’s important to be aware that people read online content differently to print. That’s another reason why putting your printed report online exactly as it appears in print won’t work as well as crafting a microsite.
Online you need to use smaller packets of information, more signposting to help users to find what they need quickly, and content needs to be served up in different formats, including videos. You must work harder to capture and keep your audience’s attention. And offer ways for them to share or bookmark content.”
Once you’ve invested in a microsite you can continue to update it with new information, case studies and data. Keep it relevant by sharing and promoting it.
Making the most of your investment
“Once you’ve invested in a microsite you can continue to update it with new information, case studies and data. Keep it relevant by sharing and promoting it,” explains Andy. “We build microsites on user-friendly content management systems so clients can do changes easily themselves.
“Using a detailed analytics report, you may discover that there’s no need to produce a new site for the following year’s report,” Andy continues. “Use what the data tells you to adapt, refine and tailor content to the user journey. What are users most interested in? Where have they spent the most time on the site? For example, if they are mainly reading country-specific case studies, why are they driven to these – do they coincide with company events? Is this information they can’t get anywhere else or is it useful that it sits in context within the report?”
“As time goes on I can see us creating a reporting section on a client’s dot com site to include its annual report – and other reporting – microsites,” says Clare. “As well as creating a consistent brand experience, this would build the client’s value to users as a trusted and rich source of information.”
For me, the big benefit of a microsite is the precious user data that you can access. You can see how many people have viewed your report, in which languages, where they’re located and which pages were the most visited and shared.
Adapting to your reader
“Talking about building value – don’t forget the importance of multi-language microsites,” Jez says. “We’ve been producing microsites in at least two different languages for some time. In the right hands, cultural design issues, font and colour variations can all be made to work to your advantage and help to build user loyalty. It also enables you to save money on printing a report in different languages.”
“For me, the big benefit of a microsite is the precious user data that you can access,” says Clare. “You can see how many people have viewed your report, in which languages, where they’re located and which pages were the most visited and shared. It’s all powerful information to help you shape your future approach.”
“Producing reports in a sustainable way is a huge consideration,” says Andy. “With a microsite, you need only do a small print run, but you can use other printed and digital products to support this. For example, clients often opt for a short, printed digest of their annual report findings – which acts as a teaser or taster of the ‘edited highlights’. Increasingly we’re also producing USB cards that are loaded with a pdf of the full report in different languages. If you are producing your report for an international event, such as an AGM, these lightweight options can also prove very popular with delegates travelling long distances. It’s a great example of print and digital working seamlessly together.”
If you have different in-house teams working on different reports, using a single creative agency will enable you to create consistent, high quality products.
Plan ahead for success
“I’d also stress how important the down time is that you have between reports,” Clare points out. “This is the time for doing user surveys, looking at online analytics and getting ahead of the game on your next report. Think about the theme you might give it. Assemble your design team and stakeholders to talk through ideas – you don’t need to have a brief ready.”
Clare continues, “If you have different in-house teams working on different reports, using a single creative agency will enable you to create consistent, high quality products. Growing long-term relationships in this way is the optimum for agency and client alike. Your agency can help you to take a fresh approach to what you do and you should be able to negotiate better rates and a framework for continuous work.”
Do a review of your annual report each year, informed by up-to-date online analytics from the report microsite. Change things, be ambitious and open to new ideas. This fresh approach will show in the end result, and will make your audience take notice.