The Future of Annual Report Design

For the last 15 years or so, we have seen a steady decrease of the once prolific printed and traditionally distributed annual report – a once significant document for companies to communicate their value and vision to their shareholders and other stockholders

Has the printed annual report gone the way of the dodo? Is there still value in communicating this information? With all of the distribution options available today, it can be confusing to know which option is best.

There is without question value in communicating with your stockholders and other partners. The report has always been one of the best vehicles for bridging the gaps between where a company is today and where they could be. Not only does the report share the accomplishments of a company, it can garner strength and trust with shareholders, employees and company partners. The real question is, is a printed or PDF annual report design the best vehicle to truly engage your audience? Oftentimes these lengthy reports can be overwhelming, difficult to navigate, and dry, causing the recipient to simply file the report away not to be seen again until cleaning day, or just sent directly to the trash.

The Simplification of Annual Reports
More and more, companies are finding ways to print and share only a 10K, with or without a cover, and others are producing what is called a 10K wrap. This is a hybrid of past reports that contained full narratives which communicated the company past, present and future value and vision. The 10k wrap still has a narrative section that might consist of a letter from the CEO and some key facts and financial information, but then the document transitions directly into the 10K.  Although many feel that the 10k alone is the brains of the report, in the end, this simplified version of the traditional annual report eliminates the heart of the messaging because there is not enough real estate to showcase it.

Two major reasons for the decision to simplify and print fewer pages are typically to save money and to be more environmentally conscious. But should these reasons be the drivers to reduce the quality of information shared? Of course money and the environment should be a factor, but they should not replace the heart of the company’s story.

Simplified annual reports lack allure, and do not intrigue the user enough to actually read through them. In the end, when compared to the multi-dimensional annual report online, the interactive version is better equipped to more completely convey the company’s direction and vision.

Enter the interactive annual report, or WebAR…

The Future of Annual Reports
Since the advent of the internet and corporate websites, much of the financial information that shareholders need to make prudent decisions and to plan their investment strategies is available at the touch of a button, updated minute-by-minute online. This changes the purpose of the annual report. Or does it?

Educating and communicating value and vision is more important now than ever. The WebAR enables more engagement and better delivery of information to shareholders, employees, partners and customers.

The WebAR can aesthetically present strategic financial data and statistics in an interesting layered manner. The viewer can intuitively dive deeper in their areas of interest with the simple click of a mouse, rather than flipping through several pages of static fine print.

The WebAR can incorporate a dynamic video from key executive management or employees. The WebAR can enable public companies to not only share the financial details, but share their story, their promise and their vision in ever more compelling ways. The WebAR reaches and connects with targeted audiences directly at their desktop, all while saving on printing costs and being environmentally sound.

Although many companies will continue to generate printed versions, the WebAR should absolutely be considered as another more progressive method of presentation to go alongside it. The WebAR encourages improved participation and understanding of the report’s content, which in turn promotes increased transparency and trust in the company behind it.

The need to be transparent and communicate with one another is more important than ever. If you have questions about your upcoming annual report needs or strategy, let’s talk! Please call us at Rain Visual Strategy + Design. We would love to help you share your story.

We invite you to explore our Case Study describing our annual report experience with NV Energy or view NV Energy’s WebAR here.

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