When it comes to marketing, visual content is top-notch. It reaches your audience quickly and in a way they can truly engage with; as a result, you might see increased traffic to your site, a boost in leads, a boost in closed deals, or all of these!
But the power of visual content doesn’t begin and end with your company’s target market. There’s another eager audience within your own organization, craving visual means of understanding processes, policies, and expert subject matter — your employees. And while there are many ways to visually engage your colleagues and employees, an annual report may be one avenue that you haven’t previously considered.
In the US, nonprofits are required to provide a certain level of transparency on request — annual reports can be an effective way to do that. Large corporations may only share their reports with shareholders, but they can be a valuable tool for sharing throughout the company too (even if the level of disclosure is a little less for different audiences).
What Should Go Into My Annual Report?
Straddling the line of external and internal communication, annual reports are an excellent way to show off your achievements to devoted customers/donors and devoted employees alike. If it’s important to you that your audience pays attention to, understands, and retains the information in your annual report, increasing the amount of visual content is a strong way to go.
Whether you modify your reports to share more or less with each intended audience, practically everyone can agree that seeing a company’s achievements is far more impactful than only having the option to read about them.
Keeping your target audience for each report in mind, try including information like:
- Where you operate
- Where your customer base is located
- Company values
- Areas of focus
- Industry rankings
- Major initiatives, projects, and accomplishments
- Insight into leadership activities and successes
- Year-over-year revenue and/or profit
- Personnel/departmental updates
- Marketing and social presence
How Should I Visualize My Information?
The rules of data visualization are around for a reason. Your 5% compound annual growth rate can’t be shown in a pie chart, because they only show a piece of a whole — not a growth, which indicates something is more than it used to be. Similarly, be careful about juxtaposing numerical data onto strange shapes, like a map or a person — even with the best of intentions, this can distort the data and affect your viewers’ perceptions of the information.
In addition to choosing the right technical application, be sure to consider overall aesthetic as it plays to your audience. Fun and playful illustrations may not be the right choice for your CEO (…or maybe they are!), while an overly minimalist approach might bore your employees if they don’t have further incentive to review the report.
How Much is Too Much?
Your visual annual report can reduce the amount of time it takes your audience to absorb the information you’re sharing. That being said, adding too many visuals can be a turn-off that loses your viewers just as quickly as a text-only report.
If you’re having trouble letting go of that elephant illustration or the 3 sets of revenue history charts, put yourself in the viewer’s desk chair. Does the elephant explain more about your work with local zoos, or could the illustration be working harder to show that? Is your annual report focusing on all of your company’s history, or just a brief recap of what’s happened since your rebrand last year?
If the answer is that your visual is enhancing your message and driving your narrative, you can probably keep it. If it’s just fun, or just makes the report look more robust, you can probably scrap it.
The potential for visual communication within your organization is vast. While a highly visual annual report might benefit you, high-quality execution is the key to making sure your information isn’t ignored. With each business’ unique needs come a unique set of possibilities — and we’d love to talk through them with you.