Traditionally, the annual report was a document meant to satisfy rules and regulations concerning financial disclosure for public companies. But with public companies’ performance readily available online, the annual report now serves another opportunity: for companies to share their brand, their information and ultimately their story.
There’s a lot we can understand from creative companies that have learned to see the annual report as more than just a financial compliance document. Regardless of compliance, communicating a clear and confident mission is vital for all brands, and within the pages of the annual report, companies have the exciting opportunity to communicate their positioning and values to shareholders, potential investors and the public in one expertly designed document. In 2015, the annual report has become the all-encompassing communications vehicle for any company.
Here are three important reasons why companies, public and private, should be grasping at the opportunity to tell their story through the annual report:
1. The annual report is a CEO-driven document.
Principal Financial’s CEO letter in their interactive 2014 annual report.
The annual report is the one document a company produces told strictly through the voice of the CEO. This transparency is important in cementing the company’s values to specific audiences who can look back to the annual report in order to understand transparent company strategies from the year before and for the year ahead.
2. The annual report is a source of strategic communication.
The online table of contents for International Paper’s 2014 annual report.
The annual report has become so much more than a booklet of dense facts and figures. Online annual reports are quickly becoming the norm, and with that the opportunity to combine other facets of the company with financial disclosure. Headlines like “environmental citizenship,” “company culture,” “nonprofit work,” and “team building” are now a regular part of many an annual report, making it the best source of strategic communication for the company.
3. The annual report is a brand-elevating vehicle.
McCormick exemplifies brand presence in their 2014 annual report.
In the end, there is no better company-produced document to better position and exemplify your brand than the annual report. Its innate ability to encompass the exact information you want your audience to know (and precisely what you don’t want them to know) makes the AR the perfect vehicle to position and cement your brand values in order to communicate with specific audiences all year long. Malaysia location