This piece will cover the following:
- Set the project team
- Agree upon key objectives, key messages, and themes
- Outline the report
- Prepare your timeline and project plan
Answer these questions before you start on the group’s annual report
Where our tips are general considerations, we have created a checklist to guide you in producing a streamlined annual report.
If you are just getting started, you need to begin by locating key areas and goals for the project team to get started.
#1: Set the project team, roles, and responsibilities
Have you created your entire team, or unsure if you are missing something? These are the questions you should have the answer to when you kick off the project. For example, does your annual report include people from HR, Marketing, Board, Consultant, Finance, etc.?
- Have you decided upon a project lead? (In many cases, this will be the CFO, but in some instances, the project lead will be the controller/manager)
- Who will oversee the process regarding the storyline and company brand? (e.g., the head of marketing/communications, an external consultant, or a small team)
- Do you need to involve the board?
- Who provides content? (who in which department and company will provide content? It might be Development’s roadmap, HR’s employee insights, CEO’s strategy, a subsidiary’s new offering, etc.)
- Who will be the final approval of content? (You can always edit content, so from the start, agree upon who will be the last link)
- Who will help with the layout? (do you have a graphic designer internally who will have time to focus on this project, or do you need to outsource – outsourcing gives excellent results but also demand that you start early in the process)
#2: Agree upon key objective, messaging, and theme
When you have created your team, the next is to agree upon the key objective of this year’s annual report and, thereby, your theme and messaging. Base it on the answer to the two following questions, and it is always a good idea to look at the previous year’s objective and how the company reached that.
- Who will be your audience? (if it is investors, new employees, current/new stakeholders, or others?)
- What action do you want them to take when they have read it? (be specific)
In the kick-off meeting then, agree upon the following:
- What is this year’s theme (Talk with the CEO, board, and annual report partners, and look at how to align it with the following year)
- What are the key accomplishments you want to share? (Talk with directors across the company and locate the top accomplishments that align with your strategy)
- How can you communicate your purpose and value throughout the report (Ensure to communicate in a way that shows it from your stakeholders’ point of view – make sure it is authentic and not ‘what sounds good’)
- Identify your key messages (Based on the question above, identify the key messages you want to portray throughout the report. Thereafter, locate the stories you need to support these)
- Do your financial results support your story? (This close to year-end, you should already know about your results and whether they support your story – if not, rethink your messaging.)
- How should the visual brief be? (Do you need new photographs, infographics, etc.?)
#3 Outline the annual report
What should you include in the report? Executive summary, a letter from the CEO, a letter from the chairman, an ESG report, etc. It all depends on whom you are talking to. But the key is to decide upon this in advance, which will outline the way you use the project plan.
- The CEO/Chairman letter (As mentioned above, this is often the most read part of the annual report, but should you include the chairman)
- Case studies (Who can be the face of your product’s functionalities and support your vision, mission, and purpose statements?)
- Highlight pages & key events (Key accomplishments, reached goals, new initiatives, or other key facts from the previous year)
- Strategy (product, market review, outlook)
- Environmental, Social, and Governance (Ensure you have this one ready, and look into how other companies in your field fill it out, as many people today measure a company’s performance on this part too.
- Thank you page or shareholder information (Are you an NPG, do you have important partners, are you a noted company – these pages depend on the industry you are in)
#4 Prepare your timeline and project plan
There is only one thing left: get the practicalities in place for the project plan.
- What is the budget?(Whether you use external agencies, printing, graphics, consultants, or others – the budget will determine the possibilities)
- What is the deadline? (Start by setting the end date – and work backward toward the start to develop a realistic timeframe for all deliverables)
- When do you need the first draft of the written content? (We recommend writing and having everything proofread before the year-end. Then, you have room for error-checking the numbers, unforeseen elements like new risks, a delay in collecting numbers, etc.)
- Locate dependencies (Do you need interviews, or are you dependent on the final Christmas sale – ensure these are visible for the team deadlines.)
- Sign off on content (Whether it is the board, the CEO, the CFO, or others – be aligned entirely on the end date and make room for last-minute changes)
- Make a transparent review process (who will be the reviewers of every part, who will have the final say, and how many rounds of edits do you want room for?)
The only thing left now is dividing tasks and locating all the areas you can do without the numbers. Go through last year’s report to see what worked. Can you re-use the format? Whether your group is starting your financial reporting or you are just seeking inspiration, we have shared an excel template for getting started today. However, do you already have project planning tools like Monday, Asana, or Trello that you can use across the company? Then we recommend building your timeline, division of tasks, and project plan there and just using our template for inspiration.