COMMENTS ON MESSAGE CLARITY
What makes an annual report score 10 points in this category:
Easily Identifiable Take-Aways. Readers don’t want to hunt for what the company is saying. The best practice is to state early and state often what the key messages are for the organization for the year ahead. This is not the time to be bashful—investors, unlike the media and customers—don’t carry a cynicism toward your messaging unless they feel that it’s a significant departure from reality and/or what they expect. This is the audience who wants to hear pitch, so don’t be shy. Create graphic elements, one-page summaries, and heavily re-used themes (“Feeding America one child at a time.”)
Trends we noted this year:
Excellent Use of Implicit Messaging, but... There needs to be a balance between creativity engaging the reader and creativity obfuscating the message. Every single reader, upon interview, should be able to cite the three key messages the book is trying to put forth. There’s a story that’s being told, and it has to be strikingly clear.
A good approach is to start by convincingly conveying to readers the leadership, introspect, and stature of the organization. When a very humble, matter-of-fact, and almost subdued message is prepared fully grounded in numbers and data, you have a true winner over grandiose storytelling. Be sure to convince readers that the company very much “runs its fingers through the soil” of the fields its customers are tending. In other words, it really empathizes with its client and knows at an emotional level exactly what pain and needs they’re feeling. Then play to the company’s inherent strengths—demonstrating the broad scope of its business while also exhibiting the leverage it holds in understanding the emerging needs of customers and how to best respond to those developing opportunities.