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Annual Report Best Practices2009 Vision Awards Annual Report Competition Results

Best Practices in Annual Report Design & Communications
As Updated & Compiled from Award-Winning Annual Reports of LACP's 2009 Vision Awards Competition



The following is a list of some of the most common features included in top-scoring annual reports:

  • Full-Color Printing Process Throughout.  Frankly, nothing beats a full-color print process, no matter how cleverly spot-color and one-color may be used.  Virtually all entries offered a full-color report narrative and, increasingly, reports financials (MD&As) are receiving similar treatment.  Can’t afford the cost?  Consider dropping print volume.  
  • Financial/Metrics Tables.  A broad range of financial and metrics tables should be spread throughout the entire report—an excellent means of encapsulating a company’s performance and future prospects.   We also like the regular use of such tables within the report financials—a feature often not used as much as it could.  Tables often tell stories in a much more compelling format than just text.  

  • Financial/Metrics Charts and Graphs.  Like tables, charts and graphs are excellent story-telling devices, either for financials or other relevant metrics.  They’re also a great springboard for creativity.  Ensure they’re easily readable and maintain a consistent style.  

  • The “Unique-Factor.”  Investors prefer books that are memorable—where something sticks in their minds once the annual report is filed away.  This can include fold-outs, DVD/CD content, integrated bookmarks, a different format, and more.  Highlights have included a “road map” to a company’s future; a newspaper-style publication, and even that of a diary of the company’s fictional CEO (Jack in the Box).  

  • Corporate Thumbnail.  Unless a company is a household name, it can be unclear what an organization’s core businesses are.  Household name or not, it’s always important to summarize what the firm is doing today, where it’s doing business, and how the organization is changing.  Consider tucking this information on the inside front cover for easy discovery.  Language should be non-technical and easily understandable by all.  

  • Perfect-Style Binding and Spine Content.  With perfect-style binding, hot glue is used to adhere an annual report’s pages together while allowing the placement of text on the book’s spine.  This is preferred over saddle stitch-style binding where, similar to magazines, staples pierce the spine of the book to hold content together.  With perfect-style binding, annual reports can include the company name and year of the report on the spine, which is a major boon to the significant population of investors who file annual reports on shelves and count on easy access to the materials.  Pay a few cents more per book and go with perfect’ll look much more professional.  

  • Board Thumbnails/Profiles.  More than ever before, shareholders want to know whether a company’s Board is trustworthy.  Are they the CEO’s long-time golf buddies or objective analysts with a track record of effective leadership?  Include a nice summary profile about the company’s Board of Directors, providing their business background and length of term on the current board.  

  • Table of Contents.  We really like Tables of Contents—while you may know your book inside-out, others won’t.  It’s important to provide navigation aids to help readers find exactly the information they’re seeking. 
  • Employee Feature.  One leg to a building a balanced annual report is to showcase the rank-and-file employee population.  Since they’re an important stakeholder base, employees need to know that management considers them to be the stars.  Not only that, but investors feel greater confidence in knowing that the top brass are working hard to build a strong employee morale.  So tell their story in at least one two-page spread...let readers know how their unique talents help to distinguish the company from other utilities.

  • Community Feature.  It’s always a good idea to at least have some token content about the company and its interactions with and responsibilities to the communities of which it’s a part.  Again, a two-page spread is typically most appropriate.  Esteemed brands are typically those which have gained public mindshare on how they contribute.  

  • Product/Service Feature.  It’s smart to speak about developments in the products and services a company offers.  Surprisingly, this is often omitted.  Be sure to not just catalog all of what your organization sure to also emphasize the unique position they own in the marketplace as a differentiated offering.  


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Updated August 23, 2010