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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, which you may wish to consider for use in your own:

  • Innovation Feature.  Content that describes what makes a company unique is highly valued. Otherwise, the annual report—and the firm it’s representing—fades quickly from readers’ memories.  It’s often said that investors reap a several-fold higher return from #1 companies in an industry versus the #2 player, e.g. Coke versus Pepsi.  With that in mind, prove to us why and how you’re the best at what you do.     
  • Glossary/Appendix.  When dealing with technical or industry-specific terminology, it may be worth including a small glossary or appendix that defines and describes the terms being used.  Individual investors typically are generalists and need insight into the industry your organization supports.  Who’s better suited to provide a properly oriented education than you?  

  • CD/DVD Media.  While this feature is much less common since the economy hit the doldrums and the Internet supplanted CDs as the electronic medium of choice, there’s still something special about holding a tangible, physical piece of media in your hands.  Regular content for CDs/DVDs supplementing annual reports include organizational videos, PowerPoint presentations, commercials, broadcast news coverage, and even music (e.g. a university and its fight song).  USB-based drives are more popular at the moment, but for a cheaper bang-for-the-buck, the CD-ROM and DVD remain valuable tools.  

  • Coupon.  Some consumer-oriented companies include coupons for shareholders hoping to purchase their products and services.  As applicable, this is a very nice touch and another conduit with which to build relationships.  

  • Tabs/Navigation Aids.  Tabs cut into an annual report (larger reports) or color-coded sections help investors flipping through annual reports to quickly find the information they want.  If a reader perceives that an annual report is obfuscated and difficult to navigate, that impression can transcend into an impression of an unorganized company.  

  • Transcendent Theme.  Books should follow a nice rhythm and consistent style.  The theme does not have to be overt, but it does need to convey continuity and organizational integration by focusing on the company’s story from various perspectives and viewpoints.  

  • Unique Footprint.  Unique book sizes can help distinguish annual reports.  However, going to extremes can be perceived as gimmicky.  Try adding or subtracting (the latter preferred) an inch or two from the usual dimensions.  

  • Collectors’ Series.  Extraordinarily ambitious books are available in a collectors’ series, e.g. different covers, color styling, etc…  While clearly not necessary, it can work to create buzz for an annual report.  
  • Separate/Detachable Financials Section.  A controversial practice, some books include a detachable MD&A.  We typically think it’s the right decision to keep the book integrated.  If the Financials are separate, they must be presentable as a standalone element.  

  • Integrated Folder/Fold-Out.  Some reports include expanded covers that can either serve as a folder or at minimum an extended data sheet.  

  • Consistent Paper Quality.  Many books move from a highly polished report narrative to a very low quality printing of the company’s MD&A.  While this approach has some advantages, it doesn’t outweigh the disadvantages.  We’re glad to see books which maintain a smooth transition from narrative to financials.    


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Updated August 23, 2010