Review, review, review

When was the last time you sat down and considered whether your Annual Report represented good value for money?

Jump to the main content area

Have you recently considered whether your Annual Report was meeting its objectives? “Objectives you cry – we're lucky if we manage to get something out to our shareholders on time”.

Do you breathe a sigh of relief when the whole process appears over – at least for another twelve months, grateful no obvious errors crept into the process at the last minute?

The process is over … or is it? Having spent time and money aren’t you going to review the success of your efforts? In fact, maybe the whole process is just starting.

Did you embark on the Annual Report process with simple compliance in mind or did you intend to use it as a key communication tool. Many companies strive to go beyond minimum reporting requirements in an attempt to reach out to existing and potential investors as well as addressing the needs of other crucial stakeholders.

Reaping the full benefits of the time, effort and budget committed to the process, ensuring the Annual Report is effectively communicating key messages to the market and your intended audiences can be a challenge. Often left to the last minute, little time is made available to review the output. How confident are you that you have understood the needs of your audience, remembered why you are communicating with them in the first place and finally assessed whether the Annual Report achieved its intended goals?

Reviewing the success of your Annual Report should be a key part of your production timetable. The following three questions should help reinforce the effectiveness of your Annual Report:

Review the needs of your audience

Having decided for whom it is that the Annual Report is being developed, think about key elements that will give your Annual Report that extra appeal:

  • Develop accountability: Does your audience understand what the company does? Did the company meet the goals it set itself in the previous year’s report?
  • Provide a context to the company’s performance: Does your audience get a sense of what it is like to operate in your sector and where the company fits within its chosen market space?
  • Forward looking information: Is your Annual Report 'dead' as soon as it has come off the print presses or does it still retain a resonance three to six months later? Is it old news or does it provide food for thought? Does it provide your audience with a route map for the challenges and opportunities facing the company in the coming year?

Review what you are trying to achieve

By far the easiest way to define the objectives of the Annual Report is to consider what you want your readers to do as a result of picking up a copy of your Annual Report:

  • Presumably you would like them to pay attention: Does you Annual Report rise to the challenge or is it destined for the bin as it leaves the mail room?
  • Positioning the business as a better investment choice: The question is better than what? Its sector peer group, other companies chasing the same investors?
  • Distinguishing between perception and reality: How do you want your investors to perceive the business?

Review how well your Annual Report was received by its intended audience

It may sound simple but take time to ask. It’s a cost effective approach, the feedback enables the Annual Report process to evolve and ultimately it helps build stronger relationships:

  • Invite several analysts to critique your report and to comment on whether its meets their needs.
  • Ask your investors what they think – pick up the phone and gauge their levels of interest – ask how it compares with what else is in the marketplace.
  • Track unsolicited feedback – did your key messages convey what you wanted them to convey?

Overall, recognise that the Annual Report is an opportunity for your company to engage with a variety of stakeholders. If you don’t take time out to review how the process works and what it is trying to achieve you are unlikely to know whether your Annual Report budget has been money wisely spent.