How to Create an Annual Report: 6 Steps to Adopt Now

Annual Finance Report and Sales Metrics

The start of the year is when companies create their annual report. It’s a great document to promote your company to stakeholders, both internal and external.

This is why your annual report design needs to be clear, precise, and attractive – like the example below – to keep readers engaged and to share a favorable image of your brand.

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This post explains the steps you need to take to create an annual report that highlights your brand story and gives stakeholders the impetus to continue working with your company.

2023 Annual Report
2023 Annual Report – Venngage

1. Essential Elements to Create an Annual Report

When you create annual reports, you need to keep a few elements in mind. Here are the essential pages that should be included in every report.

Letter from the CEO

Opening your annual report with a letter from the CEO legitimizes the document and creates a connection between stakeholders and the people behind your brand.

In this annual clinic report, you can see how the CEO’s letter outlines the work the company has been doing and gives a brief glimpse into what to expect in the report.

Letter from the CEO - Template
Letter from the CEO – Template Venngage

Note how the letter isn’t too long, the point is to give people a reason to continue reading the report while giving a general overview of what will be shared in the ensuing pages.

Mission Statement

Alongside a message from C-Suite staff, add a mission statement to your report. This will create a connection between what your company has been doing and what your goals are.

Adding an image with the statement is also a good idea – it gives your report a human element that makes your company relatable and capitalizes on relationship selling.

Company Growth

The whole point of creating an annual report is to show the successes your company has had over the past year.

This is where you can tap into data storytelling by adding graphs, charts, and infographics to your report, as in this example.

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Operations infographics
Operations infographics – Venngage

Don’t list out numbers and expect readers to understand why they’re important. On the other hand, huge blocks of text will be labor-intensive to read.

Use data collection tools to put together information and then design graphs that tell your company’s story succinctly and make your report easy to absorb.

2. Create an Annual Report Cover Page

Your report needs a cover page that is attractive but also gives readers an idea of what to expect.

Is there a theme for the report, or a certain point you want to highlight? The cover page is an excellent way to demonstrate this.

You can use an aspirational image as the cover, or a literal depiction of your company, like in the example below, or use colors and shapes to evoke abstract emotions.

Corporate performance annual report
Corporate performance annual report

3. Create Graphics for the Annual Report

We’ve alluded to the importance of using graphics before and that really can’t be overstated when creating annual reports.

Stakeholders don’t have the time or energy to read endless paragraphs of text. Something needs to break the monotony – and that something is graphics.

Now, graphics don’t only mean images – though you should add some throughout your report. Images of key staff members and events help to humanize your brand.

You can also include illustrations to add some quirkiness to your report, as long as that is in keeping with your brand ethos. Use brand tracking to stay up-to-date on your branding efforts.

Other graphic elements, such as icons, make the reading process easier. You can see how the use of icons in this report makes the information more meaningful.

Financial budgeting - Venngage
Financial budgeting – Venngage

4. Use Data When Creating Annual Reports

Data is a necessary part of creating a good annual report. Numbers, graphs, and charts share your brand story and successes.

The right data story, well-told, will give stakeholders the impetus to continue supporting your company.

When you have small amounts of data, designing a few graphs is enough to share the information with readers.

But if you’ve had a busy year of growth and expansion, you may have numerous data points that can’t be shared in a single graph. That is when you should design an infographic. What is an infographic? It combines visuals, images, text, and data to share a cohesive message, like in the example below.

Campaign spending
Campaign spending – Venngage

5. Add Colors to the Annual Report

Colors are a great way to attract attention – but they can also help highlight the information in your report.

It’s best to use brand colors in your official documents – this creates a cohesive branding experience for stakeholders.

But there are different ways that you can incorporate colors. In this example, the brand has chosen one overarching color, with white and black as contrasts.

Corporate performance annual reports
Corporate performance annual reports

You can also use multiple colors when creating annual reports, but avoid using more than three. Too many colors will become distracting and take away from the central message.

Colors can be used as backgrounds for the report or to highlight certain information or data points.

The important thing is to not think of color solely as a way to engage readers, but also to facilitate the reading process.

6. Choose the Right Fonts for Your Report

Font use can impact the way your report is received – which is why it is crucial to get this aspect right.

When you create your annual report, don’t incorporate too many fonts. A maximum of three – divided among headers, subheadings, and body text – is fine.

Take inspiration from these graphic design posts to choose the font faces for your report. Of course, you should be relying on your brand fonts, but others can be used.

Bold and large fonts can make your report stand out – you can also use them to highlight information and to evoke emotions.

Conclusion: Create an Annual Report That Will be Memorable

We have shared six steps that will help you create an annual report that starts your 2021 off on a positive note:

  • Add the four essential pages
  • Design a cover page
  • Add graphics
  • Use data
  • Add colors
  • Use fonts

While you do want to make your report attractive by using relevant visuals, graphs, colors, and fonts, avoid overstuffing it with these elements or your focus on the report will be lost.

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