How’s your annual report writing going? Need a hand?
Now is the time of year when professional communicators dust off previous versions and collate information for this year’s one.
If you’re looking for advice to help write yours, you’re in luck as I have a guest post and resources to share with you.
Didier Goossens is Head of Corporate Communication at Luxembourg National Research Fund and has written for the All Things IC blog to share his experience of creating an annual report. I’ll hand you over…
Top tips to help you prepare your annual report
In the following article, I’ll tackle some of the challenges a small public-funded agency faces when it comes to preparing and publishing an annual report.
Right away, I won’t reinvent the wheel and for sure, there is still room for improvement. Nonetheless, I am very satisfied with what we achieved.
Let me tell you why.
The Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) is a 26-person funding agency. We invest public funds and private donations into research projects in various branches of science and the humanities, with an emphasis on selected core strategic areas.
This means, we are not doing research on our own, but we strongly help to shape the Luxembourgish public research ecosystem. A young but very international research environment that is less than 30 years old, in a small country where nearly 80% of the researchers are non-Luxembourger.
What are the challenges?
Some challenges arise from the previously mentioned with regard to the publication of our annual report in general, and its possible readership in particular.
A wide range of stakeholders ranging from researchers (from other institutions) to politicians, including the general taxpayers and the internal staff. Add to this a limited budget, the ubiquitous digitalisation and a vanishing reader attention span, and you get the pretty challenging premises of a very exciting project.
All of this led us to the following vision for our 2016 annual report.
It had to:
- Be more than a snapshot of the elapsed year
- Be more than an accumulation of sheets that account of our internal workings and especially our finances
- Convey the essence of our daily work, the values that drive us
- Highlight the people who are core to the system, i.e. the researchers and their work.
With facts and figures, but even more importantly, in a clear and informative way, we wanted to create a report that was enjoyable to read and that would last longer than a traditional annual report.
The brief I made to our trusted design agency lola strategy and design can be summarised in these few bullet points:
- A print version, that would also be available for download
- A responsive design microsite, with visuals and audio-visual content
- Jpegs and links to ensure regular postings on our social media channels
- A clear and simple appearance. (simplicity is often overlooked)
What was the result and what did we learn?
The print version was unveiled during a press conference at the end of May.
We launched the microsite, which is linked to our website, a few days later and kept on sharing single pieces of information over the next eight weeks through our social media channels.
This way we managed to keep up the attention span way longer than previous years.
The content that was created for the annual report was not “one-shots” that would only exist for a very brief moment in the print version, but were reused in an adapted way through several other channels.
To me, this element is key, because much time and passion were put into the creation of this content. The highlights could be shared by other institutions and by the researchers, which further augmented the reach of the stories we distributed.
Overall, we are satisfied with this first experience of a multichannel annual report 2016. The PDF download rate is on the same level as in the previous years and through the digital version, we managed to acquire new readers both in Luxembourg and abroad.
Nonetheless, we are already thinking of the 2017 edition. We have to go further down the digital path. The online reader’s experience needs to be improved and the online contents will have to be thought of digitally first.
But one thing will not change for sure. We will continue to devote a great deal of attention to the people and we will keep the content as simple, clear and informative as possible.
Post author: Didier Goossens.