Our collaborative partnerships with Rogers Communications and Baird have resulted in outstanding annual reports.
Patricia Hennessy, Senior Program Manager at Interbrand Canada, has produced award-winning print and online annual reports in Canada and the U.S. for over 20 years, including Rogers, RBC, Baird and Xerox. In this insightful Q&A, she explains why annual reports should still matter to brand-savvy organizations.
An organization’s annual report must deliver financial data, communicate messages of inspiration and confidence to stakeholders, and satisfy rules and regulations concerning financial disclosure. Despite the call for comprehensive corporate transparency, focusing in on the brand’s financials does not have to be at the expense of creativity. For an organization to produce award-winning reports, Interbrand Canada believes a clear brand is critical to both the process and the story.
Are annual reports still relevant?
Annual reports are a must-do for public companies and they also provide the one place where the brand story is told in single document. An annual report explains how the brand is positioned, outlines its values and differentiates it from competitors. An annual report also explains why the company deserves public trust and investment. Private companies are not legally required to produce these reports, but many see it as an avenue for sharing their brand story with key stakeholders and driving investment. From my perspective, being accountable to the public and communicating a clear mission is vital for all brands, regardless of legal requirements.
What’s the first step in developing an annual report?
Our first step in developing any annual report is to assemble the essential components of a brand’s story. This includes: strategic brand positioning, vision, mission, values, personality traits, key messages and measurable performance data. It is important to analyze corporate responsibility and workplace diversity initiatives, as these are clear articulations of not only of what a brand believes, but also how it delivers on its promise. Annual reports provide brands with an opportunity to inspire investor confidence through storytelling. The audience for the report needs to be kept top-of-mind throughout the research and writing process, and, in addition to the basic report requirements, we always strive to identify what matters to stakeholders and build an interesting narrative from there.
How should the visual and verbal elements interact during the development of the report?
As a key brand touchpoint, the annual report needs to be a shining example of the brand story. Our designers strategize with clients to develop creative approaches that leverage the visual features of the brand. Employing verbal identity experts is essential to ensuring the copy follows any existing tone of voice guidelines for the brand. Designers and writers collaborate to ensure a strong theme is reflected throughout the piece, supported by compelling graphics and language. The challenge designers have now is to design a report that stays within a conservative budget, while accurately representing the brand.
Should brands be providing annual reports digitally?
Public companies are required to print a report, but creating digital versions of the report ensures that it is available to anyone who wishes to read it. From the outset, designers must ensure that an annual report is effective in both print and digital formats. In our very connected world, sharing annual reports digitally is a great way to promote a brand’s progress and achievements to a broader audience.
Have their been any major changes in the production process over the years?
Yes. Keeping environmental sustainability in mind when producing annual reports is very important these days. Brands are including labeling in their annual reports indicating the use of recycled paper and detailing environmental efficiency in the production process. Taking this extra step also tells stakeholders that your brand is invested in sustainability.
Which part of the process is most enjoyable for you?
I’m always proud that we make challenging projects easier for our clients. I really enjoy the creative process of working closely with the designer—being in rhythm and working together as a team. It’s great to be involved in the entire project, from the initial briefing with the client to watching the concepts come to life. Managing the process of the printing and around-the-clock press approvals is worth all of the hard work when we finally present the first printed sample to the client.
How do you know when you’ve produced a great report?
I know we’ve done a good job when we exceed our client’s expectations and they acknowledge that we’ve gone the extra mile. Countless clients have described working with us as a consistently creative and collaborative partnership. We’ve worked with leading organizations and public companies across all industry sectors. Most recently, we’ve won both content and design awards for annual reports as a result of these partnerships.
If your brand is committed to creating an exemplary annual report that inspires investor confidence in your company, we’d love to hear from you.
Interbrand Canada’s recent awards for development of annual reports:
Baird Annual Report 2013
ARC Award – Gold
LACP Vision Awards – Silver
Rogers Communications Annual Report 2013
ARC Award – Bronze
LACP Vision Awards – Bronze