It’s annual report time again, when companies release what is often considered their showcase document. Before beginning production, certain key decisions must be made: Print, digital or online? English or Dutch? And what about translations? Your choices can have a big impact on the impact your annual report ultimately has on your stakeholders. Here are some tips.
Sloppiness in an annual report can easily raise doubts about the care with which your company approaches its business in general. Whatever medium or language you choose, take care with the set-up. Make sure your information is clearly and logically structured and – especially – written in a consistent, uniform and easy-to-read style. If you don’t have solid in-house talent for writing and/or editing, it’s worth collaborating with outside experts.
Print, digital or online?
Attractive printed annual reports are expensive, and in today’s high-tech world, some people are predicting their demise – if only as an ecological issue. It’s also true that print can’t include all the possibilities provided by new technological tools. But print definitely still has very high impact, especially if you treat your annual report as your once-a-year chance to communicate properly with stakeholders. Then, it can be a fantastic piece of marketing communication. What seems to be a clear trend is well-produced ‘summary’ reports – with the more detailed information made available digitally. That is proving to be an extremely powerful combination!
• PDFs are inexpensive, but long annual reports can be hard to read onscreen, and it’s difficult to add extra features or appealing interactive tools. However, if you add bookmarks to the PDF, it makes it much easier to skip through to the desired section, and if you segment the report by chapters, readers can download and print exactly the one(s) they want.
• Dynamic, image-based reports are normally based on a hard-copy version, with each page being scanned and placed in a navigational framework. This option is also cost-efficient, and since it includes a search functionality, it is very easy to navigate. Content such as individual Excel sheets and PDFs in the report can also be downloaded by readers.
• HTML reporting – an actual website in itself – is extremely legible, and enables you to make use of all sorts of exciting multimedia and interactive tools. The downside is that developing, designing, programming and testing can be costly. However, once you have made the investment, you will have developed a solid template that you can use for years, adding new elements and tools as you go.
English or Dutch?
For international companies with English as their corporate language and a substantial portion of non-Dutch staff, most of the input will probably be in English. In that case, it simply makes sense to produce the document directly in that language rather than writing the report in Dutch first and having it translated. It is not only more efficient and economical, the results will be better. A well-written and well-edited English text remains the very best basis for translation of a document into a wide variety of languages. However, if the majority of employees and input are Dutch, it makes more sense to first write it in Dutch. If you need an English-language version, however, and have your report translated by a standard translation agency, make sure you have it checked by an English-language editor or writing expert to ensure optimum readability and effectiveness.