Your annual report is one of the most important pieces of communication you produce during the year. The key to the success of the design process is a partnership between the designer and client, so from the initial meeting and throughout the design stages, you should be able to work directly with your designer, simplifying the process for all involved.
The prospect of their first reporting season can be daunting for newly floated clients. Even for those with a few years’ experience under their belt, navigating the process of producing an annual report can feel like a challenge; the regulations change year on year and with so many stakeholders to manage, it’s not surprising that the whole process can be approached with trepidation.
In this blog post, we explore how you can tell your business story to investors and stakeholders in the most efficient way and how you can make the project run smoothly. Simply by taking it a step at a time.
1. Identify an internal steering committee
Depending on the size of your organisation, this could be as few as three people, although, in a larger company, it will be more. The purpose of this committee will be to keep
the whole thing on track. Ideally, you will need representatives from Finance, Company Secretarial, Risk, Sustainability, the overall project manager and the ultimate owner of the annual report (these may be the same person and is quite possibly you!). Ideally, at least one of these people will be a Board member.
There may be an overlap of some of these roles, and your report may have other specific content owners who should be included but don’t include absolutely everyone — just key representatives. Once your annual report process is underway, you should have regular, weekly steering committee meetings. These can be dial-in meetings, and it doesn’t matter how short they are — but you need to get into the habit of weekly updates as this will be key to managing the process closer to sign-off.
2. Create a master content tracker
You can produce this in excel or any other project-based software. Include a list of all your sections, details of content owners who are responsible for sign off and all key dates, including content sign-off and design proof stages — It doesn’t have to be complicated, but if you keep it updated, it will give you an instant overview of your progress and identify any potential issues before they become a headache.
3. Create a realistic schedule
You know how your colleagues work, but sit down with them to set realistic deadlines for content delivery. You will reduce stress by collaborating with them rather than imposing deadlines on them.
Don’t forget Christmas! If you are a December year-end, planning your schedule in September, the Christmas break looks like a perfect time for final drafts to be written and reviewed, but you will need a holiday, so try to plan for one!
4. Make friends with the Auditors
Although they will be more interested in the back end of your report to start with, there will come a time when they want the supporting evidence for all the wonderful statements you have made in the front half, the source data to back up your workplace diversity, the proof to back up your reduction in waste to landfill. You get the picture. Engage with them as early as possible so that you work their review dates into your schedule. Planning for this in advance will save you some late nights.
5. When it’s all over
When it’s signed, sealed and delivered, you will feel as if you’ve completed a marathon, elated, proud, exhausted and not wanting to talk about doing it again. But you have one more important thing to do: get back together with your steering committee and talk through the process, what worked, what didn’t and what you would change if you ever have to do it again (which you will).
Make sure notes are made at the meeting and circulated because you will forget it all over the next few months until it all starts again.
You can find out more about the ways Perivan’s team can help you with your annual reports – from expert design and print to highly secure information-sharing – on our website, or contact us to have a no-obligation chat about how we can help.