Annual Report 2017: The Clock is Ticking

Starting your annual report now means less stress and a better product in the new year. Flickr photo by William Hart

Starting your annual report now means less stress and a better product in the new year. Flickr photo by William Hart

If you have any experience with creating an annual report for your company or nonprofit, you know that deadline pressure is inevitable.

After all, you can’t describe the previous year’s results until your books are closed.
As a result, if your fiscal year ends on Dec. 31, late winter is always going to require some heavy lifting to get the annual report done.

But you can make that lift quite a bit lighter — and produce a much better report — if you don’t wait until January to get started. It makes good sense to start the process in the window between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, whether you are developing a traditional, digital or hybrid annual report.

Here are just a few reasons why...

Less stress: You’ve probably been there. The busy holiday season fast approaches and the to-do list overflows. December somehow slips by as December tends to do. When people re-focus after the first of the year, it’s fire drill time. No doubt, the entire annual report process can be completed in the first few months of the year. Happens all the time. Yet, the deadline pressure can amp up the stress level, while limiting your options and creativity.

A better blueprint: The role of annual reports is evolving. While the Form 10-K is a regulatory requirement for U.S. public companies, the supporting content and context is optional. While some organizations have opted for a bare-bones approach, many others are gaining renewed appreciation for the unique value of annual reports as a once-a-year opportunity to address the “state of the company” and clearly articulate management’s forward-looking strategy and plans. By starting now, you have more opportunity better assess the strategic objectives of your annual report, as well as ample time to line up the right resources to execute on that approach.

Improved ROI: By getting started earlier, you can lay the groundwork to better leverage your report in a variety of ways. For instance, sophisticated B2B customers often need to understand the financial health and strength of their business partners and vendors, so some companies develop their annual report with their sales force in mind. In addition, engaging annual reports can be useful tools in the recruiting and hiring process.

Stronger messaging: An effective annual report should be well aligned with your leadership, IR, and marketing messaging. Starting the process before year end offers more opportunity to assure the annual report theme is in-sync with strategic messaging, while also identifying ways the theme might be leveraged further. For instance, publication of your annual report can kick off an ongoing content marketing campaign aimed at investors, customers and prospects. Check out our earlier blog about how you can get more mileage out of your annual report.

No matter what, you’re still likely to feel the squeeze of deadline pressure in the annual report process. Yet by getting an early jump, you can be confident that the end result will be a report that tells your company's story in the most compelling and engaging ways possible -- and will keep delivering value that lasts the whole year through.

Start now – you’ll be thankful you did.