Banish annual report boredom and blandness to the bin!

It’s that time of year again, when annual reports are busily being compiled and prepared for a raft of listed and other entities.

Some do it well but most, while ticking all the statutory requirement boxes, tend to churn out rather bland documents – and in the process, they’re missing a trick.

Annual reports don’t have to be as dull as dishwater…they can be lively documents that, while covering off on all the fundamentals, also tell the corporate story in interesting and engaging ways.

These companies see the annual report as more than just an account of their financial performance – they see it as a marketing document, too. And when they do it well, they do their cause the world of good.

There’s an organisation in the UK that excels in this area and should be the perfect case study for all our corporate and not-for-profit entities.

Eden Project runs a botanical garden in Cornwell and, like all organisations required to publish annual reports, they cover off on the statutory financial statements, the governance and remuneration reports and the like.

But that’s where the similarity ends.

Eden Project – and I’m sure there are others like them – banishes boring and bland to the bin. They don’t allow the cold statutory stuff like balance sheets and accounting standards references to infiltrate the rest of the document.

I’m personally blown away by what they produce. In among all the legislative requirements you’ll find some great photographs of the gardens, along with polished copy that cleverly and engagingly tells us what they do, how they support environmental issues and even what lengths they go to to make children playing outdoors such a rich and rewarding experience.

It’s no surprise, then, that they’re enormously successful.

When I first came across Eden Project’s annual report a few years ago (check out www.edenproject.com), I immediately thought how refreshing it would be if our organisations, particularly those in the corporate sector, followed a similar path.

It would not only make for interesting reading but would certainly go a long way towards helping to portray the boards, the executives and the organisations themselves as more human, more engaging and more approachable.

Here’s my challenge to the Australian corporate, government and not-for-profit sectors:

Yes, there are what we would typically call ‘boring bits’ to be covered off on. But you don’t have to present them in a boring manner, so why not get creative with the design, liven up the copy, use great photographs…and grasp the enormous opportunity annual reports present to sell the company.

Chances are it will pay handsomely. Just ask Eden Project.

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