Guest Column

It’s time to up your game with an interactive annual report

November 7, 2014
TAGS habits / online
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As our habits evolve and we consume information differently, the annual report is morphing from the traditional coffee-table style to an online, interactive piece that serves content up in a desirable, sharable, data- and design-driven way that consumers can read on the go.

Your data is important. Your message is even more so. An interactive report lends your business the opportunity to focus on the past year’s stories and highlights in a way that captures the attention of today’s consumer.

Here are some reasons it’s time to switch to an interactive annual report:

Share your highlight reel through the media that best suits it. Want to include a graphical demonstration of how something works? Time-lapse photos or video of a new location? Motion graphics or charts, how you make a difference in the community, or your newest commercial? Need to include 10-K filings? An interactive report allows you to share your organization’s top stories through text, charts, video, motion graphics, interactive calculators — whatever is the best way to share it.

Showcase your propensity toward new ideas. Do you invest in new technology? Are you a leader or innovator in your industry? Demonstrate these characteristics in a technology-enabled platform with an interactive report. Paper doesn’t show this as well as interactivity, unless you are Austria Solar, which made an annual report powered by the sun.

Make your numbers relatable. Marry your data with good design to connect with your stakeholders. Shopify demonstrates the distance its products traveled with a motion graphic that shows the distance is 159 round trips to the sun.

“Gamify” scenarios to make learning about your product or service fun. Want to teach users something about your product or service? In its 2014 annual report, Holland BPW employed a water-usage calculator, and with the flush of a toilet, shows its wastewater treatment process. In another interactive diagram, Holland BPW allows the user to control the combined cycle power plant throttle to see its impact on power and efficiency.

Save on cost, energy and resources. An interactive annual report is a mini-website. It saves trees, ink and the energy it costs to print. Our clients who have leapt forward to this format have never looked back at printing.

Empower customers to explore information however they want. So much information, so little time. So organize it in a way that makes sense to your users. MailChimp’s 2013 annual report is organized numerically, showing the company’s personality. Holland BPW’s 2014 annual report is organized in bite-sized articles like a magazine, so stakeholders can dive right in to what is important to them.

Make it easily accessible and sharable. Do you know anyone who carries an annual report with them to the doctor’s office waiting room? No, but many take their tablets and smartphones. With an online interactive report, users can share information they find intriguing with a few taps on the screen.

Generate appeal to broader audiences. An interactive annual report is a multi-media storytelling, fact-wielding, paper-saving machine. It incorporates data and design in a functionally interesting way. It connects with your stakeholders, conveys your corporate culture and builds loyalty. It is accessible, sharable, and captures a broader audience than that of a traditional report.

Create a searchable, online archive of your history. Your stakeholders can see the progress you’ve made from year to year, anytime, from anywhere.

Do something different that personifies your organization. You are different. You have a story to tell. Use multi-media to tell it. Use interactivity to connect with your audience. They will learn more about you and love you more.

Emily Staley is a media specialist at Boileau Communications in Holland. The firm has been creating award-winning interactive annual reports since 2011.

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