Thursday, July 17, 2008

Creating Annual Reports

I realize it has been a little while since I updated about my internship, which was the original purpose of blogging again this summer. The two primary projects I've been heavily involved with in the past couple of weeks have been doing an annual report and doing promotions for a separate client. I'll cover annual reports today and the event promotion campaign tomorrow.

Annual Reports

What I've learned is that it's not necessarily clear who handles annual reports. Sometimes advertising agencies claim it is their role, while public relations firms often say they are the ones for the job. I could see organizations doing these jobs in-house or even splitting the job up between accountants and freelance photographers, writers and designers.

In our case, a university has hired the firm, which is a sort of integrated marketing communications firm, as it does advertising/marketing, public relations and design. Compiling an annual report is a tedious process where one must exercise care in keeping with the report's theme and supporters' interests. For a state university especially, the writing style and included articles should not contradict the opinions of major donors and as many major donors as possible should be featured with articles/photos in the report. In a way, the annual report is not only a way to present financial information, but it's an update on other news/happenings and performance. Also, the annual report seems to exist largely to reinforce donors' faith in the organization and to encourage them to continue donating through implied and expressed thanks.

Now, when I say compilation of the annual report is tedious and time-consuming, that isn't to say it's difficult. It really does not seem as though it is too difficult a job at all. As long as you are organized and good at meeting deadlines and coordinating multiple projects with other people, then putting together an annual report shouldn't be too daunting a task. Basically, what we've done is storyboarded the entire project, page by page, planning where photos, lists and articles will go. This helps to determine the size needed for each element, and this is where the organization comes in. Some financial lists or rosters of board members will need to come from the parent organization you are working for. But once you've got a list of articles approved, usually taken from searching through archives of news releases for the past year and recommendations from the organization, then it's all about getting the articles assigned and written just as you would in any news organization. You have to set up a timeline of what photos will be shot when and by whom. Then, just start putting everything together in the proper order and make sure it lines up with what you've storyboarded, make adjustments as needed, and start layout when you have everything you need. Preliminary graphics and such, of course, can begin development immediately.
  1. What are some annual reports you've seen that look great or have great themes? Have you ever used an annual report to find information on a company?
  2. Have you ever put together an annual report? What is some advice or insight you would offer? What do you think about the above statements?


Harry said...

Joshua, as an old time PR guy who worked at an ad agency, I'd have to say PR folks should compile the information and write the report. Having seen a lot of bad PR agency design, you probably ought to have the agency design it. I guess what I'm really saying is that the organization should project manage and get the right resources for the right job.

JD said...

Thanks for reading and for the comments, Harry. I see what you mean and I believe I agree. It has worked well for us to pretty much coordinate and design everything and just request resources and info as needed from the client.