8 reasons to create an online Annual Report

Written by Tom Greenwood - September 18, 2013

Most large organisations produce annual reports to inform shareholders, staff, customers and other stakeholders how their organisation performed in the previous year.

These annual reports usually take the form of thick, beautifully designed, printed and bound documents that cost tens (and sometimes hundreds) of thousands of pounds to design, print and post.

But in a world where nearly all of our business communications are conducted online, it takes a lot of sense to put your annual reports online.

Here are 8 good reasons to use an online annual report:

1. Cost

The costs of producing a printed annual report are huge.  With an online report you can streamline the design process and avoid printing and postage costs altogether.  We reckon that for a lot of big organisations, the costs could be slashed by as much as 90%.

If you are the person in your organisation that is responsible for organising the annual report, you could easily pay for your own existence simply by making the switch to online.

2. Environment

Online annual reports avoid the printing and posting of thousands of heavy documents, saving paper, chemicals and energy.  Ironically, some companies even send out printed CSR and Environmental reports!

3. Rich Media

By definition, a printed document only contains static information, but an online report can contain videos, animations, interactive graphics, sound recordings and live data streams, helping to improve communication with stakeholders.

4. Convenience

Annual reports tend to be big and heavy, so you don’t really want to carry them around if you don’t have to.  An online report on the other hand can be read anywhere on any device.

5. Openness

Is that a word?  Anyway, printed reports are generally only seen by the stakeholders that they are sent to.  Online reports on the other hand can be easily accessed by anyone, found via search engines and shared easily by email and social media.  If you have something to hide then you might not see this as a selling feature, but for most organisations the annual report is a chance to show off, so milk it for all it’s worth!

6. Feedback

With a printed report, you post it out and don’t hear much back.  But it is an ideal opportunity once a year to engage with stakeholders and request their ideas ad feedback.  A well designed annual report can be the perfect vehicle for two way communication to help you continuously improve.

7. Edits

Although an annual report will broadly contain static content, a web version does present the opportunity to correct typos and post updates should the need arise following the release of the report.

8. Forward Thinking

The whole point of an annual report is to showcase the current state of your organisation.  Naturally, you want people to think that you are an innovative, efficient, forward thinking organisation and not a rigid, slow moving, old fashioned one.  Your choice between online and offline says a lot!

What does an online annual report look like?

An online annual report can look like whatever you want.  Let’s be clear, I am not talking about posting a bog standard print document online as a PDF.  I am talking about a dedicated website or micro-site that is accessible and optimised for easy viewing on all common devices.  For a great example, check out the MailChimp Annual Report for 2012.