Got that annual report planned yet?

When Labor Day rolls around, I always start thinking about annual reports. It’s a little hyperactive for some companies – but, hey, thinking ahead is part of my calling. When I was in IR on the corporate side, I first began feeling those urges around the Fourth of July.

So September has arrived – time to think about annual reports. For most IROs and communicators, year end is coming up soon.

We’ve mapped out the annual report process over the years, and common elements apply across companies. A few first steps will get things rolling:

… Assemble the team. Identify a hands-on group from accounting, legal, IR, communications – as well as any outside designers or writers.

… Brainstorm. As third quarter winds up, the big picture for the year is coming into focus. Good year, bad year? Problems, achievements? Gather the team to talk about themes, concepts and tone.

… Make a timetable. Sketch out the schedule, perhaps working backwards from the drop-dead mailing date through the various stages of creating, writing and producing the annual.

… Enlist management. Have a first conversation with your CEO or CFO on what shape the annual report might take. Get direction (or buy-in) on the tone and broad messages of the report.

The annual report, print or electronic, is still the marquee publication that investors (and perhaps other audiences) use to judge your company. Its readers are the right audience – we must be sure we reach them with the right message. Whether the annual report is a 10-K wrap or a full glossy book, its clarity, focus and tone are critical to effective communication.

And now the fun begins.

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