2015 Top Annual Reporting Best Practices

28 October 2015

By John Schoeler

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Every year, NIRI releases the results of the Annual Report Survey they conduct with their corporate members. Each year brings new findings and dictates the best practice trends in annual reporting for the year. The report is free to all NIRI members and we highly recommend checking out the full report.

The survey constituted a total of 475 individuals, receiving a 22% response rate, and representing NIRI corporate members. Below, we highlight some of the key findings from the report and how they have been used by some leading public companies.

Print vs Digital

According to NIRI’s survey findings, 67% of respondents produce both printed and online reports, while 16% produce only printed reports (an increase of more than 50% since 2012), and 5% produce only online reports. For those producing online annual reports, a PDF version is the most popular format, representing a total of 91% of the respondents. This is followed by photographs (27%), searchable index (21%), interactive HTML (21%), illustrations (17%), links to company website pages (16%), XBRL/downloadable financials (15%) and static HTML pages (14%).These findings represent the growing demand by companies to produce online annual reports, whether solely or in addition to printed reports.

Highlight your leadership

According to NIRI’s annual report survey, 87% of the respondents included a letter from the CEO. This is an excellent way to give your investors a high level introduction to your online report, and get them prepared for the strategic discussions and financial reporting that will follow. Looking at Ford Motor Company’s 2014 Online Annual Report as an example, we can see that they integrate key content like the letter from both their Executive Chairman and their CEO. Since this is an online version of the report, Ford is able to showcase high resolution photos of their featured executives as well as provide a video message.

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Use graphics to communicate growth

Further on in the survey, the respondents indicated that 24% use infographics in connection with their annual report. Using any kind of image or graphic in an annual report is a great way to highlight growth and provide a break in a text heavy document. Infographics in particular really standout and highlight the metrics you’re communicating to your investors. For their 2014 Online Annual Report, Salesforce included an infographic section that animated when the user reached the section and highlighted four different areas of growth from the year.

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Once again, if you get the opportunity, we strongly recommend checking out the full report. With annual reporting season just around the corner, now is the time to start researching some of the best practice methods your peers will be using in their reporting. Keep a lookout over the next couple of weeks as we share some additional Annual Reporting best practices of our own.

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