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10 Ways to Make Your Annual Reports Terrifically Tempting

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10 Ways to Make Your Annual Reports Terrifically Tempting

The annual report. A tedious paperwork exercise or an opportunity to shine?

When was the last time you got excited over an annual report? Seriously. When was the last time you read through to the end because you were captivated by the content? Not recently, you say. Well, contrary to popular belief, it can happen. There are some corkers out there.

It’s that time of year when many of our clients are preparing their annual reports and considering how to improve on previous years. How can we do something different, avoid the dull ‘greyness’ of financial info and blocks of heavy content. How to make them more appealing, more vibrant and more…well… readable. Because ultimately, that’s the whole point.

This should be about making the data come to life. 

People adore facts, figures and vibrant visuals – so an annual report could be just like a Christmas present you can’t wait to open, right?

Whether you’re a non-profit association or a public company, the annual report is an opportunity to promote what your organisation does and what you can achieve. It needn’t be just a tick-box exercise. It’s a great way to showcase accomplishments, enhance brand values and awareness, cultivate new partnerships, and recognise people who have made a contribution to your organisation over the year.

Every report has its ‘must haves’, but that doesn’t mean it can’t inspire its audience. Here are some thoughts on how to do just that:

  • UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE. Know your stakeholders and their consumption habits. Are they only interested in digital documents or do they prefer hard copy reports? Not everyone will have access to online files so you may need to consider creating different options to satisfy both requirements. Cost will play a major part here too – you could create an online version as the primary tool and have a short print run of the physical version for those who need it. Sometimes there’s no replacement for a tangible hardcopy that directors can carry round or post out to influential parties. Think about surveying your stakeholders to find out what they liked about previous reports and what their preferences are when it comes to future formats.
  • KEEP YOUR LAYOUT CLEAR AND EASY TO READ. Make it an effortless experience. Easy navigation of the document is crucial – on or offline. Make it obvious when sections start and finish.
  • BE VISUAL. It’s worth remembering that the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text – images rule. Strong graphics and illustrations create impactful, memorable content. They break up pages and chunks of heavy text, lifting the document and making it more interesting and more personal.
  • STRIKE A CHORD WITH A FEW KEY FACTS AND FIGURES. Highlight some meaty and memorable stats, the ones that people will recall in conversations and tell their friends and colleagues about. Think about having a ‘This Year in Numbers’ page to highlight key achievements over the past year in a bite-size way. For a human element, add a narrative alongside from your financial director – feature pull–out quotes that’ll pack a punch.
  • GO INTERACTIVE. Interactive reports can be easy-to-navigate and user-friendly, allowing your viewer to fully engage, exploring the information most relevant to them by using simple navigation. This can be achieved using a basic website structure or software apps, turning content into highly interactive digital publications. Another great benefit of a digital report is that it will broaden your audience, getting naturally discovered online all year round, rather than just seen by those on your distribution list. Think about adding animation or videos from the CEO or CFO.  For a slightly different approach why not get input from ‘frontline’ employees – provide a script and ask them to present the numbers.

Created by Alive

  • INCORPORATE INFOGRAPHICS. Did you know that an infographic is 30 times more likely to be read than a text-only article? Smart infographics help to simplify complex and large amounts of information, emphasising key facts and making reports quick and easy-to-read. They lighten and brighten heavy documents and draw the eye to significant sections. Think about sharing the infographic as a standalone piece, giving quick insight into the year.
  • INCLUDE QUOTES FROM EMPLOYEES. There’s nothing like the words that come straight from the horse’s mouth to bring something to life. It’s powerful stuff. We regularly include employee insight, snappy quotes and quirky comments in all sorts of external and internal reports, updates and other branded material.
  • TELL A STORY. Some of the best reports we’ve seen have a clear narrative running throughout to maintain interest and bring them to life. Share the ‘story of the year’, the journey of a customer or create a character to tell the story and appear throughout the report.
  • LESS IS MORE. Nobody is interested in information overload. Satisfy regulations and required criteria and then be selective with the rest. Think about what you really need to focus on and what your audience is expecting to see. You can always add a more detailed account to your website with the more in-depth reporting for those who want it.
  • CONSISTENCY IS ESSENTIAL. It’s important to create something engaging, something different that will stand out and inspire your reader to absorb. Still bear in mind the purpose of your report – to give shareholders and other interested people information about your organisation’s activities and financial performance. Your messages must be clear and consistent. People must be able to get the detail they’re looking for quickly and easily. Inconsistency and haphazard messaging will never go down well.

Final thoughts

Once you’ve invested time and money into the process, you’ll want to make the most of it. Rather than focusing too heavily on outputs and financial results, put the spotlight on your outcomes. Talk about the impact your organisation is making and the people its affecting. And finally, put yourself in the shoes of your reader and consider – would you be inspired by what you see and eager to read on?

Here are a few examples of some annual reports we’ve been particularly inspired by:

If you’d like us to take a look at your annual report (or any other type of report for that matter) and offer some good old-fashioned feedback then get in touch. We’d love to have a peek!



Chance UK


Dogs Trust


“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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