Published: 23 June 2015

Going digital with your annual report

Digitalisation is changing the way people receive and read information. As a printed publication, your annual report will only reach individuals on your database. An additional digital version could significantly increase your readership and help you connect more closely with audiences.

Annual reports are rarely read cover to cover and people increasingly demand their information in bite-sized chunks. A digital version which can be accessed from your website, flagged up on social media and linked to pitches and presentations is a more interactive experience. It moves your readers from passive recipients to empowered participants. They can take control of where and how they read your document as well as making good use of available options such as increasing the font size, varying the contrast or listening to audio clips. A digital approach also offers excellent solutions for people who are visually impaired or have a learning difficulty. 

In most cases, digital versions will allow you to measure exactly how people are interacting with your content so you can further refine marketing and communications to make them more personal.

With so much executive time and energy invested in it, your annual report or review is more than a statutory document; it’s a key marketing tool. With a variety of digital options available, you can really make the most of it.

Here’s a simple guide to digital formats, from a basic pdf to a fully interactive microsite:

Static pdf

This is simply a digital version of your printed annual report which people can download and then read on screen.

Pros: Anyone with a computer or mobile device can now access your report. Plus, you can include a link to it on other marketing materials and flag it up on your social media channels.

Cons: A static pdf is still a passive document, with little opportunity for people to directly interact with it, aside from downloading and reading it.

Interactive pdf

This comes with embedded links and video to enhance content in the printed version, allowing for greater engagement with users.

Pros: Good accessibility, with the option to include as much interactivity as you like. This can include video and audio commentary, links back to relevant parts of your website, connections to social media and additional copy and picture content.

Cons: The interactivity can feel one-way and increased scrolling is often required to view all content. Multimedia content will increase file size which could cause downloading and sharing issues.

Flip book

A step up from the basic pdf, the reader can actually turn the pages on this document. Design options are static or interactive.

Pros: It’s cheap and easy to use as many people like the process of page turning and it gives them a sense of the report as a document. Interactivity is optional and can be developed and adjusted over the year.

Cons: This technology relies on third party sites such as Issuu and not all self-publishing platforms are compatible with specialised technologies used by people with visual impairments.

Microsite

A specific annual report website provides you with multiple ways to present your material in one dedicated area. You can expand and update content, include videos, web links and additional commentary or photography to enable your audience to interact with your organisation as and when they like.

Pros: The unlimited interactive bells and whistles offered by this option will suit a digitally savvy audience.

Cons: You will need to carefully balance the potential benefits against the considerable costs.

Annual report video or animation

Producing your report either as a video or animation is another useful option for communicating directly with your supporters, volunteers, service-users, staff and other stakeholders. A video or animation can either expand on your printed report, or be a standalone shareable piece of content, highlighting key achievements and impacts of the year.

Pros: Video and animation are flexible, shareable and have the scope to widen your reach, therefore getting your message across very quickly and easily.

Cons: Depending on their complexity they can be expensive and do require a clear planning and distribution strategy to get the most from these options.

For more advice and tips on producing your annual report, review or impact report download A Year in the Life, our free Best Practice Guide to annual publications.


Chris Michaeloudis, director of development, nim design

Chris has over 25 years experience in design consultancy and marketing, working with large creative agencies and small design teams. For the past 15 years Chris has been working closely with nim design developing design services specifically for charities, social housing providers and not for profit organisations. More recently she has become a qualified digital marketer and is now working towards developing a range of digital services with nim design for charities.