How Annual Report Planning is JUST LIKE Holiday Gift Giving!


It's early December. Stores are festooned with decorations. Holiday music greets you at every turn, and this year’s seasonal cup designs from Starbucks can be spotted in hands across the shoposphere. Several times a day, you feel your blood pressure rise, and your palms get a little sweaty. What will please them? What are they interested in? How can I make people happy and give them what they want without spending a fortune? Time is running out!

Annual report planning can be such a stressor! Wait – did you think I was referring to gift giving?

Now that you mention it, annual report planning is a LOT like holiday shopping! Who do we need to buy for, what is the perfect gift for each person, where do I find that gift, how much do I want to spend, and how do I do all of this while living my day-to-day life as well? Questions like these apply to annual report planning, too. Who are you trying to reach, what are the key messages that need to be delivered, do you have all the data you need, what is your budget and how can you manage this work spike while continuing your other routine responsibilities?

There’s nothing quite like giving the perfect gift and watching someone’s face light up when they rip off the wrapping paper. We want our gifts to stand out and be either a delightful surprise or just the thing our loved ones were hoping for. Those of us responsible for producing annual reports also are looking for a guaranteed hit that delivers precise messages and serves up the data in a way that pleases our audiences.

At Milepost, our experience-based process uncovers the right vision of success for your report. We reduce stress by walking you through every step of report creation from creative brief and narrative development, to data analysis and brand reinforcement. And like beautiful wrapping indicates the value inside, our design expertise ensures that the look of your report endorses the quality of its messages.

Here are a couple of basic gift-giving rules that we apply to the reporting process:

Give thought to the gift.

This is why you should avoid giving a candle. Everyone knows that a candle is the sign of complete gift-giving defeat. For annual report planning, we help clients put themselves in the shoes of their audience. What do your readers care about regarding your data? What matters to them? Your company has information you are obligated to include, and we can present it in a way that shows you understand your stakeholders’ perspectives.

Never give a fruitcake.

Fruitcakes are the butt of gift-giving jokes simply because they are gross. Yes, there will be that annoying uncle who insists, “Actually I really love fruitcake!” but either he’s lying or he’s trying to start a fight. Fruitcakes have unnaturally colored pieces of “fruit” in them; they are hard as a brick, and they taste terrible. For annual reports, we help our clients avoid strange data that makes people scratch their heads. We work with clients to keep the narrative easy to digest and not too dense. And, we can make both the process and the final report enjoyable – with memorable stories, compelling imagery and data that reinforces your organization’s progress toward stated goals.

For detailed advice on crafting a great report, read our Insight, 10 Best Practices for Telling Your Story.

Sabrina Cowden
Sabrina Cowden