At the beginning of the year, many companies, organizations and non-profits are gathering information for their annual report. For many, it’s become a task that is done with little changes and thus, little excitement. Contrary to popular belief, this necessary tool doesn’t have to be such a mundane pursuit.

The benefits of the annual report are far-reaching, and the organizations that require them to know their value. While many boards and stakeholders do require this yearly snapshot, some organizations and companies have realized the marketing value of an annual report and choose to report their accomplishments through the report as an elective.

For any group, whether seasoned or new to the annual report, it’s important to understand the clear objectives of the report and why it is being published. Determining who the report will be distributed to and what goals need to be met to determine the ROI are critical places to start. Beyond being one of the best tools to provide transparency, the publication extends trust to the user base by allowing a forum to thank both the team and customers/clients, sets the tone for the year ahead and is perhaps the most effective fundraising tool.

Knowing that the annual report can bring necessary support to an organization, the prevalence of well designed and engaging publications has risen. Many companies now know or are realizing the importance of a well designed digital presence, and this is now flowing to annual report production. Allowing the targeted audience to easily disseminate the information being put forth is foremost to getting buy-in, whether an investment or otherwise. In this case, the use of infographics, graphically interesting typography, experiential design, photography and color are used to engage and interest the user.

Above all the annual report must be authentic and on-brand. Content and language must follow the tonality of the organization it represents. Working with a creative team to understand the organization and the goals of the annual report is a critical step in making sure the report can serve as an effective marketing tool.