A lot of work went into that annual report. Does your online version get any additional consideration?
It's the meeting marketing communicators prepare for all year. If you've been through it, you know what happens the day finance drops in on marketing to discuss plans for the annual report. Your heart races, your mind spins, and you brace yourself for weeks of writing and photo shoots. Then, the frantic last minute changes on press. It's repeated annually, but it's always invigorating. I find very long walks during the early stages are great for inspiration. I also find a glass of Chardonnay does wonders after a particularly grueling day of rewrites.
For marketing communicators, the annual report is opening night, the World Series, and the Cannes Film Festival. It's when we truly have to show our stuff. Granted, an annual report contains all those dry financial pages, but that's for the accountants. The sections that really count for marketers are the introductory pages, the pages that tell your organization's story. Execute this critical section with endless columns of gray text, you shoot down an entire year of marketing communications. Create something memorable that communicates the essence of your company, and you hit a home run.
Although most organizations indulge in annual report frenzy, few use the power of the Internet to produce a memorable online annual report. Most create a print piece and offer a PDF or other difficult-to-download versions for Web users. The 2001 gallery contains many examples, including the following:
Some organizations create a hybrid annual for the Web:
Ingenuity doesn't exactly abound when it comes to online annuals, but here are a few notable efforts:
For the truly unconventional, there are organizations that completely forego the flashy annual production. Apple states on its site it "do[es] not produce a glossy annual report." Instead, it offers links to current and previous years' 10-K filings.
Marketers should view the Web version of their annual with the same sense of challenge as the print rendition. There are a host of opportunities for truly stellar productions. Few organizations have even begun to take full advantage of the possibilities.
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Susan Solomon is the executive director of marketing and public relations for Memorial Health Services, a five-hospital health system in Southern California. In this capacity, she manages promotional activities for both traditional and new media. Susan is also a marketing communications instructor at the University of California, Irvine; California State University, Fullerton; and the University of California, Los Angeles.
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