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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Choosing an annual report cover image

old book covers

We do judge books by their cover…

As important as the content is, the cover of an annual report also needs time and consideration to ensure the report conveys the desired message.

Let’s face it – people see the cover before they read any content so it has the power to set the tone for how people approach reading the report.

A good cover will also attract attention, meet the company brand and complement other company materials.

Choosing an effective cover image and design

Although I let designers be creative with annual report covers, there are factors I consider in preparing a design brief and in choosing the final look.

Some questions I try answering are:

  1. what did last year’s report look like, and how similar should this year’s be?
  2. what central messages have been used during the year? For example, if a theme was used in a lot of marketing I will work that into the cover as well to reflect the year being reported on and maintaining consistency
  3. what are the core elements of the company brand? Can I work them into the cover through design and/or choice of images?
  4. are the images unique to this company? It’s a terrible feeling to prepare a lovely cover just to see the same image on a competitor website a week later…
  5. does the cover look fresh and different? A plain white cover with a logo is simple but can be boring and doesn’t stand out
  6. is the image working with or against the brand? For example, a smiling person can look professional or kitsch so the specific photo is just as important as the concept being used
  7. is there anything in the image that could offend or mislead? Many people have been caught out by some little detail in the background of an image – never assume no one will notice!
  8. could we adjust the image to better suit the brand or cover? Looks at things such as swapping which way people are facing or adjusting colours of people’s clothes
  9. will one image overpower or give the right message? Will multiple images be distracting and busy, or give a broader overview?
  10. if using a tagline on the cover, does it work with the image and design? Change the less important aspect if they aren’t working together

Using images

Being such a prominent position, it is crucial to ensure you have the appropriate rights to use any image on the cover of an annual report. If someone else provides the image for you, check the rights yourself as mistakes will be costly.

If you don’t own the copyright of the image(s), check carefully that usage rules allow you to put the image on the cover and make any changes you want to – don’t assume that royalty free images can all be used in the same way.

Have you ever chosen the image for an annual report cover? How did you choose which one was the best fit?

Building your integrity

Would you buy anything from a business you didn’t trust? Or a business that you’ve heard bad things about?

Most people wouldn’t so it is crucial to ensure your business is trustworthy and maintains that image. Honesty, integrity, straightforward, transparent and respect are all parts of that trustworthy image.

Here are some key activities to show your integrity and trustworthiness, gained from watching people do the opposite as well as showing integrity even when it’s hard.

  • pay your suppliers on time – or discuss it openly if you can’t do it as timely as expected. What’s more, do not hire new suppliers if you are in debt and know you can’t afford to pay them – doing so is one of the fastest ways of destroying your credibility and risking legal actions
  • take responsibility for yourself, your business and even your team. Blaming others and looking for excuses doesn’t put you in a good light and can worry protective clients and suppliers hat they will be blamed for future issues – not good for building trust!
  • be honest – don’t make grand claims on your website, own up to errors and tell clients what they need to hear (rather than what brings you a quick return)
  • be open – share bits of information about the people behind the business. That doesn’t mean tell us all your son’s achievements or what you had for breakfast, nor give out private details, but let people know the human voice of a business as well. For example what impression do I give when I occasionally mention I am a cub leader?
  • be transparent – put your pricing and/or policies in easy-to-understand terms in an accessible form (I hate websites that don’t show delivery prices until you finish the shopping, for instance) and let appropriate negative comments remain (although I suggest answering them as well!)
  • be professional and pay attention to small details so people can trust you will do a good job for them
  • be consistent so people learn that you always do things the same way and that they can rely on that
  • take care with where and how you promote your business – and ask for help. Being open about needing help is one thing but publicly asking for help on many aspects of your business  gives little reason to think you can provide the promised services. As my role is to prepare content, I can post online that I need help with preparing some graphics but a coach publicly asking for funding to set up anything is dubious
What other ways have businesses earned your trust?

Images in email marketing

A picture says a thousand words.

It’s true that a picture can convey a message very quickly and sometimes better than words, and can make any document more appealing. However, you need to be careful relying on images in your marketing.

Before making an image the central part of any email message, remember the following:

  • many people (I’d guess the majority, in fact) have images turned off so they won’t see the image by default. If your email relies on that image, your email is not going to work very well.
    Yes, sometimes people will accept images and then be able to see your message but I rarely do that if the image is pretty much the entire message as I want to know what it’s about before lowering my security – and I guess I’m not alone in that.
  • including a number of images, even if they aren’t the key message, can lead to a poor presentation of your email if images are turned off – not only are there lots of red crosses on view, but it may distort the layout of text, too
  • people have different perceptions and ideas, and some see a half empty glass so think carefully about about how your image may be seen. It’s not so bad if a supporting picture is misinterpreted as if it is a key part of your message
  • including many and/or large graphics makes your email much larger which may mean higher costs for you and again may limit it’s acceptance by all email servers
  • text in graphics and images themselves won’t help your search engine efforts (for emails online as well as sent out) although it does hide words from spam filters. Technology may be changing this but for now it still matters!

So what do you think when you receive an email that is based entirely or predominantly on graphics? Are they as effective in getting your interest as text based emails?

And don’t forget to support your email marketing, too.

Qualify your statements

In business, there is a hope that in some way we can be the biggest and best so that clients will come flocking to us. And some businesses give into that temptation and make claims that are not exactly accurate, or even true.

Too much hype just makes people switch off, and being caught out in a lie or false claim does not build am image of professionalism or integrity. In other, these behaviours do not build a strong business foundation.

So before you make any claims, be sure they are accurate and that you have checked them out.

Be very careful using terms such as ‘best’, ‘most popular’, ‘biggest seller’ and so on unless you have statistics and research to back up your claims.

If you say you are the first – don’t just check that no one else has done it before, check that your wording makes it clear what no one else has done before. For instance, saying I run the first business directory in Australia is not quite the same as saying I run the first online business directory in Australia. Likewise, there may be two interpretations of some words – online support could mean forums, a mail group, an information site, chat room discussions or some combination of the lot. So you may be the first online forum but not the first online support group.

And remember, it isn’t just to maintain your image and integrity – if you stray too far from the facts, you may face legal issues, too.