Process makes perfect

by Georgina Beach – May 22, 2020

If you work client-side and are considering whether an agency is right for your annual reporting suite, you need to know it can handle the complexities of the process.

Wardour is ISO9001:2015 accredited for the quality of our processes, and while we offer flexibility to suit individual client needs, we begin any relationship with a clear road map for success. Our basic approach to the key phases for the main annual report process is set out below. Clients tell us it is a great starting point for detailed planning.

Research and planning

We start every ARA suite process with a planning meeting. This can either be in person or via video conference. But in either case, this will be face-to-face even through screens so that you will meet your dedicated Wardour team. At its core, your team will include:

You will also have access to the wider team, including our CEO or Chairman, a strategic consultant to advise on best practice, our creative director and a content director, our digital team and our video team. These will be brought in at key points to help with specific needs in the process.

Following the initial set-up meeting we recommend a second more formalised session with the client team and any other key stakeholders (for instance the finance director, the CSR lead and ideally the CEO). Such a meeting works as a ‘fact finding’ session for us to hear from you what you as a company and as a brand have been experiencing in the year that we will be reporting on, and to understand the key messaging that will form the basis of your Annual report strategy. We will also delve deeper so that we understand how best we can support your team and add value, for example with writing and editing of content plus your plans for digital engagement.

Outcome of research and planning: we will digest the information made available to us at the planning meeting, and we will combine it with our own research to provide you with a planning document which will cover:

Creative concepts

This phase is often the most exciting part and is when our team will start to bring the strategy behind your report to life, creatively and intelligently.

Outcome of the concepts phase: we will prepare around three creative routes to be presented to you during a meeting or video call.

Each route will typically include a front cover, treatment of sample pages and content elements such as infographics, charts, tables and style of imagery.

We will ensure we understand your brand guidelines, and it is likely that the three routes will range from staying very close to your brand guidelines to pushing the creative to enhance them.

We will welcome any feedback you have for us during the meeting, but we think it is important to give you time and space to digest, share and reflect on what we present to you so we will follow up from the meeting with a PDF of the presentation you have been shown.

Concept development

Upon receipt of your feedback to our creative concepts, we will develop the preferred route to finalised concepts. This will be approved as the design template from which our creative team will build your report content around, as we transition from concepts to design development. Concepts will work across print and digital channels as required.

Outcome of development phase: we will present the finalised print and digital concepts to your team (which for some clients includes key stakeholders such as advisory, investment management, PR) during a meeting or video call, or if preferred via email in the form of an annotated presentation document.

Editorial and creation of content

Wardour is editorially led and many clients have asked us over the years to handle the writing of their annual reporting suite. Whether or not we or the client writes the content, copy starts to be written as we build the annual report, based upon the strategic objectives and key messaging and topline structure agreed at the planning stage.

Outcome of editorial phase: we will prepare a flatplan and content plan for the entire report, which will clearly summarise who the authors will be for each piece of content, word counts and deadlines.

Amends

As content progresses, it will be incorporated into the design templates. We will then move into the amends or proofing stage, which will follow the agreed project schedule. Data and text amends can either be handled by us or the client, depending on whether the client wants to use an online editing tool, such as CtrlPrint. In any event the following outcomes will apply.

Outcome of amends phase: usually, the proofing stage will involve three proofs in PDF format (gradually becoming more complete at each stage).

We will agree a process in advance (e.g. if using an online editing tool such as ControlPrint or not), but this is the period where the client provides feedback at each amend stage for our team to take in these changes. Where the client is handling text and number changes through an online editing tool, we will still work with you to tidy up pages and to take in more substantive design-based changes.

The final proof turn-around can be in the form of a physical book proof if preferred. We recommend this, as it gives you the opportunity to calmly read through the full report as it will look when printed, prior to sign off for print.

Proofreading

Part of our quality assurance is to include a complete proof-read by an independent proof-reader prior to sign off for print.

Outcome of proofreading phase: working to the client’s editorial style guide (which we can help you prepare if you don’t have a set) the reader will mark up comments either on a physical copy or using stickies on PDF.

We will go through the comments and will agree with the client in advance any comments that require approval (eg anything beyond grammatical amends that may change sentence structure, sense etc) prior to taking in all changes directly into our design file.

Sign off for print and uploading

We will take in all amends the client supplies at final proof stage, and the client team will see a final PDF proof of the report prior to us releasing our artwork file for print and uploading to the investor area on the website.

Quality assurance

Upon the client’s approval (at the point at which we know that no further amends will be made to our design file), we follow a robust internal sign-off process where the core project team and heads of departments look through and give their approval, and our production team creates a print-ready file to be supplied to the printer.

Printing

From our artwork, the Printer will prepare their own set of proofs which they will provide to us (and can be shared with you if you would like to see and approve them) either as a set of physical proofs or PDF proof. This is the last check through before giving the Printer the ‘Ok’ to print the agreed number of copies of the report.

Production and mailing

We will factor into the project schedule a production planning stage, which will involve our Production director to confirm the print specifications, print run and mailing requirements for the report.

We adhere strictly to GDPR guidelines which means we don’t handle any mailing data directly. A typical process for print and mailing is:

Uploading

Content for the digital version is typically launched at the same moment that the print version is distributed.

Wash up

Upon completion of the project, we welcome feedback from you on your experience of working with us, and hopefully form the basis for planning for the next year!

Outcome of the wash up: a meeting to discuss your feedback, and for us all to discuss what went well, what could be improved upon, how we would like to work together going forward etc. Clients will also be given a written document based on the minutes of the meeting, outlining a plan for next steps.

If you would like to know more about our annual reporting capabilities, please contact us at clients@wardour.co.uk.

Published May 22, 2020

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