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Literature & annual reports

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One of the oldest and most effective forms of marketing is simply to commit your messages – along with some attractive and effective design - to print and then distribute it accordingly.

Annual reports are a mainstay of the third sector and may be the only communication your stakeholders read from year-to-year.

Even a simple, two-sided A5 brochure performs a critical function for the third sector; and that function is primarily to inform. Literature is all about providing a tangible document of reference. And that’s all the more critical when you’re a small charity or support organisation struggling for awareness and recognition.

Even now, there is nothing quite like a piece of printed marketing material that you can hold in your hand. It’s easy to read, easy to share.

Things to consider when producing literature


This is a textbook example of why having a message platform and basic brand guidelines (not to mention a marketing plan) are important. If you have all these things in place it should be far easier to decide what you want to say and how you plan to say it – through images and words.

Be linear

Tackle your subject in a rational and linear order. Don’t start an annual report by thanking the treasurer. Start by telling the audience who you are, and why you exist.

Good pacing

A brochure is no different to a newspaper, magazine or book. If you want people to keep reading you need to keep things moving. Example: Taking a simple lesson from tabloid journalism, anything you really want people to read should be on a right-sided page as that’s where the eye is always first drawn.

Tell the story through your stakeholders

As our case study in this section shows, nothing demonstrates your effectiveness and creates emotional buy-in to your organisation like real people telling their own stories.

Word count and subheadings: All third sector organisations need to consider accessibility. That means limiting the number of words per page and ensuring that copy is broken into clearly labelled, manageable chunks.

Longer isn’t better

Never be tempted into thinking that your organisation will be considered insubstantial because your annual report or literature isn’t 64 pages long. If you can impart what you need to in two pages, go for it (and remember, you can always direct people to your website for more information).

Consider the environment

There’s no better reason for keeping things succinct than the need to reduce the amount of paper, ink, and general energy consumed in producing your literature.

Consider costs

Designing in two colours instead of four and using lighter paper (that costs less and also less to send through the postal system) will bring down your costs. While you may find pro bono help on the creative side, few printers will be willing or able to work for nothing…

Consider usability

What physical shape and size is going to be easy for people to handle, read, store and share?


Do it yourself?

Your literature and annual report (along with your website) say more about your organisation, your offering and your brand than anything else. If you can, get professional help. Read how homeless charity Borderline made their award-winning reports for inspiration.