Tips for creating a theme for a business plan or annual report

Successful companies of all sizes write business plans to guide their efforts for the coming year. Few of them put as much thought into the presentation of that forward-focused plan as they put into the annual report that looks back at what was accomplished.

Exelon Power Team is a notable exception. Power Team is the wholesale marketing division of Exelon Corporation, one of the nation’s largest electric companies. Each year, Power Team leaders write a detailed business plan to share strategies, key challenges and specific focus areas for the division as a whole and for each department.

For the past several years, Power Team has engaged Hollister Creative to develop a theme for the business plan. Like a typical annual report theme, it is a metaphor in words and images that provides a single unifying message about one company in one year of its life.

Hollister Creative has applied the theme to print collateral, PowerPoints and posters that Power Team uses at a business plan rollout event for its 300 employees.

When developing a theme for a business plan or annual report:

  1. Spend enough time talking with company representatives to truly understand all facets of the message they want to convey. The metaphor you select will have to embrace the right nuances of style and tone if it is going to ring true as a representation of this company at this time.
  2. Write text with one big idea that expresses the metaphor in an original and powerful way. That’s your title or headline. Then write three to five statements that support or elaborate on the big idea. The statements form the bridge from the metaphor to the information in the report. Be sure that the language you use will be easily understood by all audiences.
  3.  Use photos and graphics to create a bold image that amplifies the message. Resist the urge to get overly clever here. In the mind of the designer, the image may have deep layers of meaning, but on its surface it should be instantly recognizable to everyone. You want to hear “Wow,” not “What’s that?”