Writers Who draft comprehensive, clear overviews and analysis of your company’s achievements, position and financial statements.
Once a year a company's attention turns to its annual report (an annual report details a company’s or organisation's finances, activities and achievements from the past year. It’s used to provide its investors, members or clients with a recap of all the central moments from the past twelve months).
It can be a consuming project for many parties, taking weeks to complete, and there's a lot riding on its professional production. A well written and visually stimulating annual report keeps stakeholders informed and inspires others to invest (if it’s a charity, it will compel donors to continue to contribute funds in a competitive sector).
The central piece of information in these reports is generally the financial report – managed by the CFO or similar and audited before publication. This document is a guide to creating all the other sections of the report – the updates, letters, timelines, milestones and outline of plans for the future, all written to be understood by investors, business partners, stakeholders and the broader community.
Your annual report isn’t just a financial statement, it can be a fantastic marketing platform capturing your company vision, mission and successes.
While an annual report is often a legal requirement, it needn’t be written in an entirely dry fashion. It’s an informational document, but it’s also there to tell an interesting story – to inspire and engage those who read it. It should highlight your organisation's achievements, showcase your successes and build trust.
Annual reports are typically publicly available or at least broadly distributed and must be easy to interpret for audiences not intimately involved in the day-to-day running of the organisation. This is one of the reasons it can be a great idea to ask an external agency to write yours for you (cough cough - like Writers Who) – they’ll have the distance needed to ask all the right questions to make your report impactful and clear for all readers. They’ll also be experts at writing and presenting your reports in the most engaging styles, while collating the information and having it verified and signed off along the way by the relevant parties.
Writers Who have crafted many annual reports for clients. We love getting to the bottom of what makes an organisation tick, teasing out the most notable, material and compelling stories from the past year, and presenting them in an easy-to-understand format. These styles might inspire you.
Every annual report will be different, depending on the business or organisation, but typically an annual report will include the following:
And placed throughout you should have some easy-to-digest visualisations of data and figures, and images that illustrate the content you've written about.
It’s sensible to set out what you want to achieve in your annual report, including the overall narrative and key messages. Here’s some advice before you get started.
The contents page of the annual report will outline what readers can expect to see in the annual report. It’s a great at-a-glance guide to what’s to come, and a handy way for you to see how the information will flow throughout the report. Take time to think about the names of each chapter. The overall narrative is outlined here - what is it that we want readers and stakeholders to take away about the company’s performance over the past twelve months and its plans for the coming years.
The CEO or Chairman’s letter is the first piece of content that a reader will see and it will set the tone for the rest of the annual report.
Writing the business overview
When it comes to writing an overview of the business, it’s presumptive to think that every person who reads the annual report will know a lot about the organisation. Some things we recommend including are:
A feature article in an annual report is just like any other article in that it should be a compelling read (you'd be surprised how many organisations skip this), informative, purposeful, have a narrative and be filled with quotes from relevant individuals. Feature articles are generally the place to tell your best stories and accomplishments from the year and really engage the readers. Here’s what to think about when writing these.
General tips for an effective annual report
Reviewing your copy is an unmissable last step before submitting. Your eyes will likely be weary of it by the time it goes to print. Because lots of people contribute to an annual report, mistakes and inconsistencies can creep in (and plenty of cooks like to tinker with the broth at the eleventh hour). Once you feel that you’re finished, read it over again checking for typos or errors. Are all the facts correct? Appoint an official editor or proofreader (someone who hasn't been heavily involved in its creation) to review the final copy before you publish it. A report littered with typos and inconsistencies will do your organisation no favours.
It’s common for our eyes to become blind to errors in our own work. Hearing the words out loud can help you to check that everything reads okay and makes sense. Paste your copy into a text to speech generator to hear how it really sounds. We routinely do this at Writers Who, even for a piece as short as a press release.
Pulling together an annual report can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. While you may have the right people within the organisation to inform the content, they may not have the time or skills to dedicate to expertly crafting such a significant piece of writing as an annual report. Your annual report isn’t just a legally required financial statement, it can be a fantastic tool for telling the story of your organisation – and it makes sense to harness this opportunity.
If you need some help bringing your annual report to life, and making the most of the opportunity it presents, Writers Who are experts in crafting clear, inspiring, insightful reports that will tell your story and really make an impact.