Annual and sustainability reports are often the most comprehensive documents that target audiences get to read and keep. When they are well done, they provide a clear overview of strategy, relevant actions and future potential, with visuals and text working together to support key messages, including the company’s values, goals, transparency and accountability. Over more than 25 years, I have written these organizational reports for a broad range of corporations and non-profit organizations.
Creating a Compelling Annual Report
Rather than writing a ponderous document that only a few can understand, businesses should create annual reports that speak to a broad group of people simply and clearly –highly visual and narrative-driven reports that can help businesses connect with shareholders, investors, customers and other stakeholders.
Determine the Key Message
An annual report is a perfect opportunity to highlight your accomplishments and the impact of these accomplishments. The investors and employees want to know what you did and why you did it. By connecting your activities and your accomplishments to the final goals and mission statement, businesses can build trust and foster long-lasting connections.
Finalize Structure and Content
One of the most difficult parts about writing an annual report is deciding what to include and what to leave out. It’s important to map out the content and the structure of the report.
Apart from the basic elements such as introduction, chairman’s letter, business profile and financial statement, the annual report should have a storyline that defines the overall structure of the report and shapes the content around a narrative thread. This makes it easier to identify and cut out information that does not actively move the story forward.
Use clear, precise and unambiguous writing. Maintain a professional and unbiased position throughout the document. The content of the annual report should be transparent and honest. Don’t inflate accomplishments or disguise the losses that you faced.
Use Compelling Design
A well-designed report that is engaging and professional can be used as a marketing tool by a business. Ideally, readers should be able to scan through the document and get the information they need. Here are some pointers for a good annual report design:
- Use headings and subheadings
- Devote space to photographs, infographics and other compelling visual elements
- Keep the text short and simple
- Use a bold and complimentary color scheme and layout techniques that are in sync with your brand
- Emphasize key areas with colored text boxes, quotes and captions
Annual Report Writing Portfolio
Airbus • Amgen • The Annie E. Casey Foundation • Becton Dickinson (BD) • Berlitz International • Children’s Television Workshop • Citibank • Deloitte & Touche • The Forest Stewardship Council • GartnerGroup • GE Capital • IBM • Johnson & Johnson • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society • The New York Academy of Sciences • The New York Blood Center • New York Public Library • The New York Times Company • Pfizer • Pitney Bowes • The Rockefeller Brothers Fund • Save the Children • Thomas Jefferson University Hospital • UNICEF • Unilever • University of Connecticut • Wyeth • Yale-New Haven Hospital
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