Your annual report is the largest and most important document you’ll publish all year but it’s so much more than a corporate reporting document. Aside from fulfilling regulatory compliance and statutory obligations, it’s a unique opportunity and the most credible medium for reviewing the past year and outlining your vision for the next 12 months. It builds understanding, trust and confidence among your stakeholders and is an opportunity to stand out in your sector and amongst your peers.
Your annual report, or annual review as some people refer to it, will be scrutinised by a diverse audience that includes employees, partners, shareholders and potential investors, customers or clients, suppliers, regulators, NGO’s and journalists – each looking for different information on policy, performance and planning. The information you include and how you communicate it must cater for them all. Combined, it must be a compelling story, well told.
Annual report copywriting requires good planning, a strong narrative structure and the dedication of those involved. There are likely to be contributions from half a dozen people (Chairperson, CEO, CFO and various heads of department) , each with differing priorities, perspectives and communication abilities, and a whole host of images, infographics, charts and tables. There is much information to collect, summarise and draw together into one comprehensive and cohesive document.
As well as the financial statements and reports, your annual report should take the opportunity to share news about the company’s achievements and accomplishments during the past 12 months, use case studies to illustrate the challenges it faced and how you overcame them, talk about the state of your industry in general and your company’s plans for the future including targets you have set yourself, and of course don’t forget to thank those who have helped the company along the way.
Your choice of wording and tone of voice is important as it reflects the personality of your organisation. It also needs to be concise and in a logical, well-organised order with defining key messages throughout. Not everyone will want to read your annual report cover to cover, so it must have a logical flow that tells the story of the year that is broken down into manageable easy-to-digest sections that is easy to scan and skim.