How to write an excellent annual report
The annual report is a yearly summary and record of the businesses operations and financial positions.
It is a document that presents the businesses financial status and overall performance.
Comprehensive annual reports are mandatory for public companies. However, small businesses and non-profits also prepare yearly reports as it is a great way to present information about the company’s performance and future goals.
What Is The Purpose Of An Annual Report?
Annual reports can have different goals for different companies, let’s review some below:
Opportunity for Promotion
The annual report is an excellent opportunity for creating more brand awareness and sharing your last year’s achievements with your audience. You can Include tailored marketing messages throughout your information to attract new partners, investors or stakeholders.
Overview of Achievements
A Year in Review section is an excellent opportunity to show your company in an ideal light to attract participation.
This section would include topics like; the mission of statement, last year’s most significant achievements, research results, testimonials from clients, personal success stories, investments made into infrastructure or personnel and product updates and launches.
Often one of the most prominent sections in the annual report, the financial section can include expansion, growth, revenue increase plans and return on investment analysis. The unit also outlines financial performance goals and projected and achieved revenue figures.
Public Companies and entities that fit specific criteria are legally obligated to produce and publish their Annual Reports each year. Check the requirements for your company to ensure you are doing the right thing. Regardless, some companies make Annual Reports even if they don’t have to as they provide excellent marketing opportunities.
The standard contents of an Annual Report
There is a certain standard for a typical structure of an Annual Report.
Traditionally the report begins with the Chairman’s Letter, which is a letter from the company’s CEO, owner or Chairman. The letter is aimed at potential stakeholders, outlining the achievements of the year. It’s a very brief overview of the Reports contents focussing on the past years’ challenges and accomplishments.
This section follows the table of contents, which divides the report into three main areas:
Business Profile – includes, but is not limited to:
- vision and mission statement of the company
- Directors and board members details
- Officers details
- Investor profile
- Outline of the primary source of revenue – products or services
- Competitor Profile
- Risk Factors
Management Discussion and Analysis – includes, but is not limited to:
- Overview of the business performance
- Profit margins, sales and income.
- New product launches
- Changes in products or services
- Measurable changes in marketing and sales strategies
- New hires
- Business acquisitions
Financials – includes, but is not limited to:
- Balance Sheet
- Cash Flow Statement
- Income Statement
- Statement to Stakeholders
Other Annual Report sections might include:
- Disclaimers about forecasted income and expenses
- Stories and photographs
- Accounting policy details
How to get started with creating an Annual Report?
Planning is key
Determine everyone who will be involved in the project and on what scale, here are some questions you should answer:
Who needs to plan and provide content for different sections?
Who will help with editing the copy to ensure even tone of voice?
Who will need to sign off on content?
Who will design the document?
Do you need to consider an agency?
Then, determine the timeline for your project early on and build in some buffers, we recommend to allow multiple months for the whole process.
We have an article about planning complicated project timelines if you’d like to learn more.
Make it impressive
Remember, the Annual Report represents your company and is an excellent opportunity to show off the recent achievements. Use it to create an exciting business profile, showcasing your top products and services and praising your amazing, hard-working team. Don’t forget to include the client-side; perhaps there are some great testimonials or reviews that you could add in?
Once you have gathered the initial content material, resculpt it into stories, that are accompanied by some supporting imagery.
Tell a Story
People love stories.
It is not easy to read through a report full of bland facts and numbers.
Think about how to present your Annual Report as a compelling story of the last year of your company.
Don’t forget your brand mission here, as it is always good to keep your story aligned with your company’s mission, always reminding people what you are really about.
One great idea is to talk to the people in your organisation and ask for their stories, After all, it’s the people who make the company, and their individual stories make up the bigger story for the organisation itself.
Tone of Voice
Since the content for the sections is coming from different people, they will all probably sound quite different as we all have a contrasting way of writing.
Involving an editor can be a good idea for a report like this, as they can even it out, and make sure the whole piece has an even tone that is suitable to represent your company.
If your company has a specific tone of voice determined in the brand guidelines, make sure you pass this on to all the content providers.
The devil is in the details
Annual reports are notorious for going through multiple rounds of checks and edits. The editing rounds are focusing on different areas, like the consistency of voice, correct use of language, legal and technical accuracy, and of course the comprehensive proofreading.
With all this going on, the content is subject to many changes, which is why it is good to allow buffers in the timeline.
It is a good idea to get someone to proofread who has not seen the report before, “fresh eyes” are proven to spot some errors that have been missed simply because your team has already seen the same copy so many times.
What are the main Annual Report formats?
As times go on, the ways of presenting information change
Annual Reports are considered high-end documents that deserve professional print with quality stock proper binding.
These would then be distributed to the stakeholders and prospects as physical copies.
This is also a considerable cost that needs to be accounted for from the start of the project.
The PDF is usually the same format as the printed version, but saved as a digital PDF and hosted on the company’s website. It is easy to print out quickly, if needed, or send to anyone in an email.
Digital and Interactive – Livebook as Annaul Report
The newest format, which is quickly becoming the standard is the digital interactive Annual Reports.
Most likely built in HTML5, interactive Annual Reports act like websites. They are responsive and can be viewed from any device; they can often be animated and interactive with embedded videos and image galleries.
Digital reports can be SEO optimised, and they can also act as Pillar content to your main website. Not to mention, just like any other website, digital Annual Reports allow analytics to be embedded, so you can track engagement and reach.
Livebook is a product that is perfectly suited to host such a digital document. With an easy drag and drop interface, we will only need to build your Livebook platform once, and you can create the next year’s Annual Reports yourself with no additional costs required!
For an overall smooth process;
Start early and plan well, allow a buffer in your timeline, aim for the digital format if possible, make it impressive and tell your company’s story in a compelling way.