3… 2… 1… We have annual report season lift-off!

The final countdown to annual report season is under way. Here are our top tips on how to get all content engines running…

For December year-end companies, the start of the annual report development process is just around the corner – and now is usually when the panic starts setting in. One of the main challenges involves trying to coordinate a wide range of disparate contributors, each with different skillsets, not to mention different roles and agendas.

It’s all about starting as you mean to go on. From a content perspective, a few simple steps can ensure smooth development lift-off and, ultimately, a high-quality document that acts as a central tool for stakeholders to understand strategy, business model and performance.

Here are our top tips:

  1. Assign a steering committee

Different department leaders and key contributors will naturally have their own strong views on what goes into the annual report. To maximise alignment, a steering committee should meet at regular intervals to discuss strategy and track progress. We recommend fortnightly meetings between October and December, and weekly meetings from January until publication.

  1. Agree on a narrative flow and core messages

Before starting content creation, it’s a good idea to briefly outline the core narrative and key messages that the report will detail. Ideally, this outline would be written down and approved by the CEO and/or Chairman before fingers hit keyboard. As an extra step, plan who will deliver what input, when and how.

  1. Integrated means integrated

Recent years have seen a worthy trend towards integrated annual reporting. Great! However, too many said reports, while comprehensive, lack a clear narrative thread, often resembling a disjointed set of wide-ranging statements. Not so great. Ideally, there will be direct linkages between the various sections: how do operational results relate to financial performance, for example? A truly integrated approach will allow the most important themes to emerge, helping to “tell the story” of the company’s performance convincingly.

  1. Be transparent

Similarly, reports that offer a one-sided, overly positive view on the company’s progress lack conviction, undermining stakeholder confidence and driving uncertainty. Therefore, facing up to challenges, trials and tribulations of the past year in a transparent way is key to building trust among stakeholders – and the annual report is the best channel through which to do this.

  1. Lean in and enjoy it

To be sure, no reporting process is without its hiccups. A certain amount of pressure is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the journey. No other corporate document offers such a comprehensive record of your company’s performance and direction – and ultimately your own professional raison d’être – at a particular time. It’s a once-in-a-year opportunity to inform, engage and inspire. Go for it!

At Baxter Lawley Communications, our team of native-English copywriters and communication specialists have helped to develop annual reports for a range of high-profile companies. Curious how we can help you? Get in touch with us.

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By |September 26th, 2018|Tips & insights|Comments Off on 3… 2… 1… We have annual report season lift-off!
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