I find it interesting how little many people know about the process of writing and preparing annual reports.
Many people just accept an annual report exists, glance it and forget about it. Other people think annual reports are a good idea and that someone can just sit down for a few hours (maybe a couple of days) to write the report.
If only it was that simple!
I have already started on one client’s annual report – it won’t be released until September, so that gives you some idea of how long it can take.
So here is a list of tasks involved in producing a professional report that meets all legal, business and branding requirements professionally:
- checking what legal and regulatory requirements apply and ensuring those requirements are met. I often start with checklist of topics to include so I don’t forget any of them
- deciding on a theme, if suitable, as this will influence the exact wording and design, and possibly some of the actual content
- collating relevant information, such as major events, financial reports, directors’ details and performance data
- arranging the design and layout – this may mean finding a designer or using an in-house person, but will require time and various drafts
- writing the actual content – which may include writing the bulk of individual reports (Chair’s report, CEO Report and so on) and writing marketing material
- collating relevant images to be used in the report – or editing and approving those collected by the designer
- deciding on marketing elements and then preparing them – you can insert ads for various products/services or even accept external ads as long as you have space and it meets all relevant rules
- editing, rearranging and refining to get everything to fit nicely!
- coordinating feedback from a variety of people (for example, technical, financial, legal, marketing and company experts)
- reviewing final drafts to ensure the report meets the requirements from step 1, meets the business style guide, has all spelling and grammar correct, is readable, appears professional and somewhat attractive, has all correct numbers (check phone numbers, ABNs and addresses are perfect as typos are easily missed) and is approved by the responsible people
- arranging printing – even with digital copies available, some printed copies are usually required – and digital access (formatting and uploading the document and adjusting webpages and links to make it accessible)
There also the additional tasks of arranging distribution (so designing and printing envelopes, arranging mailing lists and stuffing envelopes) and any other materials to go with the annual report (such as member statements, renewal forms and marketing flyers) that may be part of ‘writing the annual report’ or managed by someone else.
It is a lot of work and there is certainly some pride in the final result of your hard work, but it can be a little frustrating when you realise that many people just don’t open or read the annual reports they are given!