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Repeat annual report content?

Annual report coversMost annual reports contain the same general information year after year.

Whether it is an introduction, history of the business, outlining products, naming directors or key staff, there are sections of an annual report that don’t change much over the years.

Repeat the wording?

The fastest option therefore is to use exactly the same wording in those sections every year, just changing small details as necessary. The freshest option would be to rewrite all those sections.

There are pros and cons to both options, such as:

  1. if you assume most people don’t read annual reports from cover to cover, and probably don’t remember last year’s report in depth anyway, not changing the words would probably escape attention from the majority of people
  2. repeating the wording not only saves you time rewriting the content but also in gathering feedback and approvals on it – it was approved last year so will meet the criteria this year too (if major style changes have occurred, copying old content isn’t an option!)
  3. it looks a bit slack and old to anybody who does notice the wording hasn’t changed
  4. it is easy to make errors when you assume ‘oh it was ok last year so I’ll just skim read this bit’ and miss the reference to ‘our new office’ a year later or forget to update 2012-11 to 2011-12.
  5. content from the annual report can be copied and used elsewhere because it is approved, public information. Updating the content each year is a nice way to update basic information in numerous places so your profile is kept fresh and interesting
  6. depending on how your annual report is presented online, you could end up with what appears to be duplicate content on your site (if four pdfs are all 33% the same, for example, there will be a lot of repetition). Search engines do not like duplicate content and can penalise your site for it
  7. staff can get bored rereading the same words – new content gives them fresh wording to utilise in presentations and on phone calls, too

So what do you think – would you be unhappy getting an annual report that was largely the same as last year’s? Would you even notice?

2 Responses to Repeat annual report content?

  • Jan Miller says:

    What an interesting conundrum! The pros and cons you state are worth considering. Still, while it is doubtful that anyone would remember a phrase verbatim 365 days after having read it, your company deserves the best you can provide.

    The deciding factor for me – a technical writer for the past 20 years – is in the name of the report. It is only published once each year and represents your company to stockholders, stakeholders, and other parties of interest. Why not take a hybrid approach and review the annual report verbiage yearly, highlighting any section that could stand a bit of a rework? This approach also enables a company to revisit policies and think about the past year.

    Just my $.02!

    • tashword says:

      And a good $0.02 it is, too, Jan!

      I have heard different people (e.g. technical people and sales people) get quite heated about one side or the other of this discussion so it is interesting to get a variety of views on it. I’ve also had clients express a view on how they want me to produce their annual report.

      Personally, I go for the middle ground when I can. I copy across the existing material as a starting point then tweak bits and pieces so it is different to last year’s but not completely rewritten.

      Thanks for your input, Jan 🙂

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