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annual report

Work all year on annual reports

Whether you run your own business or the communications for a business, if you are involved in the annual report process, have you started work on it yet?

I have learned not to just leave preparing an annual report until July. It is so much easier and quicker to write if you have been keeping notes all year. I have an annual report document where I jot notes all year (for example ’10 November new product launched, 12 December legislation changed, 10 February started our blog’).

When you come to writing the annual report you then have a list of things from the past year to potentially include in your report. It is so easy to forget something that happened early in the year so having the list reminds you.

It has also saved me time many times because the date is listed and I don’t have to search it up. Knowing the date is useful for looking up related emails or news, assessing statistics (e.g. why did website traffic spike in March?) and just for reporting the date in the annual report (e.g. ‘We launched our blog in February and are pleased with it’).

Make preparing an annual report an all year project and you can save yourself a lot of stress and worry, and produce a comprehensive report as well.

P.S. The notes are sometimes useful for other tasks, not just for writing the annual report. Have you wasted time looking for dates or trying to remember what happened in a certain timeframe?

Writing an annual report

What does an annual report mean to you?

For many people an annual report is boring and they don’t read those they are given (such as from a superannuation fund or employer). For others, an annual report is an important part of reviewing investments and companies.

Then there is the group of people who are involved in preparing annual reports…

If you are in this group, annual reports suddenly take on a new importance and can be very intimidating to start. There is the size of the report plus the fact that an annual report is a significant, formal summary of the business.

There is nothing stopping a small or micro business presenting an annual report, but many bigger companies must produce an annual report within a certain timeframe. And that generally means there are specific things to be included in those annual reports alongside the standard financial summaries.

I have written and project managed a number of annual reports now, and I can honestly say it is a lot less intimidating now than when I did my first couple! So here are some of my tips to make writing annual reports a bit easier:

  • prepare a list of mandatory inclusions so you can check off each thing as you add it
  • in your drafts, set up tables and use dummy text for sections you don’t know details of yet – it reminds you to include it but also helps plan spacing in the report
  • read previous years’ reports to get a good idea of what the company prefers to include (for example, does each Board member get a bio or just a name?)
  • be prepared to make many edits as different people (eg technical and legal experts) read the drafts
  • set aside solid blocks of time to work on the report as it takes time. For instance, yesterday I spent two hours reviewing and refining a first designer draft of an annual report – doing it in smaller chunks of time would take a lot longer overall
  • utilise existing content where possible. For example, if you have a clear definition of a concept on your website copy that definition into your annual report instead of rewriting it. Not only does it save time, it means you have previously accepted text which saves edits and discussions