Although an important and necessary task, coordinating and writing the annual report often has to be squeezed between other more pressing tasks. This can result in a stressful scramble to meet tight deadlines and a less-than-perfect report.
By avoiding some of the common annual report writing pitfalls, you will not only save time but produce a better quality annual report.
Inconsistent writing styles
Inconsistent writing style is a symptom of copying and pasting from other documents, such as strategic plans. Each contributor to the report will also have a different writing style. It’s essential to edit all contributions to ensure the style and tone is clear, concise and consistent throughout the report and that it reflects your organisation’s brand.
Also check that the content of the report relates to achievements that occurred in the financial year just past. Watch out for inconsistencies of tense, particularly present tense statements and events that occurred outside the reporting period. If you include aspirational statements or strategic goals, clearly differentiate these from the reported information.
Lack of honesty
In an over-zealous attempt to celebrate achievements, some organisations fail to report on important issues because these may reflect poorly on the organisation. The annual report is not just about your successes; an open and honest approach is better for the organisation’s credibility.
If you have not met your targets you can phrase this positively to show that lessons have been learnt or that there has been partial success. Make sure statements are backed up with facts and avoid exaggerated or untruthful statements at all costs.
Too many annual reports are full of buzz words or sweeping statements that give limited or no useful information. As soon as you introduce phrases like ‘moving forward we rolled out key strategies that commenced in the year reported’ you risk losing your reader.
Specific and factual statements are more effective than broad ones. Demonstrate to the reader exactly what you did, how you did it and the outcomes you achieved.
In the year reported, we streamlined our customer service processes by implementing a new state-of-the-art ticketing system in our customer service centres.
We launched an innovative priority ticketing system at our six customer service centres in November 2017. The new system resulted in an average wait-time across all centres of three minutes, a reduction of four minutes per customer per visit.
You could elaborate with a brief description of the ticketing system itself, such as the type of hardware and software installed, and/or an image of the ticketing system with a descriptive caption. To humanise your report, consider including several testimonials from satisfied customers.
Time to call in the editorial support team
Many people underestimate how long it takes to produce an annual report from requesting submissions from different areas of the business, to compiling the report, to graphic design, final proofreading and printing.
An external editorial support team can reduce your workload enormously and help you produce a highly professional report. For editors, proofreaders, indexers and graphic designers, May to October is often the busiest time of year. We recommend you start forming your editorial support team now so that you can meet those tight deadlines as the heat builds.