Even if an organisation doesn’t love producing an annual report there is usually a legal or regulatory requirement to do so. And here at AM we understand that most organisations want to approach their annual report as a marketing opportunity – after all, together with the website, it’s probably the first port of call for prospective customers, suppliers, would-be employees and shareholders (not to mention competitors).
The preparatory work usually begins with a lot of questions: who is taking the lead, how will the document be structured, and what are the main messages that you want to get across about the organisation? Is there a style sheet?
The next stage involves gathering an enormous amount of input from different departments – typically some people will be too enthusiastic when sending their information, while others will refuse to produce anything useful. At its most extreme within companies, we’ve seen internal feuds being played out over successive proof stages, which of course is unusual, but something everyone learns along the way is that producing a high-quality, readable document that reflects an organisation’s achievements and aspirations with something approaching a single authorial voice takes time and effort.
All this internal work is a lot on top of existing tasks, so it makes sense to involve a dedicated designer and an editor so that the finished product makes sense and looks professional. Then, when you come close to the end of the project, even if you’ve done everything else internally, it always comes highly recommended to get your document proofread.
Now we say this for a reason, or several reasons. In annual reports, of all documents, it’s important to be factually accurate, and while we’re not accountants, we can add up, or compare what’s said in the commentary with the corresponding piece in the accounts section, and point out apparent problems.
It’s surprising – or maybe not – how many anomalies make it through to the final draft (the cliché about the value of a ‘second pair of eyes’ is only a cliché because it’s true). And, certainly in the commentary section, getting the basic grammar, spelling and consistency right is crucial – just think about everyone who might be reading the final product, from the MD of your next potential big customer to an industry expert looking to make a recommendation.
If they go well, these reports are powerful tools that you can use to share the story of your organisation with the wider world for the next 12 months in presentations and roundtables, as well as on social media and on your own website, so you can’t afford any mistakes in the final draft. And that’s where we come in – we have decades of experience with annual reports. With some clients we join in from the start to help with structure and direction, and with others we step in at the last minute to double check the work and ensure absolute peace of mind when it comes to these important publications. And who doesn’t love a little bit of peace of mind?
Image by Markus Spiske on Unsplash