Your annual report is the defining record of your company’s activities and performance throughout the year – for your shareholders to assess your viability as an investment and your stakeholders to decide how they want to engage with you.
An emerging trend has been towards sustainability reports through which companies can show their sustainability as a business. Not just environmentally, but financially, socially, towards their employees and in terms of risk.
Such reports are time consuming to produce – perhaps why many companies outsource the task to an external copywriter. At the same time, their importance should not be underestimated. So how can you find a copywriter that ticks all the right boxes and can do your report justice? Here are six pointers:
1- Hire a copywriter with corporate experience
Like other marketing materials, an annual report should be benefits driven – what your company has done in the last year to create shareholder value, be a better employer, enhance its corporate governance or serve its community.
Unlike other marketing materials, it is a corporate document, not a sales tool. A good report writer therefore has a separate set of skills that comes from exposure to the corporate world and can speak the right language.
2- Hire a copywriter experienced in your industry
Engaging a copywriter that has a degree of experience in your industry will save considerable time in explaining the principles you need to communicate.
You will most likely create your Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet and other financials as tables in the form your accounting system generates. If you need a narrative on these, you will need to talk these through with the writer. Same with your corporate governance, as this will be different from company to company.
In terms of the more functional aspects of your company operations, having a writer with knowledge of your industry will be invaluable.
3- Share your last annual report
Share you last annual report, if available, with your copywriter and ask for his/her thoughts. What does he/she think about the tone of voice, structure, length? If graphic design is within the scope of work, what will their approach be towards the use of text in conjunction with design elements.
If you are doing the design work inhouse or using a separate graphic designer, connect your copywriter with the designer to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Writing and design should work in conjunction with each other to get the best results. But all copy should be complete and approved before design work commences.
4- Ask for a short writing sample
Ask your writer for a short writing sample, no more than half a page, to gauge their writing style. Your report is first and foremost an informational document. But there needs to be a balance between an engaging narrative and delivering the facts.
Your copywriter should be able to deliver the ‘benefits’ approach we describe earlier, but in straightforward accessible language. The report should reflect the brand’s personality but be concise and easy to digest.
Depending on your communications strategy, you may opt to use the first or third person. In our experience, a mix of both works well – it is more conversational and brings variety to the narrative. We always recommend the more direct ‘active’ voice: “We implemented a new training programme’’, over the ‘passive’ voice: ‘’A new training programme was implemented.”
It might sound obvious, but writing consistency and accuracy in spelling, punctuation and grammar is everything. A sloppy report gives the impression of a sloppy company. You can show your credentials within your report as much as you like. But if the writing lets you down, your report will have zero credibility.
5- Share and prepare
Your copywriter cannot be expected to be an expert on your company, so he/she should spend some face-to-face meeting time with you to discuss the report and how they will collect the essential information to write it. If your copywriter is experienced, he/she should know the questions to ask in order to gather the right information, once they understand what the report will contain.
6- Ask for delivery section-by-section
Within your copywriter’s proposal, he/she should have specified how many rewrites are included within their cost. They should include 1-2 rewrites in total – on the understanding that the feedback you give them on the first draft is based on you having done a full review and you don’t come back with any surprises. If your copywriter delivers section-by-section, it will give you chance to start your review as he/she completes subsequent sections. It will also allow you to see how the report is progressing.
THE BLACK AND WHITE GROUP has considerable experience writing/editing and designing annual and sustainability reports across a range of industries. You can reach out to us through, 00971-50-4575469, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or our website, https://www.weareblackandwhite.com.