Annual Reports

Annual reports are documents used by both charitable and for-profit organizations. The purpose of these documents is to update shareholders, investors, and donors about the company's activities and progress over the past year. Although annual reports do not include blatant sales pitches, part of the reason they are written is to attract new investors or donors and convince current shareholders and donors to continue supporting the company.

What does an annual report contain?

If you are asked to write an annual report for a client, there are a number of sections you may be asked to include. Some sections commonly found in annual reports are:

  • Sales and marketing: This section describes the product or service sold by the company. It also outlines how the business promotes its products and services to consumers.
  • Management discussion and analysis: This part of the report will outline important financial trends observed over the previous two years. It is essential to describe how much of an impact these changes have had on the company.
  • A letter to shareholders: This section offers a way to personally communicate with those who are in large part to thank for the company's success. You might elaborate on some of the company's major accomplishments over the past year or outline how the corporation plans to address any significant challenges.
  • General corporate information: For those who may be considering investing or donating, you should include some general information about the business and how it operates.

Annual reports can also have a number of other sections, including: the company's mission statement, a letter from the chairman of the board, a ten-year financial summary, a history of the company's stock price, a report from the CEO, and a cash flow statement. Because annual reports don't all follow the exact same format, be sure to request an outline of the report's contents from your client before you begin.

Quick tip #1: Remember, the annual report should present the company in the best possible way. You can't fabricate financials or other information, but be sure to focus on the company's achievements and what they are doing well.

Quick tip #2: The finished report will probably be quite lengthy, and it's likely most people won't read it from cover to cover. Anybody who picks up your report should be able to turn to any one of the sections and understand its contents. Therefore, it may be helpful to treat each of the sections as a separate document. In other words, it's important that information from one section doesn't carry over into the next.

Quick tip #3: As a technical writer, a big part of preparing an annual report will be compiling information rather than writing original material. For example, your client will have to provide you with information like auditor's reports, balance sheets, and financial summaries. Figure out what the company will need to give you, and request it as soon as possible so everyone who must provide information will have plenty of time to do so.

Last Updated: 05/05/2014