Annual Report Image Bristol content marketing agency

An annual report that matters…

We are a Bristol marketing agency that has created dozens of annual reports, including writing, editing and designing them for clients. Along the way we have learned a lot about how to create annual reports that matters and makes a difference. Here’s what you can do differently in 2018.


It will soon be annual report season, where content experts across the country attempt to wring some great copy from the seemingly endless mass of platitudes, clichés, and obfuscating business speak that lubricates the email systems of most companies large and small.


Annual reports don’t have to be boring, but the sad fact is that the majority of them are. One specific problem is that people assume the form is rigid, and fixed. It isn’t, there’s a huge amount of freedom, and even fun, that you can introduce to your annual report.


Here is the 42group approach to writing an engaging and inspiring annual report.


Tell a story


Think of your annual report not as a simple litany of successes and failures, but a way to tell your organisation’s story. The most effective way to do this is to develop a narrative theme as a basis for your report.


As copywriters, we are able to condense the essence of your report into a phrase or a strap-line that is reinforced throughout the narrative.


With some effort and insight you can do the same (or work with a professional).


Be visual (because nobody really reads the entire report)


Have you ever picked up and read an annual report all the way through? (Not one you’ve written yourself…)


We will make the assumption that you haven’t, and (apart from those we have worked on or used as a reference) we haven’t either. You can support your words, communicating your message effectively through design. Including images and photographs that are relevant and have impact can support your words and tell your story in a different way.


Be bold and be visual.


Be creative


A traditional annual report has a familiar formal structure – but you don’t have to follow this.


For example, Southmead Project’s 2017 annual report (created by Bristol design agency Group of Seven) is a fold out, wallet-sized card.


We’ve written NHS annual reports that have been presented as mini-websites instead of printing them. We’ve even created an annual report distributed on a set of branded USB sticks in the shape of nurses for a client.


Being creative is a choice you should make.


Ban the banal


George Orwell famously waged war on hackneyed phrases and banal clichés, suggesting so-called formal writing was based on using well known, but little understood, phrases seamlessly stacked together like a child playing with Lego bricks.


We know that writers often find comfort in clichés when they’re struggling to write, because we do it too. If it makes it to print however, your readers will be lulled (or bored senseless) into acquiescence, and conclude that you either couldn’t be bothered to write anything interesting, or had nothing interesting to say in the first place.


There are plenty of blogs out there with details on the sort of hackneyed phrases pieced together by writers. Orwell’s tip (which he didn’t always follow himself) was to avoid using a phrase you’d already heard before, so that’s a start.


It’s all about people


“Our staff are at the heart of everything we do…” has to be one of the most over-used, and ill-considered clichés that manages to worm its way into corporate content over and over again. But, there is a kernel of truth within it.


The simplest, most effective and contemporary way to tell your story is to use the people within your organisation, and your clients and customers, to tell it.


Focus on identifying and telling the individual stories that make your organisation matter.


Build a system for collaboration


Annual reports are notoriously complicated documents to create with a large number of interested (but not always intelligent) people who want to get involved.


We use web-based systems for most of our collaborative projects, which allows us to track and manage all amends. Date stamped copies means we can step back to the future faster than Doc and Marty when dealing with even the most over-zealous user of track-changes, or wannabe armchair Amis.


Work with a professional


Writing an annual report is a challenging process that can stretch individuals and teams. When an annual report has to be completed for a deadline, it can be


Choosing an agency to work with can be difficult, with many focusing on one aspect of the process (content, design, editorial, photography etc.). At 42group we are able to offer a complete annual report service, including design, photography and professional proofreading.


Sometimes it’s easier to outsource the entire process, and if you do, we can help.


At 42group we’ve written words for some of the world’s biggest brands and business, as well as some of the smallest and most exciting. 


If you’d like to chat about how our words can transform your business and create an annual report that matters, please contact us today.