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Writing your Annual Report – the ultimate contents list

by Angela Harbinson
on 29 May, 2018 6 min read

Annual Report writing is one of the biggest annual projects. The annual flurry to meet your reporting commitments begins each year as the reporting deadlines approach. We’ve put together the ultimate content list for writing your Annual Report to make the process easier.

The Annual Report is one of the main selling tools for your company and often is the first thing investors, shareholders or donors will see that reflects your company. Your Annual Report tells the story and successes of your company.

At a minimum Annual Reports have mandatory financial reporting requirements – a balance sheet, cash flow and profit and loss statements, and supporting notes. You should also include a company overview, a report from the board and an auditor’s report.

Some organisations have legislation that dictates exactly what must be included, for example, local councils must include details of all tender arrangements in their Annual Reports.


Don’t run out of time. Our Annual Report Checklist will help you plan the production of your report from start to finish.


From a marketing perspective, your Annual Report writing time is one of the greatest opportunities you get to clearly highlight the achievements over the past year and plans for the future.


Contents list for your Annual Report

Here are some content areas you might include in your Annual Report writing plan:


CEO’s Report

The CEO’s Report is often retrospective and talks about what a great job the company has done over the past year. Here you can highlight stellar projects, big wins and major awards and recognition for the company.


Board Chairman’s Report

The board can be more forward thinking as they are the drivers of the direction of business. This is an opportunity to congratulate the team, but also look to the future and talk about plans and new projects that have potential for growth in the coming year. Look at how the business will seize new opportunities in your industry.


Time to highlight your mission, vision and goals. Outline how the company has structured, the departments and their responsibilities and who is responsible for each area. You might like to include some history if it’s relevant and interesting.



Let your marketing team do their best work here. It’s time to talk about achievements, not just a long list of projects. What were the standouts. Highlight the great wins for the company, big projects and new client wins and all the projects that have succeeded. Sing the praises of your staff and their personal achievements too.


Case Studies

What about your clients? How have your products or services made a difference for your clients? What are their successes and how has your business been involved? How did you make the world a better place? Including case studies provides an excellent opportunity to highlight some of the company’s successes.


Awards and Recognition

Highlight what the company has done that has been recognised nationally or internationally.


The Industry

What is happening in your industry and what opportunities does this present for your business? Where is the growth and how is your company positioned to take advantage of it?



Report against the targets you set the previous year and set new ones for the coming year. Even if you didn’t succeed, it’s important to note progress and changing environments.


Say Thanks

Acknowledge and thank the board, the management team, to staff and partner organisations, because they deserve it.


Do the Money

Don’t forget the financial statements and any other mandatory requirements. Check in early with your auditor and review legislative changes that dictate what you must include.


Annual Report writing

It can be quite daunting when you being the physical process of Annual Report writing, so its important to start early. The writing phase involves actually bringing content and stories from all areas of your business together into a single document. The trick is to compile them in a  compelling way that tells the story of the past year.

Keeping your story on track will be easier if you pick a theme for the year that ties all the components together. If you have an annual marketing or business plan with focused goals, this will make the story will be much easier to define.

Another aspect to consider is the approvals process and how changes from different areas of the business will be managed and distributed among stakeholders, because this can be the most time consuming piece of the puzzle. Don’t underestimate the importance of the Annual Report writing phase – allow enough time for all stakeholders to have their input into the final draft to avoid costly and time consuming changes at the design or production phase.


Annual Report design

The Annual Report has become more than just a statutory requirement – it is an important tool for attracting investment; it’s an important part of your marketing armoury, and for not-for-profits it’s one of the key documents for donors to read.

Annual Report design and how you present the information you gather for this report is as important as what’s inside. Your design should reflect the standards of excellence you set for your business. For some companies, this report is their business.



If you are presenting a lot of statistics or financial information an infographic will make it easier to navigate and allow you to place emphasis on key elements. Look for ways to illustrate your achievements or processes to add life to your reporting.

Our team helped Health Workforce Queensland embed infographics in their Annual Report to highlight their great success at placing doctors and healthcare workers in rural and remote communities throughout Queensland.


The Annual Report doesn’t have to end on the printed page. After the initial print run, most people will find your Annual Report through your company website and it’s here you can highlight and summarise the report using video. Supporting video can also be attached on disk to the printed reports. Video gives investors and authorities the ability to get a comprehensive review of the year’s activities in another format. A video version of your Annual Report lets you bring your team into the picture and really tell your story of success with the people who create it.



We eat with our eyes. We judge everything on appearance. Bring in a photographer to ensure you have the best images to showcase your business and your success. The basics are the headshots of your board members, but don’t forget to take a walk through your offices and capture the day-to-day activity and staff at work. Great images will tell the story better than words.


Call to Action

Not-for-profits need to include information for donors, because this is often your best opportunity to get all your information in front of potential donors so take the opportunity to show them how they can become involved. For other companies, it’s always good to invite feedback, questions and comments – a panel at the end with your contact details may be enough.


Pulling it all together

In many ways the content of your report is the easy part. You know your business and its successes over the past year, it’s a matter of creating your content list and sticking to it. Images and other elements will come together once you have your content in place.

But getting your Annual Report together requires a good deal of planning. Setting up your project to ensure deadlines are met, approvals are received on time, and all content and image assets make it to the designers in time takes some planning.

Our Annual Report Checklist will guide you through the process of creating a plan to deliver on budget and on time.


We are here to help

If you need assistance pulling it all together, the team at Thirst Creative are here to help with Annual Report writing, design and production. Enquire today about our tailored design packages that will transform your next Annual Report into a strategic marketing tool that actively engages your audience.

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