What Makes A Good Annual Report?

It's coming up to the end of the financial year. So it's Annual report writing season.

Whether you are a not for profit or a large multi-national, writing annual reports is a specialised skill.

So how do you write a good annual report?

Here are three tips and a case study.

1. Write clearly - remember clear writing is a sign of clear thinking.

2. Write for your specific audience - is it investors, volunteers or staff?

3. Good structure - this is the key to a good report - an outstanding and logical structure.

Case Study: Gladstone Ports Receives Report of the Year Award in Australasian Reporting Awards (ARA) 60th Anniversary

Gladstone Ports Corporation was the clear-cut winner of the 2010 Report of the Year Award in a year highlighted by very high standards of reporting.

The ARA judges commented that the Gladstone Ports annual report is an excellent example of reporting. “It skilfully accommodates the information needs of its various readers: government ministers, industry and business groups, port users, employees and the local community.”

“From high-level overviews through to the details, the report links Gladstone Ports’ activities and outcomes with its commitment to pursuing its mission and upholding its values. The tone strongly underpins the organisation’s dedication to achieving its commercial aims while providing best practice outcomes for the local community and the environment.”

The Awards were presented at the 60th Anniversary ARA Awards Presentation Dinner held at the Hilton Sydney on Thursday, 11 June attended by senior executives of major corporate, government and not-for-profit organisations from around Australia, and from New Zealand.

The ARA Awards are essentially a benchmarking activity - not a competition. They were introduced 60 years ago to help improve the quality of annual reports. Reports are assessed against the ARA criteria which are based on world best practice and updated regularly as statutory requirements and stakeholder expectations change. Organisations that satisfy the ARA criteria to different extents receive a Gold, Silver or Bronze Award.

The ARA also presents Special Awards for reporting in areas that are critical to the performance and accountability of an organisation. These include Electronic (Online) Reporting, Communication, Governance, Knowledge Capital, Occupational Health and Safety, and Sustainability.

ARA Chairman Tim Sheehy said, “That 40 organisations received Gold Awards and 84 others received Silver Awards indicates many organisations in Australia and New Zealand are very concerned about the quality of their reporting, and that the quality of the best reports in Australia and New Zealand is very high by world standards.”

“It also indicates the ARA and its strong supporters, such as the professional associations CPA Australia and Chartered Secretaries Australia, have been very effective in promoting the need for high quality reporting and in helping organisations to improve their performance.”

The ARA sets criteria to guide report preparation (and adjudication); holds an annual seminar on how to prepare an effective annual report; reviews reports and rewards the organisations that satisfy the Criteria with an Award. The ARA also offers constructive feedback to the people responsible for preparing reports entered in the Awards on what was done well, what could be done better and how to do it in their next report.

Interested in writing more clearly for specific audiences? Come to our Media Writing Masterclass on Tuesday June 29th at the Subiaco Arts Centre in Perth from 9am to 12.30pm. Book here.

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