How to Write An Annual Report (Plus Annual Report Template)

Are you responsible for creating your company’s annual report—but don’t know where to start? Are you having trouble telling a consistent story that gives shareholders, customers, and other key stakeholders a comprehensive overview of your company’s big wins of the year? We’re here to help.

Annual Report Definition

An annual report describes your company’s previous year’s performance, operations, and financial well-being. Interestingly, it is becoming increasingly more important to weave a consistent narrative throughout your annual report—from the opening letter, to the financial overview, to future projections.

In fact, a Deloitte study of one hundred different Financial Times Stock Exchange companies found that the average annual report was 43% narrative and 57% financial statements twenty years ago. Now?

“Narrative now makes up 61% of the average report included in the Deloitte study” (Financial Management).”

This is because experts and non-experts alike are moved by authentic, true, creative, and compelling stories. At Untold, we specialize in clarifying the complicated, crafting content that builds your brand, and translating your insights to activate key stakeholders.

We have worked closely with innovative organizations to create annual reports that capture their operational and financial year at-a-glance in a way that energizes stakeholders and customers about the bigger picture.

Today, we are sharing annual report writing insights and design guidance (below)!

Annual Report Template

This article will cover:

  • Who needs an annual report
  • Three steps to nail your narrative
  • Annual report design

Who Needs an Annual Report?

Public corporations are required to prepare an annual report for shareholders, while nonprofits and small businesses use annual reports more for customers, financial analysts, and/or potential investors. 

3 Steps to Nail Your Annual Report Narrative

Compelling, story-driven content is a crucial part of an annual report. This is because the brain is wired to remember stories—not facts and figures! Create a lasting impression for your brand with the following tips to nail your narrative. 

1. First, determine the story you want to tell. Start by asking yourself questions.

What significant milestones happened for the company this past year? What was one client or customer experience that exceeded expectations? 

2. Next, decide what story will resonate most with your audience. 

We love this advice from Column Five Media:  “Sometimes your strongest story will come from the numbers in your spreadsheets.” 

Once you brainstorm some great stories to demonstrate the preceding year, center your narrative around your most impressive data point.  

3. Lastly, weave in the narrative throughout the report with imagery, graphics, other data visualizations, and consistent messaging. No pressure.

Many professionals responsible for managing and reporting data-driven insights struggle to deliver those insights in clear, engaging, and actionable ways. Unsure how to transform data into powerful visual narratives that drive action? Check out our self-paced Data Storytelling Training!

Annual Report Design

Annual reports are quite comprehensive and can run anywhere from 5 to 180 pages, depending on organizational size. They’re also highly visual, particularly when it comes to the financial section. 

Generally, these are the 7 must-have pages:

  • Cover Page
  • Table of content
  • Note From CEO, Chief Operating Officer, or Director
  • Executive Summary
  • Financial Overview
  • Project Overview
  • Projections

Annual Report Template

Looking for a professionally-designed annual report template? Our team of expert writers, researchers, and designers collaborated to create fully-customizable Annual Report Templates.

The best part? Both unique templates feature step-by-step writing guidance. So, not only will you achieve a sleek, modern look, but you’ll nail the narrative and won’t miss any important information. 

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