Last week, KPMG International released a 44-page report based on a survey of business reporting conducted with 270 listed companies across the globe, including 15 in Australia.
The report (which I have read so you don’t have to) has some good and bad news for local companies.
First the good news. You can all pat your self on the back for managing to cut the average report size down to 155 pages, down from a global average of 204. (The French average sits at a whopping 304 pages). About 42 percent of the content of annual reports worldwide is the financial statements, which sit at an average of 70 pages in Australia.Read More
Last blog post, I wrote about how crucial planning is when you are developing your company’s annual report. So now you have your plan in place, what next?
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to preparing an annual report is that while on the face of it, it seems to be a role that the communications team can tackle, it really needs a project manager skilled in bringing together competing interests for the greater good.Read More
In the midst of all this recent busy-ness – not all work-related – I suddenly realised the other day that it was nearly the end of April. April. Which means it is just two months till the end of the financial year. Or, in other words, I only had a small window of opportunity to establish Black Coffee Communication as the go-to copywriter for annual reports. And it also meant it was time for my regular run of posts about annual report writing, especially for those of you who are faced with the prospect of tackling your first report, and for others who have had to do them year in year out, and have lost the will to live. Because annual reports can be an annual pain in the backside (the clue is in the title), but governance requirements mean they must be done and tabled – either with government or the ASX. And remember, even though it may seem to be just a case of ticking the boxes, and that no-one is ever going to read them, some people do. Important people, such as audit committees, shareholders, politicians, and even the media. So it is time to suck it up and get on with the job of adding some spark to what is fundamentally a legal obligation (but can be an awesome marketing tool as well). The key to a successful annual report – that will show your organisation in the best light, while ensuring the pointy-heads are kept happy – is in the planning. Here are a few questions to consider about before you even put pen to paper (or engage a designer) What is the budget? Before you even start, you need to settle on a budget, because there is no point in planning a massive, glossy printed publication if the budget only allows for a downloadable PDF. And if you need to prodice some printed copies, make sure you leave enough in the budget for this – keeping in mind that the fewer copies you print, the greater the cost per copy. What is the deadline? Most annual reports need to be tabled on a specific day, before a certain time. So talk to the design/printer about when they need final copy, and work from that. Hard or soft copy? Sometimes, all you need is a soft copy report, although you may need to ensure there are at least a few hard copies hanging around to table in parliament and send to various’ state and national libraries or the ASX. Can the project management be outsourced? There are times it makes sense to outsource the whole shebang, but you need to make this decision early to ensure you secure the services of a good project manager, who has experience in annual reports (or other big, multi-faceted documents). What content is a “must” and what is a “want”? There are various non-financial bits of information that still need to be reported on (for example, equal opportunity,...Read More
With the end of the financial year just around the corner, it’s time to be thinking about your annual report. This post is the final in a series of four outlining a few issues that need to be considered when preparing your business report. Most companies produce an annual report because they have to – their shareholders and the government demand it. But, even if you don’t have a governance reporting requirement, it is still a good idea to produce an annual report, or review. Why? Well, firstly, it’s a great way to keep all your staff, clients, suppliers and other stakeholders up-to-date with your company. It’s better than a corporate profile because it can remain current each year, while a profile needs to be pretty generic. And the best thing is that because it is not a legislative requirement, you don’t include all that dull-but-worthy financial information. It can be a purely marketing document. What’s more, it doesn’t have to be a huge document, a four-page A4 will suffice – if you choose your words and images wisely. So what should you include and how should it be structured? Start with the wins Signed a big new contract? Won a national award? Created new jobs? Grew your annual revenue? This is the information that should go up front, in a highlights section. And don’t forget to credit your staff members – your most valuable stakeholder. Let business units shine Structure the report by business unit and allow each line manager to crow about their achievements. This is true even if a “business unit” is really just one person (perhaps in HR or marketing). Employment conditions If you are using your review to attract high calibre staff or partners, you need to look like an employer of choice. So make sure you talk about policies that cover such things as flexible working hours, dispute resolution, occupational health and safety and industrial relations, training and development, and so on. And if you are in a high-risk industry, it’s important to cover such things as lost- time injuries. Money talks While you don’t have to record your entire profit and loss statement, it is worthwhile noting your turnover – especially if it is significantly larger than the previous year. This shows potential clients and investors that you mean business and that you are not about to go out of business Credentials This is a good thing with which to wind up the review. It’s where you mention major clients and projects, skills and experience of the company of a whole and individual staff, and any large assets (plant and machinery, buildings etc etc). And don’t forget to include your company structure.Think of it as a mini “capability statement” as it gives the reader an idea of the size and scope of your organisation. The final word Your annual review needs to look and feel professional. Please, don’t get your administrative assistant to put it together in Publisher and then send it...Read More
With the end of the financial year just around the corner, it’s time to be thinking about your annual report writing for non-profits. This post is the third in a series of four outlining a few issues that need to be considered when preparing your business report. Late last year, the Federal Government established the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC) under the Australia Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission Act 2012 (original title eh?). Without going into the nitty gritty, what this means for the not-for-profit sector is that some of their obligations have changed – including that they now have the obligation to report annually to the ACNC via an Annual Information Statement (AIS). This has sent many in the sector into a tiz, because the 2012-2013 financial year will be the first time that detailed information about Australian registered charities is available to the public from a central registry. And from 2014, the AIS will need to include financial information. But I see this as a great opportunity for charities to take step further and produce a true annual report that shouts their achievements from the rooftop – more on this later. Charities will need to begin preparing their 2013 AIS from July 1, and it will be due six months after the reporting period (in most cases, that is December 31, 2013). So what needs to go in the report? In 2013, all charities – small, medium and large – will need to report about their non-financial operations. You can download a sample form here. And from 2014, the AIS of medium and large companies must include financial data (this is optional for small charities). Now for the great opportunity Since charities and not-for profits now need to collect and report on a number of operational activities, why not go a little further and produce a report that the charity can also use as a marketing publication to generate more supporters, more government funds and more public awareness? It doesn’t have to be expensive – it could be produced entirely on line to minimise cost – but it will give a greater return on investment than the ACNCs bland tick-box form. Many charities already produce annual reports – even through there is no governance requirement to do so – which proves they have seen the value of such a broad marketing tool. And the AIS will make it easier for others to do the same thing by simply expanding on what the ACNC already requires. Here’s a few ideas to make your non-profit annual report stand out: 1. Focus on the big picture: Don’t worry about administrative details – such a new office fitout . Instead, concentrate on the accomplishments that have helped achieve your goal. Talk about how they fit into your charities’ mission and how donors have helped you make difference to the cause that you are raising funds for. Readers don’t really care about what you did, but rather how you did it, why...Read More
With the end of the financial year just around the corner, it’s time to be thinking about your annual report. This post is the second in a series of four outlining a few issues that need to be considered when preparing your business report. Last week, I wrote about what sort of non-regulatory things you should include in an annual report. Hopefully, by now you would have worked out the structure of your report, briefed a designer and got Board sign off for the look, feel and theme. So the next step – and it’s a big one – is writing the damn thing! And no matter whether it is being written in house – or outsourced to an awesome writer (I may know one) – there are a few things you can do to make the writer’s life easier, and ensure that what they produce is what you require. A style guide When the writer knows your company style for certain words or phrases, it will lead to consistency and ultimately mean less corrections as you go into the proofing stage. You have no idea how many hours of my life I have spent in discussion about whether it is “power line” or “powerline”, “East Timor” or “Timor Leste”, “programme” or “program”. If you don’t provide a style guide, the writer will likely use what she prefers, and then the proofreader will correct to what he prefers, and you will go around in circles. Honestly, in most cases it doesn’t matter which word or phrase is used, but it’s important to be consistent throughout the document. And given that the writer will be seeking dot point information from all sorts of people throughout your organisation, the risk of inconsistency is huge. A brief This needs to include purpose of the report (is it merely ticking governance boxes? Is it to be sent to shareholders? Will the CEO use it as a marketing tool to attract new clients/partners? Will it be used to seek capital investment?), target audience, tone, word length (both as a whole and for each section), time frame for stages of the project and what the writer will be required to do (will all the raw material be provided in dot form? Does the writer need to interview key personnel? Will the writer be dealing directly with the graphic designer or will a project manager act as the middleman?). An outline It’s not the writer’s job to work out what need to go in what section. The project manager needs to map out a detailed outline of the key points to be covered in each section. This will also help everyone involved in the project figure out any information gaps, as well as avoid duplication – especially important when more than one business unit is involved in a major project and they all want to shout from the rooftops. And make sure you include contact details of any subject matter experts who may be able to...Read More