Saturday 30 June 2012

Is your annual or CSR report writer a perfect five?

Annual and CSR report season is fast approaching. Before you commission anything, take a look at this list of criteria. Does your writer fit the bill...?

How are we going to spin this!?
1. They’ve done it before.  Let them gain experience on someone else’s watch. When it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and annual reports, familiarity with the subject matter is vital. Being aware of the pitfalls and steering clear of them makes life a whole lot easier and the project a lot more enjoyable to manage.

We’ve written a shelf worth of annual reports for companies including De La Rue, BT and Uniq.

We’re also experienced in the writing about CSR. Last year we were entrusted with Coca-Cola’s European CSR launch site. You can check it out here. 

Plus we have a geographer-turned-writer working for us who is something of a CSR enthusiast. His dissertation covered environmental attitudes, behaviours and impacts. (It takes all sorts.)

2. They’re comfortable in the boardroom. Interviewing skills are a must. An annual report writer doesn’t have to be Jeremy Paxman but they can’t be a shrinking violet either. You need someone who can strike up a rapport with senior management and gain their confidence quickly.

It’s also important that the writer preserves the individuality of the interviewee when it comes to writing it up. Otherwise you can end up with one of those identikit statements which could have been written by anyone.

3. They can add some flair. Annual reports have to be published each year. But they shouldn't be viewed as a chore. Far from it. They’re actually an opportunity to show investors and other stakeholders what makes your company great. The strategy has to come alive. The numbers need to sing. When it comes to attracting investment, you can’t bore people into submission!

With communications budgets under strain, the annual report can be used to achieve objectives that might have had their own campaign budget in years gone by. 

Take the annual report we wrote for banknote firm, De La Rue. The CFO complained that, here he was, working for a cutting-edge tech firm. Yet everyone thought they were just a printer. To counter this problem, we used the first page and opening spread of their annual report to debunk this myth in an engaging and persuasive way.

4. They can achieve the vision of the agency. (No matter how strange.) With so many annual and CSR reports produced each year, agencies will seek to give their clients’ reports a twist. Just a little something to help separate a firm from the herd. You need a writer who’s able to work to this vision and make it a reality. A wordsmith unafraid of throwing his or her own ideas into the ring is also a bonus.

We’ve seen all kinds of annual and CSR brochures down the years. One that stands out was from an online company called Nettec. They wanted their annual report to resemble a landscape computer screen with lots of text. We achieved this by crafting headlines that shouted the main messages yet acted as section headings too.

Then there was ex-MOD research company, QinetiQ. Their idea was to bring the investment potential of their technology to life. We did just that by using classic narrative techniques to tell a series of compelling stories. They read more like an engaging series of articles rather than an annual report.

5. They know a misplaced comma when they see one. Reports are all about external relations. While website and even advertising copy these days is often riddled with errors reports have to be grammatically correct. As Annual and CSR reports are usually fairly hefty, you’ll need a writer with good organisational skills and a keen eye for detail. And a good proofreader!

So there you go. When it comes to CSR and annual reports, you’ll need a writer who ticks all five of these boxes. Naturally, modesty prevents us from suggesting a company which does just that. Based in London.... Begins with B…

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