06 Mar

How to write a report that people will actually read

Producing reports is a necessary requirement for most organisations. But how can you grab and hold your reader’s attention so they read every word and engage with your story, rather than just flicking through the pages?

Whether you’re compiling an Annual Report, Corporate Governance Statement or Sustainability Report, there are certain regulatory boxes you need to tick each year. However, it’s just as important to use the report as an opportunity to form a deeper and more meaningful connection with your reader. They want to know what makes your organisation stand out, be reassured of your capabilities and success, and feel confident that you have strong plans in place for the future.

Producing reports takes up a considerable amount of your organisation’s time and effort – so you want to make it count. Keep these five tips in mind next time you’re getting ready to compile a report.

Tip 1: Show the information visually
Around two-thirds of people are visual learners, which means they will only retain information they see rather than read. So make it easy for your readers by displaying information visually wherever possible.
That might mean turning your statistics into an infographic, using charts and diagrams instead of tables to share data, and including photos and graphics to complement the information. Visual elements are also great for reinforcing your branding.

Tip 2: Pay attention to the narrative flow
Your reader wants you to tell them a story about your organisation. Like any story, it needs to have a clear beginning, middle and end. Use a logical structure that makes it easy for your reader to follow the content and understand what you’re telling them. Make your narrative captivating enough that they will continue reading until the final page.

Tip 3: Highlight the key messages
Most people are skim readers, and they’ll scan the report looking for information that interests them. Make sure they don’t miss your key messages by using design elements that will draw them in.
You can do this with sub-headings, pull quotes, bullet points and call-out boxes, as well as the graphics I mentioned earlier. Breaking up long blocks of texts with design elements also gives your reader’s eyes a chance to rest.

Tip 4: Write for your audience
Your report will likely have to be reviewed and approved by many stakeholders before it’s published. But you must never lose sight of who you’re actually writing to. Is it your customers? Shareholders? Potential investors? Keep them in mind while you’re writing, think about what prompted them to read the report, and make sure you address their needs. Most importantly, leave any internal jargon out of your report. If your reader doesn’t understand the information, you’ll lose their attention.

Tip 5: Personalise your organisation
Your organisation isn’t a faceless entity. It’s a collection of people all working together to achieve common goals. Your readers want to know about those people, so make an effort to feature some of them in your report.
Depending on the type of report you’re writing, you might choose to include employee profiles, case studies demonstrating key achievements and team successes, or photos of your employees celebrating milestone events.

I can help
I can assist you with developing an integrated narrative for your reports that creates a connection from the first page to the last. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch.

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