Have you looked at a report that a business has prepared and thought ‘I want a report like that!’! I know we have, and it can be a big attraction for potential clients as well as your current customers and stakeholders to see a well written and well-designed report. You may think it’s expensive to develop an awesome report, but we’ve got some great tips to help you get your reports out into your world to WOW your stakeholders.
Businesses with a well-written plan will always have elements of monitoring and evaluation mapped out. You will be looking at your goals and objective and probably provide updates on progress and the eventual outcomes. This is excellent business practice to report on your planning and we strongly encourage building deliverables into your plans.
A stakeholder investment will most likely need regular updates. An email could suffice, but why not prepare a report that wows your stakeholders, keeps them informed and demonstrates your commitment to the work you do.
What will you write about?
You may not write reports because you don’t know what you would provide a report on. We’re all very busy and reports can be complicated, detailed and time-consuming. Would it surprise you to know that a report can be quick and easy to prepare? Chances are you’re already writing documentation that you share publicly so it’s a matter providing that information in an ordered structure.
What elements should you include?
There are a number of elements that you need to think about when preparing a report such as:
Purpose of the report – who is the intended audience and what are you planning to tell them?
What needs to be included – are you providing a summary, in-depth update, monthly financial report?
Who are the recipients – do you have their information? Will it be emailed or posted? How formal should your report be?
Let’s go into these further.
Purpose of the report
You should have a goal in mind when preparing a report. It should be factual and to the point. You need to have a balance of words, images or graphics and space – this is not an academic paper you’re preparing so be mindful of not just delivering words.
Are you submitting an annual report? Well, you will be talking about events and activities that happened in the year in question. You are measuring your business against your goals set for the year and telling people how you did. A business of any size can prepare an annual report and use it as a measure each year of your business.
Are you releasing a new product or service? Why not prepare a report on the product or service. You probably have created a website landing page so you could also provide a downloadable report as well, perhaps going into more detail about the product or service that you may not necessarily include on the landing page. A report can add another level to your execution of activities. Here’s an example of a landing page with a report that we’ve created.
What needs to be included?
Let’s start by saying you are not writing a book. You do not need to provide 20 pages of text for your report to deliver what it needs. A report can be as little as 2-3 pages of information – keep it simple and clear.
A report does need a little structure. You want to provide a summary of what the report’s objective is, then go into detail of the different sections, have a conclusion and a call to action. Doesn’t that sound a little like a blog? It essentially is….Do you write blogs? If so, you can easily write a report! If you don’t, are you getting stuck by the same thoughts as you have by not writing a report and perhaps overthinking it?
Make sure you brand the report and include your contact information. Once it’s downloaded by someone they probably won’t remember where they got the report from so put your information on there. If you are writing an information report, you want to make sure you demonstrate ownership of the information. Make sure you provide your report in a non-editable format like pdf so people can read but not change what you’ve written.
Who is the report for?
We are repeating a little bit here, but your purpose will define who the report’s audience is, your stakeholders. Thinking back to the annual report – you’re providing a summary of your achievements for the year so it’s most likely going to be of interest to your customers, investors, supporters and your team. Other stakeholders may read the report if you provide it publicly, but your audience will most likely be someone who knows you – they are people who are interested in your business.
Saying that though, you may want to remind people of who you are and what you do as you never know who may read it and be interested in learning more about your business.
How to style an awesome report
You can prepare an effective report in a word document, with a bit of style and structure it can look great. The most effective way is to pass it onto a designer who can style it and structure it to be incredible, on brand and beautifully laid out. But that is going to cost money, so you need to weigh up the cost versus quality.
In many circumstances it is best to use a designer, particularly if your report is to attract investors or new clients. A small investment could bring in a big return, but it will require a commitment by you.
If you are looking for a low-cost option, Canva could be a good way to go. We use Canva for our reports and it’s opened our opportunities up for developing nice, simple reports that get our message across with ease. Don’t get us wrong though, you need to have an idea of what you are doing with a report, it’s not as simple as popping words onto a page, but you can use Canva’s templates to help structure an awesome report.
Make sure you’ve drafted your report text as much as you can before moving into design. You can waste a lot of time trying to write at the same time as designing so get your text down first. If you want to use statistics or photos, put those with the text, or have the designs prepared in advance. You’ll then know how many you plan to use, and how the text will fit with them.
Have you got report ideas and not sure where to start?
Our Report Ninja is ideal for you! We have experience in preparing reports and looking at effective ways of conveying your message to your stakeholders. We can help you evaluate what you are trying to say, then build a report with you that will certainly wow your stakeholders. Get in touch to start developing reports for your business.
If you’re looking for inspiration, download our Blue Ninja Annual Report 2020.