How to write an Annual Report

How effective is your Annual Report? Is it a story to be proud of or something you’re glad to tick off your to-do list?

I’ve seen many examples over the years, both good and bad, and today have a guest post by Shan Chatoo of OCS Group. If you’re looking for advice or an example of doing things slightly differently, you’ll enjoy this exclusive guest post.

Shan is Group Internal Communications (Interim) and is working alongside the Group Director of Corporate Affairs to build a corporate communications strategy and internal expertise. She’s the only IC professional amongst 89,000 people and is based in the UK.

OCS Group is an international business focused on delivering sustainable solutions to complex facilities management issues.

What makes a good Annual Report?
For me, it’s a showcase of your people and what makes you unique. If you are a listed company you’ll have certain obligations to fulfil, but there is always room for creativity.

Does your report highlight your culture or is it full of stock pictures that don’t reflect your people or way you work?

As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC with your thoughts. Want to write about your Annual Report? Do check out my guidelines and please get in touch.

Further reading: How to make your Annual Report a tempting treat – which features 12 elements of an effective Annual Report via Alive With Ideas! See the foot of this article for the full infographic.

The elements are:

  • Produce a visual delight
  • Appeal to your audience
  • Go interactive
  • Easy to swallow – easy navigation
  • Share employee quotes
  • Bring out a human element
  • Delicious infographics
  • Tell a story
  • Use big bold font to highlight stats
  • Feature your finest people
  • Stay snackable
  • Be consistent.

Here’s Shan with her story…

Ripping up the Annual Report and starting again

From getting passengers to their flights on time at the world’s busiest airports, to keeping lights on in offices large and small, OCS Group provides the essential services that keep businesses and societies running day in and day out.

There are 89,000 people employed globally – 80+% are mobile, front line operatives. Our world is divided into four regions and nine business sectors. We are family owned.

The 2017 Annual Review brief

Prior to 2017, the OCS Annual Review was a printed, glossy book usually found gathering dust on shelves. OCS is not a listed company. We are not bound by a requirement to produce an Annual Review, other than publishing our annual accounts at Companies House, because of our private ownership.

However, apart from the website, the Annual Review is currently the only communication channel that all our people can access to find out in-depth information about our business, outside their sector and location. It’s a key channel.

The brief from the top was clear:

  • Reduce our carbon footprint
  • Shout about what makes us proud
  • Bring the content and the platform for delivery into the 21st Century
  • Make sure content is accessible to a mobile audience
  • Be wary of cultural and language barriers
  • Help our people share our story with customers, colleagues, friends and family

It was time to rip up the dusty glossy book and start again. And I had 12 weeks to do it in.

The how

I got to work quickly; analysing the 10 previous issues of the Annual Review; and, listening to key stakeholders to build a picture – who are our audience, how do they use the Annual Review today, how do we want our stakeholders to think/feel/do, and what do we want to see more of/less of.

Armed with the insight gathered, the original brief and my solution– a PDF and a mobile optimised interactive microsite – clearly in mind, I engaged with theblueballroom communications agency in Farnham, UK, to work through my ideas.

Working in partnership, we developed:

  • an editorial storyboard,
  • a project plan and process
  • designs

We also had a vision:

Global stories from across our whole organisation, that make us proud, told through the achievements of our people.

To gather the stories, I shared our plan with an established OCS-wide marketing network and requested only client approved content to be returned for editing.

Within four weeks I received over 100 stories and images, and 10 videos from across the OCS world to select from and edit.

Next steps

At every step of the journey, I checked in with key stakeholders –  asking for feedback and sometimes guidance. Though time-consuming, this was an invaluable step resulting in final sign off at Board level first time.

With the PDF version of the Annual Review complete, the time had come to concentrate on the microsite.

The ambition was to put user experience (UX) first –  using a mobile optimised design that could be easily updated, and worked hand in hand with our new website.

The team at theblueballroom had less than 10 days to complete the microsite. It was by far the toughest part of the project – the piece with the high expectations to manage, and most likely to ‘fall down’ on launch day! (It didn’t – thanks to the hard work of the people involved).

The result

The Annual Review was completed on time and on budget.

We haven’t launched with a big bang internally. Instead we are using social networks such as LinkedIn, internal newsletters, targeted mailshots and cascade to tell the story.

It’s too early to tell how we are doing from the site analytics. By going back to our key stakeholders and listening to feedback on the ground we believe that we have exceeded expectations.

For example, sales teams are using the stories as proof points in the bid process, content is being shared on LinkedIn, and I have already started to receive stories from employees to include in the 2018 edition!

The microsite includes content such as this video from our Group Chief Executive:

Key learnings

  • My IC skills were 100% transferable when creating external communication.
  • You cannot cut and paste content from a PDF into a microsite and hope for the best! Keep your focus on the user experience and the flow of the site.
  • As with every communication – never lose sight of the initial brief. It’s quite easy to do this when buried under 125 stories with only a week to go!

What’s next

The Annual Review 2017 is the first of many initiatives that will form part of a new global corporate communication strategy that I am working on alongside the Director of Corporate Affairs. This is a blank page just waiting to be filled. And I am very excited to be the one to fill it.

Post author: Shan Chatoo

Thank you for sharing your story Shan. Are you planning your Annual Report? If so, I hope this article helps you.

You can read more about Shan via her #questionofcomms profile on my blog.

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First published on the All Things IC blog 24 August 2017. Updated 2019.


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