Strengthening your content

Posted in Reporting on 13 March 2019 By Claire Hastie, Client Director

As reporting consultants, we see many corporate documents, from polished, award-winning materials to those that - let's just say - are not.

Whether a company is seeking to convey a compelling corporate story through their annual report or website, explain complex issues in a gender pay gap report, articulate an employer value proposition or report on sustainability strategy and performance, well-written copy is crucial.

In some types of corporate communications there can be too much focus on the facts and figures, with the surrounding context and commentary more of an after-thought. But considering the messaging, tone and language early in the process will pay dividends down the line, with clearer, cohesive and more effective communications.

At Emperor, our consultants work in a pragmatic way to suit our clients. Whether developing structures and content plans, writing whole documents that draw on content from diverse sources, or copyediting to help sharpen our clients’ content, we’re here to help. And, of course, this is all while taking into account regulatory requirements and best practice, and being mindful of client objectives, timings and budgets.

Drawing on experience of the best - and worst - examples, we have outlined below some simple tips below to help make life easier, both for content authors and their readers.

Before you start

  • ​Agree the objectives and the intended audience of the materials: what are you seeking to convey, and to whom?
  • Plan ahead and draft a structure.
  • Outline a schedule, taking account of any ‘review milestones’ and the time required to process the resulting amendments - avoid leaving things until the last minute.
  • Think about how your core message will flow through the entire piece, connecting the parts into a cohesive whole.
  • Limit the number of authors.
  • Establish your tone of voice, language and grammar conventions to help multiple contributors create a consistent feel.

Keep it succinct and avoid duplication

  • Write content in the order of the proposed structure and ask any additional authors to read preceding sections first.
  • Start afresh. Don’t simply overlay new content onto existing material.
  • Consider the most appropriate communications channel for content, and use cross references to link to related material, both within and across different channels.
  • Keep it simple. Consider the level of detail appropriate to each channel and signpost readers to further detail elsewhere.
  • Bear in mind how content can be reappropriated for other channels, for example on the website, in employee communications or on social media.

Guide the reader

  • Consider your different audiences, such as investors, employees, customers and partners.
  • Write for readers unfamiliar with the business – provide context, don’t be too technical, avoid or explain acronyms and use consistent terminology.
  • Cater to skim readers as well as those seeking more detail, using devices such as introduction sentences, summary panels, paragraph headings, infographics, charts and call-out quotations.
  • Use case studies to support key messages; scattering them throughout a report without a clear rationale can be jarring. 

Be authentic

  • Use a tone of voice that takes into account the different audiences and channels and is in keeping with the corporate culture. For example, if you talk about your company’s collegiate culture, an overly formal style will clash.
  • Don’t feel that all copy should be dry or ‘corporate’. Where appropriate – for example in executive statements, videos, case studies or employee profiles – allow personalities to shine through.
  • Be transparent. Beyond the need to report in a way that is fair, balanced and understandable, addressing issues the company has faced gives a great sense of the corporate culture and how the company responds to challenges.

 

If you think your copy could be more effective, let’s talk. Get in touch with me at [email protected].

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