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8 Report Formats for Business (Examples & Templates)

See report types and formats that bring business impact. Get report writing formats, design formats, and file formats including PDF, PPT, & one-page reports.

Hadar Peretz

7 minute read

Report formats
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Short answer

What are the best report formats?

  1. Official reports: legally required, no design

  2. Formal reports: diving into structure and detail

  3. Informal reports: quick and direct communication

  4. Memo reports: addressing specific business issues

  5. Letter reports: bridging external communication gaps

  6. Audit and proposal reports: showcasing financial health

  7. Real-time reports: the power of now

  8. Augmented and virtual reality reports: immersive reporting experiences

The format of your report is critical for achieving your goal

The format of your report content, design, and delivery are all critical for achieving your goal. While content is king, the design and delivery of your report also significantly influence its impact.

A well-designed, easily accessible report ensures that your audience engages with and understands the information you're presenting.

Because you never get a second chance to make a first impression, a well-designed report will reinforce your message and convey professionalism, but more than that, it will aid in comprehension, and encourage action.

Let's delve into why these aspects are so pivotal.

Report format types in business

In the business world, the way you communicate information is just as crucial as the information itself. Different writing formats cater to various needs, ensuring clarity, precision, and effectiveness.

Let's dive into the primary writing formats and understand their significance.

1) Official reports: legally required reports issued by the government

Public companies are required to submit various reports to ensure transparency and inform investors. These reports are filed with regulatory bodies like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

These official reports use a strict formalized format set by regulators. They apply no design, no storytelling, and no messaging of any kind.

For this reason, we will not delve into this type of report format. Instead, we advise you to look up the format on the regulator’s website.

The most common reports include:

  • Annual Reports (10-K): Comprehensive overview of the company's financial health, operations, and risks.

  • Quarterly Reports (10-Q): Updated financial data and a condensed version of the company's financial statements, filed three times a year.

  • Current Reports (8-K): Discloses specific events like acquisitions, leadership changes, or bankruptcy.

  • Proxy Statements (DEF 14A): Provides information about issues to be voted on at annual shareholder meetings.

Example: Apple's Annual Report is a classic example of an official report, Annual Reports (10-K) detailing their risk factors, financial statement, and compensations,

2) Formal reports: diving into structure and detail

Formal reports are the backbone of corporate communication. Picture a comprehensive annual report from a multinational company sent to their stakeholders.

It's detailed, and structured, and provides a deep dive into the company's performance with stories, case studies, and infographics.

These reports often start with an executive summary, giving a snapshot of the content. They're essential when stakeholders need a thorough understanding of a topic.

For instance, when a company is considering a merger, a formal report can provide all the necessary details, from financial health to market positioning.

Tip: Always start with an outline when drafting a formal report. It ensures you cover all essential points.

Example: Apple's Environmental Progress Report is a classic example of an official report, detailing their vision for sustainability, as well as their strategies, initiatives, and impact.

Interactive remake of Apple's sustainability report:

3) Informal reports: quick and direct communication

Imagine you're a manager, and you need a quick update on a project's status. You don't need a 50-page document; you need something concise and to the point. Enter informal reports. These are shorter, direct, and often used for internal communication.

For instance, a team leader might send an informal report to update senior management about a project's progress.

Tip: Keep informal reports clear and jargon-free. It ensures quick decision-making.

Example: A brief email updating the sales figures for the month can serve as an informal report.

4) Memo reports: addressing specific business issues

Memos, or memorandum reports, are a staple in day-to-day business operations. Think of them as internal letters, addressing specific issues or updates.

For example, the HR department might send a memo about a change in company policy. It's direct, addresses a particular topic, and is meant for a specific audience within the organization.

Tip: Always mention the purpose of the memo at the beginning. It sets the context right away.

Example: Google's infamous diversity memo is a real-world instance of how memos can address specific issues.

5) Letter reports: bridging external communication gaps

Letter reports are precisely what they sound like - reports in the form of letters. They're formal, yet personal, making them perfect for external communication.

For instance, a company might send a letter report to a client, updating them about the progress of a project they've outsourced. It's a way of maintaining transparency and building trust.

Tip: Always address the recipient by name in letter reports. It adds a personal touch.

Example: A consultancy firm might send a letter report to a client, detailing the findings of a market research project they undertook.

6) Audit and proposal reports: showcasing financial health

Audit and proposal reports are specialized formats that cater to specific business needs. Audit reports delve into a company's financial health, providing a transparent view of its fiscal standing.

On the other hand, proposal reports outline how one business intends to assist another, be it through collaboration, partnership, or service provision.

Tip: Always be transparent and factual in audit and proposal reports to build trust.

Example: Ernst & Young's audit reports provide a transparent view of a company's financial health.

7) Real-time reports: the power of now

With the rise of digital tools and cloud computing, real-time reporting is now a reality. Businesses can provide stakeholders with live updates, ensuring they have the most current data at their fingertips.

This is especially valuable in sectors like finance or or the manufacturing and logistics industry, where real-time data can influence immediate decision-making.

For instance, a stock trading firm might offer real-time reports on market movements, allowing traders to make informed decisions.

Tip: Ensure robust data security protocols when offering real-time reporting to protect sensitive information.

Example: Platforms like Google Analytics offer real-time insights into website traffic and user behavior.

8) Augmented and virtual reality reports: immersive reporting experiences

Beyond traditional charts and graphs, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) offer immersive experiences for report presentation. Imagine a real estate firm using VR to present a 3D walkthrough of property developments in its annual report.

Or a manufacturing company using AR to showcase its production processes during a stakeholder meeting. These technologies make reports more engaging and can offer a deeper understanding of the presented data.

Tip: Ensure your audience has the necessary tools (like VR headsets) to experience these reports fully.

Example: The New York Times VR app offers immersive storytelling, hinting at the potential of VR in business reporting.

Report design formats

Design isn't just about aesthetics; it's about communication. The way a report is designed can significantly impact its readability and effectiveness.

Let's explore the various design formats and how they can elevate your report presentation.

Traditional design: the classic professional look

Traditional design is timeless. It's the go-to choice for formal business settings, where clarity and professionalism are paramount.

Think of a white paper detailing a company's research findings. It uses standard fonts, a formal layout, and minimal graphics, ensuring the content remains the focal point.

Tip: Use serif fonts like Times New Roman for a classic look in traditional designs. You can also use legal templates for Microsoft Word to get the same classic and professional look.

Example: Academic journals often employ traditional design, emphasizing content over flashy graphics.

Modern design: engaging with visual appeal

In today's digital age, capturing the audience's attention is crucial. Modern design formats, with their use of infographics, varied fonts, and vibrant colors, do just that.

They're perfect for presentations and marketing materials where you want to engage and captivate your audience.

For instance, a startup might use a modern design format for its investor pitch deck, making it visually appealing.

Tip: Balance is key. Ensure your design enhances the content, not overshadow it.

Example: Airbnb's pitch deck is a stellar example of modern design, blending visuals with content seamlessly.

Interactive design: enhancing user engagement

Interactive designs are the future. With the rise of digital reports, the ability to engage users with clickable elements, videos, or animations is invaluable.

Interactive reports offer anything from interactive dashboards to live data feeds, these elements can transform a static report into a dynamic experience.

Imagine an online annual report where stakeholders can click on different sections, view animations of growth charts, or even watch a message from the CEO. It's not just a report; it's an experience.

Tip: Always ensure that interactive elements enhance the user experience, not complicate it.

Example: Meta’s B2C startup landscape report turned heads with its interactive design, offering a fresh take on presenting industry insights.

Interactive report templates

PDF reports are a legacy content medium. This type of design is unfit for engaging digital natives. The time to modernize and move away from PDFs has already come and and almost too late.

You may want to make the change now - grab an interactive report template.

No templates found

Essential file formats for business reports

In the digital age, the format in which you save and share your report is pivotal. It determines accessibility, editability, and even security.

Let's explore the most commonly used file formats in business reporting and understand their unique advantages.

PDF (Adobe): the universal choice for consistency

PDFs are the gold standard for business reports. Whether you're sharing a detailed research paper or a product brochure, PDF ensures that the document looks the same everywhere.

It retains its formatting, making it ideal for printing and electronic distribution. For instance, companies often share their annual reports in PDF format, ensuring stakeholders view the document as intended.

Tip: Use high-quality images in your PDFs to ensure clarity when printed.

Example: Tesla's 2020 Impact Report was shared as a PDF, ensuring consistent viewing across devices.

DOC/DOCX (Microsoft Word): the go-to for drafting and collaboration

When it comes to drafting reports or collaborating with a team, Microsoft Word is the go-to choice.

Its easy-to-use interface and powerful editing tools make it perfect for creating detailed reports. Plus, with cloud integration, teams can collaborate in real-time, making it perfect for dynamic environments.

For instance, a marketing team might draft their monthly performance report in Word, allowing team members to add their inputs.

Tip: Use Word's 'Track Changes' feature to monitor edits and suggestions.

Example: Microsoft's own collaboration guide showcases the power of DOC/DOCX for team projects.

PPT/PPTX (Microsoft PowerPoint): visual storytelling for presentations

When you need to present data visually, PowerPoint is the tool of choice. Its slide-based format allows for a mix of text, images, and animations, making it perfect for presentations.

Whether you're pitching a new product idea or showcasing quarterly results, PowerPoint's visual and interactive elements can make your report stand out.

For instance, a sales team might use PowerPoint to present their yearly figures, using charts and graphs for visual impact.

Tip: Keep slides concise. Aim for a maximum of six points per slide to maintain clarity.

Example: Check out Guy Kawasaki's 10/20/30 rule for effective PowerPoint presentations.

XLS/XLSX (Microsoft Excel): handling data with precision

For reports heavy on data and calculations, Excel is unmatched. Its grid-based format is perfect for tabulating data, performing calculations, and visualizing results using charts.

Financial teams, for instance, rely heavily on Excel to prepare detailed financial statements, budget forecasts, and trend analyses.

Tip: Use Excel's data validation tools to ensure accuracy in your reports.

Example: The Excel Skills website offers numerous real-world templates showcasing the power of XLS/XLSX for business reporting.

HTML/online formats: embracing the digital age

With the rise of the internet, online reports have gained popularity. They're accessible from any device, can be interactive, and offer real-time updates.

Companies might publish their sustainability reports online, allowing stakeholders to interact with data, watch related videos, and even leave feedback.

Tip: Ensure your online reports are mobile-responsive for optimal viewing on all devices.

Below is an example of how static and interactive reports compare. Which one would you prefer reading?

Static PDF or PPT
Interactive Storydoc

How should you deliver your business report?

Once you've crafted your report, the next step is delivery. The method you choose can influence how your report is received and interpreted.

How you deliver your report can influence its reach and impact. An online report might be accessible to a global audience, while a printed report can make a lasting impression in a boardroom meeting.

From traditional printed copies to modern digital formats, let's explore the various delivery methods available.

Printed reports: tangible insights in hand

There's something about holding a physical report. It's tangible, permanent, and often carries a sense of importance.

Companies might opt for printed reports for official documentation, shareholder meetings, or when they want to make a lasting impression.

For instance, a luxury real estate firm might provide printed brochures to potential clients, emphasizing the premium nature of their offerings.

Tip: Opt for high-quality paper and printing for a professional look.

Example: Berkshire Hathaway's Quarterly Reports are eagerly awaited by investors in its printed form.

Electronic reports: digital convenience for teams

In today's fast-paced business environment, electronic reports offer unparalleled convenience. They can be emailed, shared via cloud storage, or even sent through messaging apps.

This format ensures quick distribution and easy access, making it ideal for teams spread across different locations.

For instance, a global company might share its monthly performance report electronically, ensuring all regional heads get the information simultaneously.

Tip: Always back up electronic reports to avoid data loss.

Example: Platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive have revolutionized how businesses share and store electronic reports.

Online/web-based reports: wider reach and interactivity

The internet has transformed how we consume information. Online or web-based reports leverage this, offering a dynamic way to present data.

These reports can be published on company websites, intranets, or dedicated platforms. They're accessible to a broader audience and can include interactive elements like clickable charts or feedback sections.

A tech startup, for instance, might publish its user growth statistics online, allowing potential investors to interact with the data.

Tip: Ensure your online reports have a user-friendly interface for a seamless experience.

Example: Stroydoc’s interactive storytelling reports. These interactive web-based reports make any report an engaging visual story worth sharing.

Presentation reports: engaging stakeholders in meetings

When it's time to present findings to stakeholders, presentation reports come into play. These are visually engaging, designed to hold the audience's attention, and often use tools like PowerPoint, Prezi, or Storydoc.

They're ideal for meetings, conferences, or webinars.

For example, a marketing agency might use a presentation report to showcase campaign results to a client, using visuals to highlight key successes.

Tip: Use storytelling techniques to make your presentation reports more engaging.

Example: TED Talks, like Simon Sinek's "Start With Why", often use presentation reports to convey ideas effectively.

Mobile reports: accessible insights on the go

With the rise of smartphones and tablets, reports optimized for mobile devices have become crucial. These reports are designed for smaller screens, ensuring that stakeholders can access them on the go.

Whether it's a CEO checking quarterly figures while traveling or a sales rep accessing product data during a client meeting, mobile reports offer unparalleled convenience.

Tip: Use responsive design to ensure your mobile reports look great on all devices.

Example: Apps like Storydoc or Tableau Mobile allow businesses to access and interact with reports on the go.

Best report maker tools

Here are 5 report maker tools with links to their websites:

  1. Zoho Analytics: Excels in providing cloud-based business intelligence and data analytics, integrating seamlessly with various data sources for in-depth insights.

  2. Storydoc AI Report Maker: Specializes in modern interactive reports, and excels in providing tools and ready-made interactive storytelling slides to build engaging business reports with built-in analytics.

  3. FineReport: Specializes in enterprise-level reporting, offering dynamic dashboards and large-scale data processing capabilities for businesses.

  4. Visme: Renowned for its intuitive design interface, allowing users to create PowerPoint-style presentations with a professional touch.

  5. Venngage: Stands out for its diverse design templates, enabling users to craft engaging presentations, infographics, and social media content effortlessly.

Hadar Peretz

I am a Marketing Specialist at Storydoc, I research, analyze and write on our core topics of business presentations, sales, and fundraising. I love talkig to clients about their successes and failures so I can get a rounded understanding of their world.

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