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What Are Reports in Business Communication: Tips & Templates

Learn what is a business report, what does it look like, what to include, what it’s used for, and what makes a good business report. With tips and templates.

Jackie Plaza

7 minute read

What is a business report
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Short answer

What are business reports?

Business reports are the backbone of business comumincation. They provide essential information, analysis, and insights for stakeholders, decision-makers, and investors about the company's financial health, activities, and future plans with the goal of getting them to buy-in.

What is a business report used for?

Reports are more than just documents; they're used as a bridge between a company and its external world. Business reports are used to build trust, guide decisions, and reflect the company's values and goals.

Many investors, influencers, and potential clients will look to your reports as a way of gauging your company values, performance, and social and environmental impact.

They rely on this information to decide whether or not to maintain a relationship with your brand.

1) Investor Relations

External business reports, such as annual reports and quarterly earnings statements, are crucial for keeping investors informed about a company's financial health and future prospects.

These reports help investors make informed decisions about buying, holding, or selling shares.

2) Transparency and Accountability

For stakeholders and the general public, external reports like sustainability reports and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports provide transparency.

They offer insights into a company's ethical practices, environmental impact, and community engagement, holding the business accountable for its actions.

3) Regulatory Compliance

Certain external reports are mandated by law or industry regulations. For example, public companies are required to file annual reports with regulatory bodies.

These reports ensure that the company is adhering to legal and ethical standards, thereby building trust among stakeholders.

4) Market Positioning

External reports can also serve as marketing tools. By showcasing achievements, innovations, or growth, a company can strengthen its brand image and market position. This is particularly useful for attracting new investors and customers.

5) Risk Assessment

For stakeholders and investors, external reports can provide valuable information for assessing the risks associated with a particular business. This includes market risks, operational risks, and financial risks, among others.

6) Public Relations

Well-crafted external reports can improve a company's public image and relations. By openly sharing information, the company can build goodwill and foster a sense of community engagement, which can be beneficial for its long-term reputation.

7) Strategic Insights

While primarily aimed at external audiences, these reports can also offer strategic insights into market trends, competitive landscapes, and consumer behavior. This information can be valuable not just for the company but also for analysts, researchers, and competitors.

8) Fostering Trust

Transparency in external reporting fosters trust among stakeholders, investors, and the public. When a company is open about its operations, financial status, and impact on society, it is more likely to gain the confidence of its external audience.

Who reads business reports?

Reports are a costly business. They require a lot of effort and expense to create. But if you know who you’re writing these reports for then you know how important business reports are.

Let’s take a look at the key audiences reports are written for.

Investors: For investors, reports are the roadmap to investment opportunities. They detail strategies, risks, and potential returns, guiding investment decisions like a coach guiding a sports team.

Opinion leaders: Opinion leaders use reports to shape public opinion. They're like the weather forecasters of the business world, interpreting data and predicting trends.

Decision-makers: For decision-makers, reports are the toolkit for strategic planning. They provide insights, analysis, and actionable recommendations, serving as the compass for navigating business challenges.

The general public and customers: Reports provide transparency and insight into a company's operations and values. They're like an open book, inviting the public to understand and engage with the company.

What is business report writing?

Business report writing is the process of creating a structured document that presents information, analysis, and recommendations to guide decision-making within an organization. It aims to provide clear, concise, and actionable insights for better business outcomes.

Types of business reports

Let’s look at the diverse landscape of corporate reporting. From annual summaries to ESG evaluations, each report type offers unique insights into a company's performance, strategy, and commitment to sustainability.

1) Annual Reports

These are the yearly snapshots of a company's performance. For investors, they're like the season's highlight reel, showcasing the wins and losses. They include financial statements, achievements, and future prospects.

2) Sustainability reports

Sustainability reports are the company's commitment to environmental and social responsibilities. They're like planting trees for future generations, showing how the company nurtures its surroundings.

3) Research reports

These delve into specific areas, providing detailed insights and analysis. For industry opinion leaders, they're the magnifying glass that zooms into trends and patterns, helping shape informed opinions.

Investor Relations Reports: Tailored for investors, these are the financial scorecards. They detail earnings, forecasts, and market positioning, serving as the playbook for investment strategies.

4) ESG reports

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reports focus on a company's ethical practices. They're like the green thumb in a garden, nurturing growth while caring for the environment.

5) Integrated reports

Integrated reporting combines financial and non-financial information to provide a holistic view of a company's performance, strategy, and prospects.

This approach enables stakeholders to see the full picture, including social and environmental impacts, aligning with the growing emphasis on sustainability.

What to include in a business report?

Every business report should have unique content that addresses the specific issues it covers, but there’s a basic structure, format, and components that apply to all well-made reports.

Essential business report structure:

  • Title page: This sets the stage, providing the title, author, date, and purpose. It's like the front door of a house, welcoming readers into the content.

  • Executive summary: The executive summary is a snapshot, providing a brief overview of the report's contents. It's like the elevator pitch of the report, summarizing the key points in a concise manner.

  • Introduction: This section provides the background, scope, and objectives of the report. It's the foundation, laying the groundwork for the information to follow.

  • Methodology: Here, the report details how the information was gathered and analyzed. It's like the recipe in a cookbook, providing the ingredients and steps to replicate the findings.

  • Findings and analysis: This is the heart of the report, where the data is presented and interpreted. It's like the main course in a meal, rich with flavors and substance.

  • Conclusions and recommendations: This section summarizes the findings and suggests actions. It's like the closing argument in a debate, wrapping up the points and proposing next steps.

  • Appendices and references: These provide supporting documents and citations. They're the footnotes, adding credibility and context to the main text.

Business report design

The fundaments of business report design are not necessarily simple.

Design should be first and foremost about engaging the audience.

Let’s see some key design principles that transform data into engaging, insightful narratives.

1) Keep it simple

A business report isn't the place for flashy design elements. Stick to a clean, professional look. Use a consistent color scheme that aligns with your brand.

Avoid clutter and ensure there's plenty of white space to make the report easy on the eyes.

Remember, the goal is to communicate information clearly, not to showcase your design skills.

2) Use data visualization to lend credibility to your reports

This involves presenting data in a visually appealing way. It's like turning numbers into a landscape painting, making complex data accessible and engaging.

Data visualization can be a powerful tool to convey complex data. Charts, graphs, and infographics can make data more digestible and engaging.

But use them wisely. Ensure they're relevant and add value to the content. And always include clear labels and legends.

Here's an example of a report by Meta with great use of data visualization:

3) Make your reports interactive

In the digital age, reports can be more than static documents. Consider making your report interactive. This could mean including clickable elements that reveal more information, or even interactive charts and graphs.

This not only engages your readers but also allows them to explore the data at their own pace.

Here's what PDF business reports look like compared to modern interactive reports:

Static report
Interactive report

4) Tell a story

Just like the blog post from Storydoc, your report should tell a story. This could be the story of your company's performance over the year, or how a particular project came to be.

A narrative structure can make your report more engaging and memorable.

Business report language and tone

Formal language - Professional and precise language is key. It's like the classical music in a symphony, elegant and refined.

Objective tone - An unbiased presentation of facts is essential. It's like the narrator in a documentary, telling the story without personal bias.

Clarity in communication - Clear and concise communication ensures understanding. It's like speaking directly into someone's ear, making sure every word is heard and understood.

Ethical considerations in reporting

  1. Transparency: Honest presentation of facts builds trust. It's like playing a card game with an open hand, showing all the cards.

  2. Confidentiality: Protecting sensitive information is crucial. It's like guarding a secret recipe, sharing the flavor without revealing the ingredients.

  3. Accountability: Responsibility for accuracy builds credibility. It's like standing by your word, owning up to mistakes, and celebrating successes.

Impact of business reports on decision making

Informed Decisions: Reports provide data for strategic decisions. They're like the roadmap for a journey, guiding the way.

Risk management: They help in assessing and mitigating risks. It's like wearing a seatbelt in a car, providing protection.

Building trust: Reports enhance credibility with stakeholders. They're like the handshake that seals a deal, building trust and confidence.

Securing investments: For investors, reports are the bait that catches the big fish. They provide insights into opportunities and risks, guiding investment decisions.

Getting stakeholder buy-in for projects, mergers, and acquisitions: Reports rally support for major business moves. They're like the pep talk before a big game, uniting the team and building momentum.

Global reporting standards

Ever wondered about IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards)?

Here's why it's your must-have business passport:

  • Universal language: With IFRS, it’s like everyone's speaking the same business dialect. Whether you’re in Berlin, Beijing, or Johannesburg, you're understood.

  • Transparency: No more hiding in the shadows. IFRS ensures your figures are clear, upfront, and honest.

  • Comparability: Imagine a global playground where everyone's on the same page. That’s the IFRS game.

  • Accountability: This isn’t just about numbers; it's about standing tall and owning them.

Why all this buzz about IFRS?

Global reach - In today's fast-paced global market, IFRS smoothes out cross-border investments and business deals. No more translation mix-ups!

Quick tip - If you're eyeing the international scene or seeking global investors, mastery of IFRS isn't a choice—it's a necessity.

Challenges and limitations in reporting

Every process has its hurdles, and reporting is no exception. Let's take a closer look at some of the challenges and limitations.

Complexity - Managing complex data and information can be challenging. It requires careful analysis and presentation, like solving a complex puzzle. The integration of various data sources, compliance with multiple regulations, and the need for specialized expertise can make report preparation a daunting task.

Bias - Avoiding bias in reporting is essential. It's like leveling a playing field, ensuring fairness and accuracy. Whether intentional or unintentional, bias can distort the true picture, undermining credibility and trust.

Timeliness - Meeting deadlines is crucial. It's like racing against the clock, ensuring timely delivery without compromising quality. Delays in reporting can lead to missed opportunities, regulatory penalties, and loss of stakeholder confidence.

Cost - The cost of preparing comprehensive reports, especially with the integration of advanced technologies and compliance with global standards, can be significant. It's like building a skyscraper; the higher you go, the more it costs.

Security and privacy - Protecting sensitive information and ensuring privacy is like guarding a treasure chest. Breaches can lead to legal liabilities and reputational damage.

Business report design templates

One of the hardest stages of making a business report is design. It’s a costly stage in both time and money. It normally requires hiring the services of a design agency. This commonly costs over 10,000 dollars.

But this cost can be reduced to a fraction by using one of our interactive report templates and easily editing them online in real-time with our AI report maker.

Grab a temple.

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Jackie Plaza

Hi, I’m Jackie, Creative Marketing Specialist at Storydoc, I write on everything business presentations. I love to research and bring to light critical information that helps marketing, sales, and design teams get better results with their collateral.

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