Annual reports

Annual reports still obey the normal laws of copywriting: you need a key message running throughout to hold all the report's content together, and a consistent tone of voice that's right for the brand and marketplace. You also need to understand the needs of all your audiences and make your report interesting with stories and human interest.

Scroll down for case studies:


QuinetiQ 2000 annual report Environmental Hanger case studyThe challenge: QinetiQ was privatised to make the most of the UK Ministry of Defence’s valuable research department. Leading brand agency, The Partners, commissioned us to write QinetiQ’s first annual report.

The brief: Emphasise the vast commercial potential of QinetiQ’s research activities and turn a civil service department into a cutting-edge commercial enterprise.

The solution: Interview the men in white coats and pique reader curiosity with interesting headlines. For readability, we adopted a storytelling approach.

The writing:

"We can tell you what it's like to sit on a tube train in the Arctic.

QinetiQ's Environmental Hanger is used to test the performance of equipment in extreme environments. This saves both military and commercial customers the cost of transporting equipment to countries where such conditions are found naturally."

The results: The report contributed to QinetiQ becoming a leading player in the defence sector.

The credits: Copywriter agency: Barnaby Benson Copywriting London. Writer: Barnaby Benson. Design Consultancy: The Partners. Client: QinetiQ

Royal British Legion

The Royal British Legion Annual Report 2012 front coverThe challenge: ‘The Legion only work for two weeks in November’. ‘The Legion only care about old people’. ‘The Legion only looks backwards’. All widely believed. All false. For this annual report job we were part copywriter agency, part myth-busters.

The brief: show that the Legion stands ‘shoulder to shoulder with all who serve – and their families’. Make clear that the charity is about more than just poppies.

The solution: a less sombre tone was needed to attract a younger audience. Highlighting welfare activities over remembrance created a flowing, year-long-round narrative. A more proactive and relevant tone of voice better suited to the ‘Afghan generation’ the Legion is now focusing on.

The writing:

“‘When the Legion speaks, government listens.’ These aren’t our words but those of a former Secretary of State for Defence. We’ve built up an enviable reputation in the country’s corridors of power. And that’s exactly how it should be. Forces men and women need a powerful voice”.

The results: we have been asked to write some follow-up leaflets in the same, proactive, tone.

The credits: Copywriter agency: Barnaby Benson Copywriting London. Copywriter: Joseph Richardson. Design Consultancy: Linney Group. Client: Royal British Legion.


mail.RU annual report 2012 coverThe challenge: Can you imagine a world without Google? No? Well in Russia, it’s quite easy – Mail.Ru is their go-to search engine. They wanted an annual report which did this strong market position justice. However, companies based in countries where English isn’t the native language often find it hard to identify the tone of voice they want.

The brief: As their London copywriter agency, we were tasked with editing Mail.Ru’s latest annual report. They wanted a tone of voice similar to those found on leading technology websites: confident, knowledgeable and not too corporate.

The solution: We provided them with a range of tonal options and analysed each one so they could understand how it created its effect. Once Mail.Ru had settled on a tone, we implemented it without compromising the technical details that had to be included. In jobs like this information is Tsar.

The writing

“We are creating an integrated communications and entertainment platform to serve the world’s 250-300 million Russian speakers. Of our target audience, an estimated 143 million live in Russia. The rest are primarily based in the former Soviet Union, while others are located around the world”.

The result: the annual report is now up on the Mail.Ru website.

The credit: Copywriter agency: Barnaby Benson Copywriting London. Copywriter: Joseph Richardson. Agency: FTI Consultancy. Client: Mail.Ru.

De La Rue

de la rue coverThe challenge: De La Rue was unhappy that people thought they merely printed banknotes when their business was actually at the cutting-edge of technology and innovation. So this annual report had to do more than simply discuss the year’s figures, it needed to put the record straight.

The brief: write an annual report that challenges misconceptions – while still reporting on the year just gone.

The solution: we got straight to it, putting a question on the front cover – ‘just a banknote?’ Highly unusual for an annual report, we wanted to challenge the reader. Page one then built on this question, debunking misconceptions and outlining technical sophistication, security and durability. Only then did we get into pounds and profits.

The writing:

"Just a bank note?

Just think again.

A De La Rue banknote is a highly sophisticated item of portable technology."

The result: Delighted client.

The credits: Copywriter agency: Barnaby Benson London. Communications Agency: Pauffley. Client: De La Rue plc

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