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(A Mosaic Case-Study): Content of and Standards for Annual Reports

Scenario:

The Communications Department at Mosaic, Ltd. is getting ready to produce the organization’s annual report that will be distributed to all investors and stockholders. Yvonne, who normally oversees the production and printing of this high-end report, is doing some reconnaissance work abroad. As a result, she passed the torch to complete this project to Sarah and Demetri, since they are responsible for Mosaic’s physical stores and online communications.

For the past week, Sarah and Demetri have been frantic and on everyone’s case. They know not only how important the annual report is to the image of the organization, but also the detrimental effect it could have on their jobs if Yvonne finds out they did a poor job.

Today while taking a coffee break, Sarah says to Demetri, “I’m not sure about the content of an annual report. I’ve seen them before, but Yvonne usually handles organizing it all. I’m not exactly sure what even needs to be included.”

“I have a general idea about content,” said Demetri,  “but I’m not positive about how to arrange the visuals and lay out the report in a way that will really mean something to shareholders.”

Trey, who was also in the break room and overhead their conversation, suggests to them, “Why don’t you just research Mosaic’s past annual reports, as well as reports from similar competitors to become more comfortable with the look and conventions of the document?”

“That’s a great idea, Trey,” said Sarah and Demetri almost simultaneously. “I’ll have Martina get right on that!” said Sarah.

Martina the intern, who coincidentally walked into the break room just then eating a banana and minding her own business, suddenly found herself as a key player in the production of Mosaic’s annual report.

Task:

For this discussion topic, take on the communication task of Martina. Research five annual reports of other major corporations as Sarah and Demetri have asked.

When you are finished, explain what sections are typically included in these organizations’ annual reports and possible reasons for including them.

In addition, try to figure out how authors of annual reports have incorporated visual displays and other pictures into the reports and how the visuals help to convey information to the audience of the report. (www.annualreports.com is a great place to start if you cannot locate hard copies of reports.)

Also be sure to review the Securities and Exchange Commission’s SEC Plain Language Handbook in the Document Sharing area of the course for some standards for well-written annual reports.

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