Where the good ol’ annual report was used to show off your performance, your profits (sometimes at any cost) and your way forward, integrated reporting is how you do it with heart.

It’s mostly as a result of a conscious need for improvement of relationships between stakeholders, our surroundings, and, of course, thanks to Dr Mervyn King, that we now have a more responsible way of showing how our companies are hoping to make the world a better place.

Unfortunately, many integrated reports become a tick-box exercise where recipes are followed to get it out of the inbox and, in the process, losing the biggest tick box of them all. Which is explaining how you are creating value over time.

For an integrated report to have heart it must tell a holistic story of the business. Guiding principles pave the way for the preparation, content and presentation, but are only that, a guide. It takes real skill and vision to give your company a personality that your stakeholder can identify with.

How to give your integrated report soul

Appoint a specialist editor

Susan from accounts may write one section and the Company Secretary may write another under duress. It will show and the connection will be lost.

Be critical of last year’s report

Ask the right questions, get it assessed independently and listen to the feedback.

Have a theme

Not a vision, a theme. Something to hook your capitals, your story and your vision on.

Tell a story and keep it short

A good editor will see the bigger picture and take out what isn’t necessary.

Make it outcome-based

It’s not all about the figures but how you’ve affected people.

But the biggest factor that will help you connect with your stakeholder is true integration. When you can substantiate your position with real cohesion between capitals, the reason why you’re in business becomes the story and reporting becomes secondary.

“There has always been a symphony of these sources of value creation because of their interconnection and interdependency together with the relationships between the company and its stakeholders” – Dr Mervyn King.

Blue Apple runs Integrated Reporting workshops to help you through the process and have been designing, editing and project-managing reports for 20 years.