By Andy Kovacs
(1-Minute Read)
Article 1 - Finding Titles Blog 30.11.20
Most internal auditors do NOT like writing reports. It’s one of those “pain-in-the-asset” chores which takes waaaaaaaaaaaay too long!

And then there are the hours, and hours, and HOURS of review conversations with your Audit Manager – pruning it like a blooming bonsai tree!

All in all, report writing is a MASSIVE procrastination magnet!

But do you know what ALL internal auditors HATE more than writing audit reports?

The suspicion that NO ONE even bothers to READ them after all that time and effort!

Why don’t your readers READ your audit reports?

In most cases, it’s because you haven’t effectively hooked the interest of your readers in the ONE place you need to – the Finding Titles.

Your Finding Titles are the most important sentence in each of your Detail Finding section write-ups.

Let’s think about newspapers.

Why do journalists (whose job it is to write engaging copy – FAST!), add headlines at the top of their  articles?

It’s to get their potential readers to STOP turning the page, and to actually READ their article!

Here’s how the (voluminous) research tells us we read a newspapers:

  1. We look at the pictures.
  2. If they hook our interest, we read the headline.
  3. If it hooks our interest, we read the article.

80% of newspaper readers read the headlines but only 20% go on to finish the article.

What are the most common mistakes when it comes to Finding Titles?

When we review auto reports for our corporate clients, we often see two categories of terrible titles

Exhibit A: “Sticky Label” Finding Titles

More common than you would expect, “Sticky Label” Finding Titles tell your reader absolutely NOTHING!

Here are some examples of “Sticky Label” Finding Titles:

  • Governance
  • Stock Management
  • Access Management Controls

What about it?

Why should you reader care?

Why should they STOP turning the page (or scrolling down the screen), and to actually READ your Finding write-up!

You’d literally have more success in hooking their attention if you changed your font to Wingdings!

Exhibit B: “Unsolicited Advice” Titles

This is a norm for many audit report writers; it’s when you use the Finding Title to push your key Recommendation. Unfortunately, this confuses – and therefore loses – your readers.

Here’s why.

If I told you to:

  1. Mix a tablespoon of washing up liquid and 200 millilitres of warm water.
  2. Dab it onto the area.
  3.  Cover with a dry piece of kitchen towel.
  4. And leave it for 30 minutes.

… You’d probably want to know why the hell you should do THAT!

Well, it’s to get red wine spills out of your carpet.

This is a solution. But a solution to what?

To know the value of a recommendation, you first need to know what problem it solves. Here are some examples of “Unsolicited Advice” Titles:

  • Consider reducing customer complaint resolution waiting times
  • Improve on site stock management in record keeping
  • Update business continuity plans

Final thoughts

When your readers first open your report, they’re going to want to know what’s wrong. So they’re going to read your report like a newspaper:

  1. They will look at the pictures (colour-coded Risk Ratings).
  2. If they are RED or ORANGE, they will STOP and read the Finding Title

… And they will only go on to read the finding write-up if you answer this important question for them:

“What’s wrong?”

So stop faffing around, and TELL THEM!

“A problem well put is half solved.”

– John Dewey

If you want to find out how we can help you to create impact, engagement and influence with your audit reports, then click here!

ELC Consultants is a global training and consultancy company which has been creating bespoke learning programmes to empower the communication of professionals in companies like BP, Bayer, HSBC and Vodafone since 2005. If you’d like a digital copy of our Leadership Communication Catalogue, drop us a line on