07 Sep Inform and Inspire–The Dynamic Potential of Quarterly and Annual Reports
As leaders of businesses and organizations, inspiring others is one of our most important assignments. We focus much of our attention on communicating our vision to people and rallying them to partner with us in its realization. Whether it is employees, clients, members or supporters, we want our people to be as passionate about our organization as we are.
Recognizing Their Potential
As we have helped organizations present clear and impactful communications over the years, we have discovered two devices which hold a unique ability to inform and inspire. These two devices are quarterly and annual reports. While most leaders value these reports for their ability to inform, many overlook their powerful potential to inspire action. What gives them such dynamic ability?
■ Message Saturation
Quarterly and annual reports are a tremendous opportunity for message saturation. In other words, these are times when it is possible that nearly everyone who needs to get the message will get it. Because these reports concern things like finances and organizational accomplishments, they are likely to command a certain amount of attention. This gives us the opportunity to speak to nearly everyone. We want to make the most of these rare and valuable opportunities.
■ Mission-driven Content
Every report is a golden opportunity to communicate about what is really paramount to our organization, namely, our mission. As we disseminate the necessary information, it follows very naturally to address what we are all about as an organization. Simply put, the necessary “what” opens the door to the critical “why.”
■ Motivating Affirmation
Whether we recognize it or not, all of us need some type of affirmation. When people give to or work for any organization, they need to be appreciated in order to feel good about continuing. Four times a year, we have a scheduled opportunity to express thanks and ascribe credit where it is due. This alone has immense potential to inspire people to continue to invest their finances and their lives with us.
Maximizing Their Potential
Once we recognize how dynamic quarterly and annual reports can be, how do we create reports that realize this potential? Our years of crafting messages for organizations has taught us much about what kinds of messages cause people to respond. In short, we have learned how to inspire people to action.
How do we craft reports that inspire action?
1. Provide Meaningful Data
Financial data is, of course, a primary element of your report. However, complete financials are not usually necessary for a quarterly or annual report. In fact, overwhelming your audience with data may serve to obscure your message. Unless you have a specific reason to include them, make them available separately.
In addition, it is important that your financial data is presented in context. Standing on its own, data may be misinterpreted. Frame your financials in the context of your organization’s mission, vision, history, etc.. In context, your data becomes more meaningful to your audience. Connect the dots for them so that they see how the data relates to your mission.
2. Paint Clear Pictures
People are much more likely to respond to pictures than to concepts. Visual tools such as photos, infographics, and videos can significantly improve the clarity of your report. In written sections, make sure you paint a clear picture of the results of your work, focusing on accomplishments rather than activities.
Second, clearly articulate the meaning behind what you did this year. Help your audience to understand why you spent your time and resources the way you did. Again, explain how all this relates to your mission and vision.
3. Tell Real Stories
One of the most powerful ways to paint those pictures it through the use of real stories told by real people. This takes some advance work, but it will yield tremendous rewards. Interview people your organization has helped, significant donors, or both. Have them tell their stories either in print or on video. Often, a compelling story is much more effective than a well-crafted appeal.
4. Report With an Attitude of Gratitude
It is impossible to adequately recognize everyone who has contributed to our success. Therefore, while you may choose to list contributors, make sure to give your entire report a tone of thankfulness. Paint the picture that every success is the collective accomplishment of a community.
5. Give Compelling Calls to Action
Now is the time when it all comes together. If you have succeeded in framing your data in your mission, painting clear pictures, telling real stories, permeating your report with thankfulness, a compelling call to action should flow naturally. Take advantage of your pictures and stories and challenge your audience to action.
Remember that it is your job to connect the dots here as well. Make specific requests and make responses simple and straightforward. Giving three choices is a proven way to help people feel comfortable taking action. If you have several ways to respond, try to group them in threes if possible.
6. Take Advantage of Our Experience
As a communications firm, we have years of experience helping non-profits and businesses craft reports that inform and inspire. Here is how it works:
- We begin with a personal, phone, or video meeting in which we learn about your organization, its goals, priorities, mission, and vision.
- Next, we request information from you to include in your report. This includes things like your financial data, mission and vision statements, contributor stories, and accomplishments you’d like to highlight.
- Once the data is compiled, we work with you to craft your report into a compelling and inspiring reflection of your organization.
At Relay Creative Group, we exist to uniquely develop and represent compelling messages for our clients. We are committed to helping your organization start smart and finish strong. Let our team join you in crafting reports that not only inform your audience but also inspire them to take action. Click here to get started.