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Spice Up Your Annual Report With Visuals

Ah—the annual report. The task is usually greeted with, “Is it that time of year again?”  Over the past years, we have heard the annual report groaning to evolve. As I look around the internet, I’m glad to report that a number of institutions have responded to the call with some innovative results. 

Before I show you some examples, let’s look at two questions that might dictate whether or not a visual annual report is for you.

1. What is the purpose of the report? Some schools use the annual report as a “year in review” of sorts for donors and alumni. What did we accomplish this year? Some purists use it as a real fiscal document, complete with lots of numbers and tables. And some annual reports look like an admissions brochure. Your purpose dictates form. A video review (such as the one produced by the University of Arizona Athletic Department) probably won’t work for a fiscal report. Define your purpose first and see if a visual report will fit.

2. What are your resources (time, money, people)? It’s unlikely that you are going to produce a report full of custom infographics in a one-man shop. If you have that kind of time, more power to you. Do you have the budget, people, and time to produce a year-in-review video? Do you have a printing budget? If not, maybe your report is only going online. There are some pretty amazing online publishing applications out there to make your report pop. Just Google online magazine publishing.

Start With Inspiration

I like to look for inspiration in what other schools are doing. Then, if I find something I like, I can scale it to what I need. For instance, Duke University published a social media report in May 2014 to show what their social media team had accomplished over the school year. If I am a smaller school, I probably can’t use their reporting criteria: millions of social followers or ranked number five in student affairs social media nationally. But, I can create differentiation in my own world.

In the example below, I used the Duke visual inspiration to create several images for Eastern Washington University Athletics’ annual report.Where Duke’s differentiation comes nationally, EWU’s differentiation is regional. In the case of this slide, it is a comparison of their follower growth compared to other Big Sky Conference schools.

Identify The Important Numbers

In this slide, I highlighted the top three pieces of follower data from the whole report. EWU has a summer campaign of increasing their social media following to 30,000. They are on track to reach that goal by Labor Day. Their numbers aren’t big compared to a large school such as Duke, but in their market, their growth success is enviable. In this particular campaign, it isn't as much about the numbers as it is about the growth. So after the image on numbers, there is a graph showing growth that puts the numbers in perspective.

Produce A Consistent Brand Message

One thing I really like about the University of Arizona’s annual report is that it is based on their mission statement. They have five key goals: graduate student-athletes, follow the rules, represent the university and athletics department in a first-class manner, practice sound fiscal management, and compete for championships. Their annual report revolves around that performance.Arizona also accompanies their online annual report with a well-produced “year in review” video.

Looking for a way to make your annual report relevant? Try visuals.They can make your annual report come alive. 

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