Another great week on the farm for my team in Marketing & Communications at OCAD University. After some brilliant press on the launch of our new Visual Identity, we also landed a phenomenal spot on Communications Arts Magazine’s home page profiling our award-winning Annual Report.
Throughout a history of corporate communications, my experience has been that there is a tremendous amount of pressure placed on a document that means so little to so many people. That’s the unfortunate reality. Stakeholders don’t typically read them or have much more than a passing glance. So other than providing whatever statutory or legislative requirements exist for the publishing for documents such as these, it is a mystery to me why so little effort is put into these documents as an engagement tool.
While in public education in Hamilton Ontario, we completely reinvented ‘the annual report’ while still meeting our corporate obligations (as a publicly funded organization). When I arrived the organization was producing 1500 annual reports each year, most of which sat in boxes in a storage room. More than 50% of the reports were never even distributed. The costs associated to the production and development of the publication were then doubled. So we turned the tables and created an entirely new strategy that looked at distribution and content first without increasing costs.
We created a publication that was geographically representative of the entire board (which included over 120 schools and more than 50000 students) and treated all members of the community equally as shareholders in a public organization (tax payers included parents and non-parents alike). We used great design to build a landscape where people could relate, be engaged with great stories and a relatively easy read (respecting the variety of reading levels in the community). With the same budget, we increased distribution from an estimated 750 to over 250,000 in the local newspaper as an insert. This was extremely popular and extremely well-regarded in the community.
The key to increasing the value proposition for an annual report is to better understand and potentially expand your market. Improve the content and use real stories to sell the message. I’m always on the hunt for great examples, so I’ll post some here as I go.