Using storytelling in your company reports and briefings is a must!
Email subject: Can we talk about the annual board meeting later this week?
Your internal response: Argggh!
You know exactly what this is about. You’ve got to create the annual report for the important board meeting next month, and you’ll then need to circulate it around the departments afterwards.
You’ve been working on it for six months because you know that the earlier you plan, the more engaging the document becomes, and want to avoid a ‘thrown together at the last minute mess’!
But the blood runs from your face, you feel uneasy in your chair, and you start to sense that dread in the pit of your stomach.
“No one likes the annual report!”you say to yourself as you read the email.
“It’s boring and often the butt of jokes in the departments long after the meeting.”
But there’s a very good reason for that. That reason could be your salvation, so before you panic, allow us to tell you about it…
“Stories are just data with a soul…”
All of the top 10 TED Talks start with a story and in her incredible Ted Talk “The Power of Vulnerability”, BrenéBrown starts her talk with a story.
We particularly like the line “Stories are just data with soul…”as it perfectly sums up why your reports need storytelling. Brenéexplains that (as a researcher), she tells and shares her findings with stories. During the TED Talk it becomes really obvious that she’s extremely good at it.
The power of stories is this: they give you the very thing you need to bring your report to life. They bring your data, your findings, your overview, and your report alive. They also give you what you really want from all this reporting – engagement from the team!
You need to engage them!
Sharing data, graphs, stats, profits, growth, and other key metrics in your company or organisation is important, right?
But why is it important?
- It’s important to you as it’s probably part of your job?
- It’s important to your company as it will be intrinsically linked to profit and growth.
Why is it important to the people you’re sharing it with?
If you really want them to listen, take note, and then take the points away with them to action (or even just know that you’re all on the right road) then you need them to engage.
A story will do that. Using storytelling throughout your report will really keep them engaged, so that they take in the information you’re sharing with them. People are not machines; they don’t deal in data.
Some areas you can include in your ‘story’ that will help you with your report are:
- Your mission statement.
- Your company values.
- Some working and real-life examples of this working.
- Explaining growth in real-time stories, rather than just a sexy pie chart!
Where’s the story for each part of your report? Your company or organisation has people, so you have human stories.
We love to create an annual report around a theme which reflects the results/thoughts/new mission or vision of the organisation. This helps to make it resonate with the readers.
We’ll work with a client right at the start to brainstorm different ideas based on the sorts of information they’ll be including in the report.
Often these documents have to be produced. They’re an annual ‘process’. Why not invest a bit more time and effort and really make it sing? Make it a document to be proud of. Help it be shared and read by interested parties. Don’t just cobble together something that will end up shoved in a drawer.
Data is dull
“We’ve increased the ROI on the third sector by 3% compared to the same period in 2018.”
Why not share what that actually means?
“The feedback we had wasn’t good. In fact, it caused a lot of raised eyebrows from some key people in this room. So, we looked into it. We reached out to the people who felt ‘let down’ and we aligned those with our values to see where it was that we went wrong.
Einstein was right: ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.’ So we got different people on the team involved to see if we had some other ideas and initiatives.
The results are in, and we’re excited to share them with you!”
Starting and continuing your annual report (which in many cases will need to be presented and then shared to all types of people and departments) will help you to get the report understood and then help you to get it read.
Data should be visual! Using infographics can really make it come alive and communicate boring data in a fun, engaging way. You want it to be noticed and understood, right?
We’re geared to learn and engage with stories
This strategy is great because it works on everyone. Storytelling is ingrained into us from an early age and many believe it is part of our DNA. It’s what makes us human. You wouldn’t put petrol in a diesel car; it wouldn’t work. Diesel engines need lubrication to ensure the engine doesn’t seize up.
So, why would you remove the lubricant of storytelling from your reports? It doesn’t make sense when you really understand the power of storytelling.
When you were young, you were most likely read a bedtime story, and this will have played out in your school in the early years, too.
The human brain remembers complex structures with the help of stories and even complicated stories can be taken in and understood and – more importantly – remembered thanks to the way the information is ‘strung’ together in a story.
Storytelling allows you to get your point across and be remembered
What’s the purpose of an annual report?
- To share data?
- Introduce new ideas?
- Talk about the focus for the coming year?
It’s also to get buy-in from everyone that you’re all on the same mission.
It’s an important document and the presentation that often goes with it will need to bring everyone on board.
The big challenge is often that the report will be circulated with people in your department and then in the wider departments of the company. It will need to ‘land’ well with everyone and stories are one of the best (and tried and tested) ways to do this.
Take examples of the company or department’s success and find and tell the story as well as sharing the data.
The best way to do this is start from where you were and then move on to what you did to get to where you are.
It’s the transformation that often holds the key to the story.
Consider Disney for a moment. Disney stories are the epitome of great storytelling.
You might not think these apply to your department or company, but they do. If you create a presentation for your report, then try following this structure. Case studies in particular can use this formula to tell the story of how you help your clients.
If you’re trying to get an idea or report on results and data, then you need to gain engagement first. This won’t always be in the room, either, so the storytelling needs to be embedded into the report so that it carries on as it’s circulated.
Need help crafting and designing your story?
We love to create visually compelling storytelling reports. There’s also a wider choice of formats now so your annual report doesn’t have to be print or web. It could be a video backed-up with the financial data in print. How about that for being a bit different?
Let’s get creative!
This is not a box ticking exercise; it’s often the result of 12 months of work from many people and it deserves the presentation and focus that can be put into it.
If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth telling properly!
Let’s chat. Book a call with our head honcho Philippa now.
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