The power of infographics
It's not very often you see a picture that makes you smile and think of corporate reporting, but it can happen - as I found out just the other day when I found this snap.
It shows my (then 2-year-old) son Dylan having a good look at a feature in i magazine during the summer of 2012. A pre-schooler engrossed by a newspaper is certainly cute enough to raise a smile but what really got me thinking was in the detail of what he was looking at.
On the page is a fantastic graphic analysis of how Team GB performed in relation to other nations at the London 2012 Olympics. Two weeks, hundreds of events, thousands of competitors and oodles of information condensed into a graphic covering just one single newspaper spread. What's impressive is, not just that the clever people at i magazine managed to do this, but more that they managed to do so in a simple, clear and engaging way.
Think of the alternative: at worst it would be pages and pages of facts, figures and narrative that you, the reader would have to spend considerable time digesting, analysing and then drawing your own conclusions. Of course, the reality is that you don't have the time for that sort of thing, and even if you did, there would be little about the mass of information that would compel you to do so.
So, what does that tell those of us involved in the creation of Annual Reports?
Simply put: it's not good enough just to have a great business, great messages and great results. Your readers need your story to be presented in a way that helps them get to the point as quickly as possible because they're as busy and pushed for time as you are. More importantly, they've actually got to want to read it in the first place. To do that, it has to stand apart; not just from everything else vying for their time, but from your own narrative too.
And that's where infographics like the one that caught Dylan's eye come in.
Your Annual Report could contain a number complex ‘stories’: business model; strategic plan; reporting structure; global operations, etc.
Any one of them could be articulated, just as Team GB's performance could, in a written format that wouldn't fully serve your aims or your readers' needs.
However, condensing, summarising and simplifying them into a graphic will make your report stronger: firstly, the very fact that you can clearly and succinctly explain something as potentially complicated as your business model, for example, shows the world know that you fully understand your own business; secondly, a graphic is much more likely engage your readers' focus and will definitely communicate more quickly which, with ever increasing demands on all of our time, is no bad thing.
It is probably unlikely that any graphic can completely replace a detailed narrative but, when done well, it should give a pretty good overview and whet the appetite sufficiently to encourage readers to dig deeper.
It's not so much the case of a picture replacing a thousand words, but more of it compelling your audience to read further and ‘get’ the message you want them to.
And that, more that captivating two-year-olds, is the power of infographics.