“Do you want it to be interesting, or do you want it to be true?”
“So far, it’s neither.”
— From “Spaghetti Western,” by Brad Paisley
Last year, as we began gathering information for our annual report, I asked if printed annual reports were the best way to tell our story. Whenever anyone starts planning for a “bigger and better than last year’s” annual report, I find myself asking, “Who’s going to read it?” I figure as interested as I am in our work, if I won’t finish reading something, then it’s likely no one else will either.
Truthfully, I rarely have managed to make it through the traditional annual reports in extension. I’ve seen variations — between five and 100 pages with pictures, graphs, numbers — but I don’t believe producing a report like that helps citizens to understand our work or share our story with others.
Instead, last year we employed the following four principles to drive our annual report:
1. Keep it TRUE.
2. Keep it SHORT.
3. Keep it PERSONAL.
4. Keep it FOCUSED.
Last year we developed an online video-based report with a focus on telling our story. The online format made it easy to share, and eliminated costs that were incurred with the printed version. Visitors to the site originated in 36 different states as well as internationally and there were over 5,000 views of the annual report videos on YouTube. Last year, our annual report received national recognition and was also recognized by an Iowa-based marketing agency as a best practice in annual reporting.
This year, we’re adhering to those principles again and expanding. In January, we’ll be publishing a short annual report and three new videos, and we’ll be updating the website with more new videos throughout the year. We’re going to keep telling the story of ISU Extension and Outreach and we need your help. First, we need you to share the videos and use them to help others understand the breadth and scope of our work. We also need to ensure we have focused on accomplishments and not activities. Our annual report is our opportunity to tell not only what we did, but more important, why we did it. We need to make sure that we are identifying aspects of our work that will help Iowans connect our programs and activities back to our mission. We want the story of ISU Extension and Outreach to be interesting … and true. See you there.