Attention communications professionals: this is how to create your annual report!
As a communications professional you’re probably thinking, after this rather turbulent year: what happened exactly?! Not only the world, but your organisation as well has had to adapt considerably. And right now you want to know: how are we doing as we come to the end of 2020? How can you take what you’ve learned from this year and approach 2021 with a fresh perspective and new ideas? In this article, communications specialists from Graydon and de Alliantie share their visions on making communications measurable. Once you’ve reached the end of this article, you’ll have the right tools for looking back on the year and using your annual report for strategic decisions in 2021.
The year in pictures: why exactly?
Looking back on the year has become an annual activity for many organisations. And rightly so. A thorough analysis of the past year gives a good overview of important themes that have influenced your organisation and reputation. A good media analysis provides an overview of your visibility over the past year and shows you exactly how you are doing. Suzanne van Leeuwen, communications advisor at Graydon, explains:
“On the basis of annual reports, you are able to include colleagues in the work that the communications department has carried out. It shows your share in the overall picture and is a great way to deliver everything you need to deliver at the end of the year in a nice, clear format. In this way, you give the broadest possible picture of your efforts and media coverage, which you can then share with all of the important internal and external stakeholders.”
An annual report also gives you comparison material for measuring your communications efforts in the coming year and making it visible for the board or the Management Team. In this way, you make your communications work, that’s sometimes a bit abstract for other departments, measurable and transparent. Linda Kas, Communications Advisor at de Alliantie, explains:
“We performed a baseline measurement in 2019, so that we’d know exactly where we came from. The primary necessity is to make what our communications efforts yield measurable. In addition, you also want to know what is being discussed in the media about your organisation that you have had no direct influence on. An annual report helps you identify which buttons you need to push in order to maintain and improve your reputation. In this way, you become more reliable and credible as an organisation and you get more support for what you do.”
Get started with annual reports
Ok, you now have a clear goal with regard to your annual report. Time to get started! But where do you start exactly? Which elements are important in making a thorough report? We’ve listed them for you below.
Volume and range don't tell you everything
Make a start by mapping out the volume and reach of the reporting around your organisation. This way you find out at what times and with which topics you came into the media. High spikes in volume indicate important topics that have been widely discussed in the media. But watch out! Volume and range don’t tell you everything:
“It’s about mapping out the reporting, both qualitatively and quantitatively. The number of messages and the size of the reach don’t say much in and of themselves. It is also important to explain substantively which topics have been discussed, why this is so and how these messages contribute to your positioning”, explains Suzanne van Leeuwen.
Sentiment analysis for substantive interpretation
To be able to properly interpret the reporting, look at the sentiment. This way you find out whether the reporting around your organisation has been positive or negative in nature, which ultimately influences your reputation.
“An annual report clearly shows which themes you are performing well in and which ones less well. What do you get criticised for? On which themes do you receive positive sentiment? Do we want to further exploit the positive sentiment in the coming year or do we want to reverse the negative sentiment? And how? Sentiment provides a wealth of information about the opportunities and challenges for your organisation”, says Linda Kas.
Mapping out the main influentials for the news
Make sure you get an overview of not only the most impactful topics in the media, but also of the most important media and persons for the dissemination of the coverage. In this way, you are able to steer in the direction of themes that are important for your organisation and you come into contact with influentials that have positively influenced your visibility. Or take it a step further, as with de Alliantie. Based on insights into negative sentiment, they engaged in discussions with critical target groups.
“By knowing which people are critical of your organisation, you also get the opportunity to engage in a proactive dialogue with them. In the end, you may not agree, but a good conversation can lead to more mutual understanding and take the sting out of the conversation”, according to Linda.
This allows you to work in a targeted manner with topics and campaigns that are frequently found in the media.
From retrospect to future success
A good analysis of the past year provides action-oriented insights that reveal opportunities, dangers and results. An annual analysis provides an overall answer to the following questions, such as:
- How often have we been mentioned in the media throughout the year?
- Which topics or campaigns have had the most impact?
- What received a positive response?
- What are our challenges?
- What can we learn from?
- Which sources and influentials mainly relate to our reports?
- What effect did certain reports, such as the coronavirus, have on our visibility in the media?
The analysis goes further than just determining the successes of the past year. The opportunities for the coming year are also mapped out. This way, you can learn from the past year, while looking ahead to the coming year with a data-driven and substantiated communications strategy. Where are you now and where do you want to be in 2021? Which buttons do you have to push in the coming year in order to get there? In addition, you can use an annual report to show, internally, what your team has achieved in the past year: an excellent opportunity to put your department on the map!
Don’t have the knowledge and capacity for an extensive annual analysis? Then let yourself be supported by specialised analysts who know the market. So, how will you get started with your annual report this year?
Take back control of your own reputation management?
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