One of the reasons that companies reach out to external communications agencies to compile and design the CSR reports is the look and feel of the report. In most of the projects we have handled, the client has the content in word documents – sometimes well edited, other times not; there are some photographs in various folders, attempts made by the inhouse CSR Lead to develop the report into a readable, presentable document – while this may not always be successful.
When the agency steps in, this is what you can expect as the client.
- The agency must know how you wish to present the information: company-wise, chronologically, or event-wise.
- If you have a logo or public identity for your CSR initiatives, share them with your agency in the first meeting itself. The agency may want to work around your logo forms or colours during the design process.
- If your agency has not handled too many of such report design jobs, help them by laying out a set of guidelines.
Guidelines for the design team
- The pictures are the most important part of such a report; second is the content. The design is at the tertiary level. Often agencies with a background in designing brochures get fixated on layout and design and may end up compromising the seriousness of content.
- The design team must remember that beyond a point, content cannot be edited to fit into design. The design will have to adapt to the content.
- While content with activity details is important, your report must have adequate visual breaks. This could be in the form of factual insets, info-graphics, or a break in the page layout.
- Most ‘CSR only’ reports range from 24 pages to upto 70-odd pages depending on the oragnisations activity in this space. The design team would do well to work on a family of 4-5 different templates for the layout.
These templates could be:
- Full content page
- Full image page with content as caption
- Content page with images (2-3 on a spread of 2 pages. Here, define the photos sizes and format of captions
- Use of insets on the page
- 1, 2 & 3 column layouts can be worked and used with discretion in the report especially if the number of pages is over 40.
- The style of illustrations in the info-graphics must be shared & approved at the initial stages of the project.
- Define the design & layout stencil in the first round itself. If content needs to be edited, it is easier to work with a defined word-count, once the stencil is fixed.
- The agency must have the leeway to rewrite your entire content if they feel the language of the original inputs is varying and not consistent.
While this is definitely not at all-encompassing list, it will definitely help you understand the process through which a design team works to deliver your expected results. Knowing the process and keeping them in mind during interactions can lead to smoother and quicker deliveries.
~ Bharti Athray
With CSR having become an important and mandatory activity in the Indian corporate segment, companies are investing serious time and money in this space. Having taken up various initiatives, it becomes mandatory for the organizations to also report what is being done under these initiatives during the year.
This reporting plays a critical role at various levels:
- Excellent material for PR with various stakeholders
- Generates employee engagement which is important to ensure project sustainability
- Regular documentation helps the HR / Finance departments appropriately track the progress being made in various initiatives over time.
Why you need a good CSR report
The CSR report, when compiled with a purpose can mobilize resources and create ample goodwill around the organization. As a communication expert, working with companies to develop the CSR reports and share these in a presentable format to their various audiences, I have often found some common gaps in data compilation. It would help for the CSR Team to keep these issues in mind during the year, when they are on the field, in midst of the community. Collection and proper documentation of this data at the time of the event will enable the external / internal Communication Team to present a more comprehensive report at the end of the year.
Checklist for the CSR team
- Use a good quality digital camera to take photographs of the various activities done on the field – pictures taken with the mobile camera do not reproduce well.
- Take pictures where the light is sufficient, and faces are not in the dark. Images where faces are in the dark cannot be used in the final reports.
- While the effort is to show community development, and these are live pictures, show the difference your initiative is making in the community. Where possible, use community members and scenarios which are visually are pleasant.
- Maintain details of your activities project wise, so it becomes easier for the third party Communication Agency to prepare your reports. Develop a format of reporting that all your CSR Leads will follow, this will help you to ensure all the key data has been recorded.
- For each event, the team must record :
– the objective of the initiative,
– corporate team members involved,
– activity done,
– participation in actual numbers, (response to activity)
– location of activity,
– pictures of beneficiaries,
– quotes from community leaders on the success of the event,
– sustainability plans for the activity.
- When sharing data with your communication agency, share your images as jpegs in the image folder, with a separate folder for each event.
- At the same time, your draft report must carry the relevant images for the event, so the external team is better able to understand which images go with a particular write up.
- Share the overall vision of the CSR initiatives, and get your CSR team to chat with the Communications Team. Often, documentation records facts, but misses out of significant soft skills milestones achieved on the field. These can be shared verbally, giving the Communications Team a feel of what has actually been achieved, how it has made a difference to the community and why the community is supporting the initiatives. These insights are often lost during the documentation of the activity done, yet are important to give a flavor and warm feel to your CSR reports that seeks to connect with the various stakeholders.
- Give due credit to your CSR leads and field workers from the organization. This boosts their morale, gives them recognition among peers and inspires others to join the initiatives. Support from within the organization in very important to be able to sustain these projects over a long period of time.
- Clearly define the figures that need to be shared with the audiences. Providing the Communications Team with data sheets or tables is meaningless, as they will not be able to interpret these facts. You need to clearly tell them what data you want to highlight and why.
- Decide upfront what have been your most successful initiatives and how you wish to break up the data available: team wise or initiative wise.
- You will need messages from senior management of the organization, start talking to them early on as these messages take time to come in. In case the Communications Agency is drafting these for you, ask for it in the initial days, to give you ample time for approvals and changes.
- Be prepared to purchase stock images for key pages: cover, separators etc. Budget for these as most of the time, images taken by your people on the field will not lend themselves to enlargement to the required size.
- Develop an online version of your CSR report, put up your data online. See how you can get someone to update this information on a monthly basis to keep it fresh.
If you have any queries regarding compiling a CSR report for your organization, do drop me a message in comment box below. I would be happy to help in any way possible! Cheers.
~ Bharti Athray