Your social value reports are how you communicate your impact and reap all the benefits of being a responsible organisation. A boosted reputation. Greater funding opportunities. Attracting a more passionate, talented workforce. Not to mention maturing your internal approach to social value, maximising your marketing efforts, and differentiating yourself from competitors. That’s what they could mean to you. If you go about them in the right way.
These benefits are dependent on your reporting – whatever form it may take – being well received. What you don’t want after investing significant amounts of time and resources into supporting your local community and beneficiaries is for all of your team’s hard work to get lost in translation.
Critical to generating effective, engaging reports is being aware of the different audience types you’ll be targeting – often, within the same single report. You want to relentlessly focus on your readers’ needs, considering their individual agendas and requirements..
With this in mind, we’re going to look at the most common audience types for your social value reports, briefly outlining what each will expect from you and how you can better cater to their needs with each report you produce.
Different audiences require a careful balancing act
It’s going to be impossible to please everyone completely. So creating your reports for different audiences will feel like a balancing act. Like you’re torn between a rock and a hard place trying to please readers with vastly different goals and agendas.
The solution? It’s simply a case of doing your best to strike a balance between each of your audience types. For example, you could weave in qualitative data to encourage engagement from customers and elicit their emotional reactions, while simultaneously outlining your progress and results in eye-catching graphics for time-poor professionals giving your reports a quick glance.
Your job is to identify a middle ground where you’re responding to each reader’s needs as best you possibly can.
When it comes to external stakeholders – such as funding providers – our best advice is to always respect their time. These are busy, time-poor professionals who don’t have the freedom or capacity to pore over lengthy descriptions of your efforts and extended summaries of your outcomes.
Your top priority should be a clear, concise topline overview of what your organisation’s priorities are. Then, beyond that, you want to succinctly put forward the activities you’ve engaged in to achieve your goals, what the results were, and any plans for your next steps.
You want to be drawing clear lines between inputs, outputs, and outcomes, leaving no room for misinterpretation and making life easier for your reader. Follow a logical structure that allows them to skim past the information that isn’t as relevant to them.
As external stakeholders will be extremely data-driven, eye-catching visual elements – such as graphs, charts, and infographics – will be crucial. For this audience type, money and investment will also be an important factor. So within your reports, you want to demonstrate resilience, longevity, and an ongoing commitment to improving. Try to be transparent of any mistakes or lessons learned, clearly outlining how you will take these into account in the future.
If external stakeholders are all about learning the facts fast, your customers, beneficiaries, and the wider public will be drawn to the deeper meanings of your activities and progress. Storytelling will be a huge part of this.
To best serve this audience type, you want to focus on the who aspect of your social value. They won’t care about your value for money or the amount of resources you’ve spent to achieve your objectives. They want to hear the uplifting success stories of real people and communities.
Try to weave examples of the value you’re adding to real people throughout your reports, focusing on outcomes rather than outputs. If you’ve described an activity your team completed to help homeless youths off the streets, dive deeper into the real-life story of one individual you were able to help and how exactly you changed their life for the better. This type of personal, relatable detail will make your reports far more impactful and engaging to read.
These storytelling elements will also offer impactful insights you can tie into your marketing and communications plans. It’s just one way you can reuse the hard work that’s gone into your reporting to boost other communication channels.
Employees and internal stakeholders
This audience type may be equally as time-poor as external stakeholders but will benefit from a familiarity with your organisation’s priorities, approach, and social value journey.
Think of this as a middle ground between external stakeholders and the general public. Data and clear visualisation of tangible progress is important, but so are the meaningful, affecting stories of who you’ve helped along the way.
Sharing your reports with your staff and internal stakeholders is a great way to celebrate your wins. After all, your progress and social value journey shouldn’t be on a ‘need to know’ basis.
By including specific employee stories and experiences, you help your wider workforce to understand the difference other areas of the business are making. This type of inspiration and motivation can help to raise the bar across your organisation as a whole, bringing everyone onto the same page and uncovering even more opportunities to add value.
Unlike the other audiences, you likely won’t be writing your reports specifically with competitors in mind. But sharing social value reports cross-industry can do incredible things for raising the social value of whole industries.
The more open and transparent we all are in terms of our successes and mistakes, the more we can learn and grow together, promoting industry-wide learning and development. It’s no secret that shouting about your wins will give your competitors a push in the right direction, encouraging them to squeeze even more value out of their own strategies. While the valuable lessons you’ve learnt along the way could prove equally valuable for another business in a similar position.
Sometimes, writing social value reports can feel like you’re being pulled in every direction. But while you can’t please everybody (no matter how hard you try), you can do your best to find a middle ground that directly responds to the unique requirements and agendas of your customers, beneficiaries, staff, and external stakeholders.
Here at Impact, we help you take your organisation’s social value to the next level. From seamlessly capturing data in line with your chosen themes and outcomes to tracking progress in real-time, and creating engaging reports in a few clicks. To find out more about what our platform could do for you, schedule a demo or get in touch with the team on 0161 532 4752.