The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote used another medium to floor its audience — and they went viral.
Let’s get straight to the facts: Annual reports are boring and mundane.
There’s really nothing that makes you say “wow” after skimming through a PDF file littered with infographics, charts and graphs.
But the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote used another medium to floor its audience — and they went viral.
Last year, RRC decided to ditch the typical style of a printed annual report and create a video. That six-minute video annual report generated more than 8,400 views, making it the college’s most-viewed annual report in any medium and the most-watched video it ever produced.
Josh Peskin, the vice president for strategic advancement, led the creation of this year’s video. The new three-minute animated video explains what the RRC is all about and who the people are behind it.
Peskin came to the conclusion that many nonprofits like RRC spend a great deal of time and effort creating paper annual reports that are actually read by very few.
“No one reads annual reports anymore,” he laughed.
For last year’s video, which covered the 2015 fiscal year from September to August, the college decided that the annual report would not be printed but rather be an e-annual report that was well constructed.
And because it was viewable online, RRC could track how many people actually read it.
“We’d be lucky if it was a couple hundred,” Peskin admitted.
But an opportunity came about to reach a larger audience, and last year’s video annual report, rather than the e-report, told RRC’s story with an animated tour of what RRC is all about, explained through the teaching style of a whiteboard.
RRC had the funds to put together an annual report, so “it just looked like a very clear opportunity to get more bang for the buck.”
“We created an interactive site, which was really built around showcasing this whiteboard animation video,” he said. “For us, it was a huge win. It was a great way to sort of call attention and also have the annual report do what it’s supposed to do. You’re supposed to put it in front of people and have them be really excited about the work you did this past year and the work you do in general.”
Last year’s video won four marketing awards in the last few months — the MarCom Gold Award in the e-annual report category; the Silver Award for redesign/rebrand by the Summit International Awards; Gold Quill Merit Award for digital communication from the International Association of Business Communicators; and the Bronze Anvil Award for annual reports from the Public Relations Society of America. Peskin said they applied again for this year’s video, but they probably won’t hear back about it until the end of the year.
The same concept was used for this year’s video, just refined a bit. The surrounding website is much simpler, more intuitive and much easier to use on mobile devices, he said.
So this video — what is it about?
Peskin said congregations were asking for a brief video synopsis of what Reconstructionism is, as well as explaining the college, the movement and its goals.
So RRC tackled those questions by looking at Reconstructionism and the people who comprise it — it centers around the theme “Dream With Us.”
“This year, I think we really wanted to look more at what do we do and where are we going. We really thought the ‘Dream With Us’ kind of expression really embodied who we are and how we think about where we are and where we’re going,” he said. “There’s a kind of optimism and creativity that we believe really needs to counter the weight that a lot of other folks associate with Judaism. The ‘Dream With Us’ really brought to life the optimism, creativity, but continued conversation with tradition and rooted us in tradition.”
The RRC’s communications staff worked with award-winning animator Ruben Deluna, voice-over artist Ethan Sawyer and composer Gary King.
But in addition to the message, RRC didn’t leave out the data.
“The only requirement of an annual report is to present the finances of the organization,” Peskin said.
But if you look at other annual reports and how they get used, they’re really about representing the company or the brand, he added.
Finances may take up one page, but the anatomy of an annual report consists of letters from faculty or leaders, several inspiring stories from patrons and messages from the company team, donors or board of directors.
“The moments when you’re actually handing one to another person or, in our case, showing it to another person, the actual function of an annual report has really come to be much more about inviting somebody to sort of get a sense of the flavor and the heart and mission and accomplishments of an organization,” he said.
“The financials are a quintessential piece of an annual report, but they’ve kind of taken on a life of their own,” he added. “The financials don’t really tell a very compelling story. They tell a story to some people, but to most people looking at a page of numbers does not tell a particularly compelling story about who and what you are and why you’re important.”
Within the first week, the new video reached more than 2,000 views.
“For us that’s viral,” he said. “Reconstructionists are optimists, and we believe that everybody’s accountable for the Judaism of our time. If something’s not working, it’s up to us to dream together and make it wonderful.”
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