Tips for Creating Effective Yearly Reports for Tech Transfer Programs

We’ve blogged a bit at Fuentek about our client’s award-winning technologies. But it’s pretty exciting when our own work receives an award.

Later today Fuentek will be receiving an award from the Carolina Chapter of the Society for Technical Communications for its work on 2009 Accomplishments: Ames Innovative Partnerships Program Office—the most recent annual report from the technology transfer program at NASA’s Ames Research Center. (Download the award-winning report.)

Our excitement about this award is not just because it is at the prestigious “Distinguished” level (although that’s pretty great!). We’re also excited to have some attention paid to these types of publications, which have an important role to play in technology transfer office communications. Annual reports can target an external audience, inspiring companies, universities, and government labs to seek out your technologies and partnership opportunities. Such reports also can have a more internal focus, gaining management and innovator support for the program. And sometimes the report is used with both audiences.

Click here to download this award-winning report

In the case of the Ames report, the audience was primarily NASA managers, employees, and contractors, although the report is also used externally. The message was the value of the center’s IPP Office and how the office supports NASA missions. (In case you’re wondering, the IPP Office finds external technologies, spins-out Ames-developed techs, supports innovation at small businesses, and provides/secures funding to support Ames researchers.) The desired outcome for the report? To inspire readers to go the office’s Web site and/or call the office so they can start working with IPP. So there’s your AMMO: audience, message, mechanism (the report!), and outcomes.

If you’re working on an annual report for your tech transfer office, consider these suggestions:

1. Remember your readers: Whatever your message, organize it and use language to align with the reader’s point of view, not according to your office’s internal structure and jargon.

2. Be choosy: If you’ve had a good year, you won’t be able to include everything. So don’t try to. Rather than listing everything, include summary data and feature a few key successes.

3. Easy on the eyes: It’s hard when you have a lot of good information to share with your readers, but I encourage you to consider good design principles (read: white space) when developing your content. If it’s not an easy-to-read design… well, no one will want to read it.

4. Watch your tone: If you have multiple authors contributing to the report, have an editor revise the language as needed to give it a consistent voice.

5. Play the numbers: Although you certainly don’t want to have a huge pile of leftovers, you don’t want to run out either. The costs of doing a second print run are much higher than doing a single run of the same total number. So really sit down and calculate what your distribution is going to be—then tack on about 10-15% more.

6. Leverage the Web: Putting a downloadable PDF on your site is a good first step, but depending on your design it can deplete the toner in your readers’ printers (if they print it at all). So consider doing an HTML version of the report. Another bonus of the HTML format: It gives you specific pages that you can point to in your other communications, especially your social media efforts.

BTW, if you’d like to see another nice example, see the FY10 report from Johns Hopkins University’s TTO.

Do you publish an annual report? Add a comment with a link to your report so we can see your great work!

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Posted by Nancy Pekar

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