Gearing Up for a Year-in-Review? Here’s How to Make it Stand Out

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It’s the holiday season, and that means all our favorite holiday traditions are coming back around—family visits, giant dinners, a few snow flurries, and, of course, a blizzard of looks back at 2018.

From media outlets’ political and pop culture roundups to family Christmas card letters, to individual business’ looks back at a year’s worth of accomplishments, these retrospectives are everywhere. So as the leader of your organization, how can you make your business’s year-in-review stand out among all the rest?

Based on our extensive communication research and analysis, here are four strategies to help you create a compelling look back at 2018.

Start with Why

To borrow a headline from Simon Sinek, Start with Why. The temptation is always to list a bunch of things that happened over the last twelve months and leave it at that. But the whats won’t make your year-in-review memorable. That requires the whys. So dig deep, telling your audiences not only what happened, but also why it happened, and how.

Did you kick off an important new initiative? Don’t just tell us about the plan and its results—tell us about the inspiration for the initiative, too. Why this project? Why was it so important, how did it align with the company’s values, and what did it take to make it happen?

Communication research shows that, by offering these granular levels of insight, communicators can build trust with their audiences, creating a stronger bond and helping listeners internalize the key points of a message.

Tell a Story

Consider the holiday letters that fill your mailbox every year from friends and relatives. There are probably some you read eagerly every year and others you give just a quick glance before tossing them on the pile. What’s the difference? The boring ones recite achievements, but the interesting, memorable ones tell fully developed stories, complete with beginning, middle, and end, conflict, intrigue, character growth, and a range of emotions. All these storytelling components are thought to make messages 22 times more memorable than strict recitation of facts.

When you get ready to record your business’s achievements, you may not be working with Great American Novel material, but do think about how you can share this information in the form of a story. Who was involved in that big initiative? What obstacles stood in the way? How were they overcome? What did you learn? The more you can set up your look back like a story or series of stories, the more likely your audience will be to pay attention to—and later remember and repeat—what you’re saying.

Make it Personal

Your year-in-review is certainly a time to celebrate the organization as a whole, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to call out team members for their contributions and achievements.

Did a new hire step up in a big way? Did a middle manager find a more efficient way to handle the team’s biggest logistical nightmare? Was a community member instrumental in gathering support for a new project?

Build some good will among employees and in your communitys by highlighting individual as well as team success stories.

Make it Yours

Finally, the year-in-review is an opportunity to dispense with the corporate speak (while remaining professional, of course) and let your personal voice shine through. What made you nervous this year? What excited you? Audiences crave authenticity from their leaders, and this is the perfect chance to practice. Allow yourself to be honest, vulnerable, and natural in this holiday communication, and give your audience a glimpse of the humans behind the brand. This will go a long way in building trust and loyalty with employees, investors, and potential customers.

So what are the highlights of your 2018 year-in-review? We can’t wait to read it. Happy holidays, everyone.