Making the Annual Report a Visual Story with Instagram

Cassie Dull (@cassdull) is the online communications specialist at Park Tudor School, an independent school in Indianapolis, Ind.

Calgary Zoo’s annual report creators did something downright amazing with its annual report. They used Instagram to present a visual story line of the zoo’s past  year, its successes and even its financial reports.

Calgary Zoo 2012 Annual Report on Instagram

If you haven’t seen it, head to and check it out. This is amazing and higher ed should take note.  Here are my thoughts on why this annual report format is great.

  • The visual presentation catches people’s attention. I know nothing about Calgary Zoo—I’ve never been there, I have no idea what animals or events they have or how popular it is. But, I can’t pass up pictures of adorable animals. The series isn’t just pictures of animals either, it includes well thought-out graphics like a shoe with words written in a Sharpie—a picture that fits right into Instagram’s culture.
  • It tells a story. Even knowing nothing about Calgary Zoo, I wanted to read the stories and learn more with each picture I flipped through. Picture by picture, the whole story of the zoo begins to unfold—from tourist attraction to community landmark to worldwide conservation outreach. You begin to see the total impact of the zoo on its community and the world—and it’s clear that support from the community and donors makes all this possible.
  • It’s social. People can leave comments, like the photos and share with friends. The zoo’s staff can respond to comments right there in an interactive annual report. Zoo visitors can add their own stories—about seeing the penguin exhibit, for example—and the report is no longer the zoo’s version of what happened but a collective story of a year at the Calgary Zoo.
  • It saved a ridiculous amount of money. Think about how much money you spend each year on your annual report, both printed and online. Now, imagine how much you think the zoo spent on artistic design and photography (possibly taken on a mobile phone) and staff time spent organizing a storyboard and publicizing their new report (which went viral and didn’t need much publicity). Using social media tools effectively can be a huge cost savings, but you have to be willing to completely rethink what you’ve done in the past. Start by thinking about what you want to communicate to whom and which medium will do that most effectively.

Calgary Zoo 2012 Annual Report

Takeaways from this innovative annual report:

  • You don’t have to spend a ton of money anymore to create a dynamic year-end report.
  • Visuals are increasingly important to communicating your message and capturing your readers’ attention.
  • Take the opportunity to tell your story. A lot happens in a year and each of those stories contributes to your institution’s story. The annual report is your yearly opportunity each year to remind people of the great things you’ve done and how your donors and volunteers have helped you get there.

6 responses to “Making the Annual Report a Visual Story with Instagram

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  5. I know we won’t have as many “happy” pictures as the zoo but wouldn’t it be awesome if we could do something like this (Kathi, I know we’d still have to do a printed Annual Review) to generate interest. If we created something that went viral…just how many times would CARTI get mentioned to people and would they take time to look at what we do?

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