How to Incorporate Visuals Into Your Report

creditsuisse graphAs useful and necessary as graphics are, it is not enough to just plop them into a document.  Here is how you incorporate a graphic into your work:

Step 1: Label, number and title every graphic.  In the more technical fields, all graphics are either Tables or Figures.  Use Tables for tables (duh) and use Figures for everything else. The graphics should be numbered according to when they appear in your document (Figure 1, Figure 2 – or Table 1, 2 etc.).  Also, every graphic should have an informative title that helps the reader understand the content.

Step 2: Place the graphic in the right spot.  Usually, this means as close as possible to the text that refers to it.  If the graphic is not directly relevant, or if the graphic is so large that it interrupts the flow of your document, place it in the appendix with a reference to it in the text.

Step 3: Introduce and explain every graphic.  Don’t force your reader to do the interpretive work – explain what your graphic is doing and what the content means.  Use legends, arrows, captions – anything that will help your reader understand.  Also reference every graphic in the text either before the graphic appears or, if you are wrapping text, next to the graphic.  Avoid referencing a graphic for the first time after the graphic has already appeared.

Step 4: Document your graphics.  If you didn’t create the graphic yourself (and your company doesn’t already own it), be sure cite the source.  If you are publishing your work and the graphic is protected by copyright, you will have to get permission and possibly pay a fee.  Most style guides recommend you cite the source in both a references section and in the caption of the graphic itself.

Step 5: Make your graphic stand out.  Most graphics stand out anyway, but consider adding rules or boxes or additional spaces to distinguish your graphic from the text.  If you are writing a document with several types of graphics, consider using colored screens or filters to separate say, the pull quotes from the charts and graphs.

Step 6:  Make it easy to find your graphics.  If your document includes 3 or more graphics, include a list of illustrations just after your table of contents.

See the  2011 Credit Suisse Report on Global Wealth.pdf which illustrates almost perfectly how to incorporate charts and graphs.  It also includes some pretty awesome visuals.

Warby Parker: Building A Brand From The Annual Report


Click image to see entire report

According to, the purpose of an annual report is to assess the business’s yearly operations, present its view of the upcoming year.  Because annual reports are written for a wide range of audiences, they are also used as marketing tools to disseminate their perspective on company fortunes.

Warby Parker takes that perspective even further.

In “12 Lessons From Warby Parker’s Annual Report,” Ross Crooks from Forbes lays out the takeaway from Warby Parker’s 2013 Annual Report, like Be Visual, Show the People Under The Hood, and Don’t Fear The Tangential.

Salient points not only on report design, but also on how to build a brand for your company.


Twitter Gives It To Us Straight (Sort of)

Delivering bad new is always a tricky proposition.

In October 2015, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, announced layoffs of over 300 people.  He says that he’s going to  “give it to us straight,” but it sure seems to me that he uses a classic indirect approach.

Please read carefully.  Though Jack Dorsey is in a position of power and therefore can “get away” with a bluntness that many of us can’t, there is much that we can learn from this message, I think.  But then, is he really being blunt?

I would love to know what you think – how would you feel about Jack Dorsey if you received this message?  About Twitter?  What techniques used in this letter would you emulate?  Or avoid?

Read more:

How To Say You’re Sorry

    CBS MoneyWatch posted an article on seven ways that apologies should be conducted in business.  Some make a lot of sense to me – others not so much.  For instance, the writer, Tom Searcy, suggests that we don’t apologize nearly enough in business situations.  He believes that apologies “take the energy out of conflicts,” which may be true, but there is a fine line between an expression of sympathy and a condescending “sorry you feel that way.”  Below I have outlined four prominent apologies.  Read through them and discuss.

Apology 1: Netflix Fail

In the fall of 2011, Netflix was in the news for all the wrong reasons. First, CEO Reed Hastings decided to split the business into two unwieldy entities, requiring customers to work harder at accessing their memberships and services.  Then he raised prices.  The move was met with huge negative backlash .  A million customers walked out the door.

Then, under pressure, Hastings caved.  Soon after, he issued a video apology.


Check out the SNL video spoof. 

Apology 2: Jetblue is Very Very Sorry

In February of 2007, an ice storm slammed the East Coast, severely disrupting air traffic.  JetBlue came under fire for many customer service missteps, and particularly for not applying common sense to make their passengers more comfortable during a horrible situation (in one story, a girl urinated in her seat during a ground delay due to flight attendants’ strict enforcement of an FAA regulation requiring passengers to stay seated.)

Many consider this a model corporate apology:  Jetblue Apology

Apology 3:  Colgan Air Disaster.  Sorry/Not Sorry. 

This excerpt is from a letter written by Colgan Air executives after the airing of a Frontline special about Colgan Air #3407, which crashed in Buffalo in 2009, killing all on board.  In the final analysis, NTSB reported pilot error and management problems as cause of the crash.

What do you think of Colgan Air after reading this?: letter_colgan_air_safety

Apology 4: A Real Apology – And A Shot In the Arm for Penn State’s Battered Reputation.

Now read “Hey CEOs, THIS is the Right Way to Apologize,” written after Onward State Managing Editor Devon Edwards mistakenly announced Joe Paterno’s death via Twitter.

Sheryl Sandberg: Defending Yourself vs Taking Responsibility

All this talk of apologies leads me back to the words of Sheryl Sandberg.  She seems to advocate taking responsibility, even if the situation is not exactly our fault (the traffic didn’t cause me to be late; I was late because I failed to account for traffic).

Reality is far more gray.  Usually many factors come into play when things go wrong.  The stories that people hear and judge us by are not always the whole truth.

So under what circumstances should we take full responsibility and (publicly or privately) apologize?  And under what circumstances should we try to explain the “whole truth” and defend ourselves?






Interview Follow-Up Messages: Best Practices

Have you ever made a mistake in a job interview?  Said something you wish you could take back?  It happens all the time, but according to Beth Braccio Hering,  there are ways to recover from embarrassing mistakes, even if you don’t realize the mistake till after the interview is over.

That’s when she says you can use your thank you or follow-up message.  If the mistake is fairly serious (no need to bring up a minor mistake that the interviewer may have missed anyway) you can try to correct the error – but use positive language.  There’s no need to simply remind your interviewer of the problem.

Add Value to Thank Yous

Of course, the best thank yous are ones where you don’t have to apologize.  Thank you messages should be timely (within 48 hours) and polite – and should be sent even for interviews that may not have gone so well.  According to Don Straits, CEO and Dragonslayer of Corporate Warriors, the BEST thank you messages are also value-added:  that is, they add something unique to the conversation, expanding on a topic that was mentioned during the interview.

Value-added thank yous are the way to go.  But if you find yourself in a situation where you want to salvage an interview after it’s over, consider thanking the interviewer and correcting the mistake at the same time.

There are no guarantees when it comes to interviewing and followup messages, but leaving a positive impression is always a good idea.

Email or Handwritten Note?  Another perspective.

“In a recent conversation with a hiring professional the topic of thank-you notes came up. He mentioned the hand-written note he’d gotten in the mail recently.

All those email thank-you notes in his email? The were read in the daily course of business.

The snail-mail thank-you note? He still has it.”

Read the article: