If you’re thinking about producing a high-gloss, multicolored annual report, with the pictures, the charts and the long opening “welcome” letters from your CAO and/or top elected official, please think again.

Simply put, nobody’s reading it! More importantly, you’re missing a tremendous opportunity to reach thousands of more people.

Several of us see the annual report as the primary vehicle for telling taxpayers all about everything we’re doing for them. If you’re shaking your head, yes, you’re in the dark ages. Never put your communication with the public in one basket, and certainly don’t keep it to once a year. 

Good communication is taxpayer focused, convenient, relevant, year-round, and involves numerous mediums, both traditional and non-traditional. However, your organizations annual report can be a stellar, compelling and highly-effective tool for connecting with the public, driving education and engagement, and bolstering positive opinion, if it is designed and presented correctly.

Scrap the paper production and design a digital annual report; one that can be distributed to and viewed by anybody, anywhere in the world, at any time, all year long.  Yes, use your website. And, so use a responsive web layout, so that it can be viewed on any size device, from a large desktop monitor to a smartphone or tablet, and everything in between. 

Keep your focus small, clean and relevant.  Video images are a compelling, interesting way to share your story, along with developing a human connection between the leaders of your organization and the public. Others can utilize your digital content throughout the year, particularly elected officials and the media. Links to social media can allow your story to be easily shared by anyone, throughout the year. 

Stay away from highlighting internal accomplishments and focus on deliverables that the public values most. Make departments in your organization compete for the top spot in your report.  It’s not equal opportunity!  Pick the top 10 things you did last year and highlight those.  

We printed 4,000 copies of our annual report in the final year before we moved to an interactive, responsive-web format report. Last year, 600,000 people viewed our annual report content.  Cost neutral. 

Take a look:  www.lacountyannualreport.com

Have any questions or comments? Use the comment box below.

Ryan Alsop is an Assistant Chief Executive Officer for the County of Los Angeles.

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