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Audio Annual Report Features Repackaged Recordings From Past Year

One of the knocks against print versions of foundation annual reports is that they cost a lot to produce and mail and ultimately end up unread – and in the recycling bin.

If that’s the case, why not produce an annual report that’s largely made up of recycled material – not paper – but previously produced content?

In a sense that’s what the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) did this year when it created its first-ever audio annual report. Designed as a companion to its traditional annual report, which is available both in print and as a PDF, the 25-minute audio report contains previously recorded interviews with and presentations by leading experts and policy officials who are involved in efforts to promote greater cooperation and understanding between North America and Europe.

Will Bohlen, the foundation’s director of communications, said the idea for the audio report grew out of a brainstorming session at the Communications Network 2008 Chicago conference, where attendees debated the pros and cons of producing annual reports and kicked around ideas for alternative approaches. The goal was to come up with replacements or complementary vehicles to better help foundations connect with key audiences.

Bohlen said it occurred to him if GMF had a year’s worth of podcast and event recordings, why not repackage them into a stand-alone presentation. “So after the conference, I came back to the foundation and talked to Matt Wojtkun, a communications associate who runs our podcast series, about my idea.” Over parts of four weeks, Wojtkun waded through hours of audio to identify the right clips, wrote a script to connect the disparate pieces, and recorded the voiceovers. GMF prepared its audio report and posted it to the website on the same day the PDF of the print report became available.

Included in the audiocast are interviews with:

  • Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, on the United States’ involvement in his country.
  • Sergei Markov, a member of the Russian Duma, on Russia and U.S. relations
  • Ruprecht Polenz, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German Bundestag, on the role of Europe in addressing Iran.

To Bohlen, the need for an audio annual report is a reflection of the challenges GMF or any foundation faces these days in reaching, connecting and informing key audiences. “It’s just another entry point, another way to reach them.”

For GMF, recycling existing material to recap the past year actually isn’t unique to the foundation’s audio report. Bohlen says that much of the content in the foundation’s print annual report also “is sliced and diced” from material that’s already been produced. “We decided some time ago that there was no point in creating fresh content if we could just repackage what we have into a summary of the past year’s activities.”

Getting creative about how to reuse existing material serves another purpose, says Bohlen. “In today’s economic climate, we have to find ways to get more bang for the buck.”

–Bruce Trachtenberg


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