Reports, strategies, policies and procedures… they're not the most inspiring documents, but they serve a purpose, and a very important one. Many of them set out the strategic direction of a business; others describe the ins and outs of success and failures, alongside future plans; and the rest outline the sometimes rather complex processes that support our everyday decisions and actions.
But at the core of all of these is that purpose – to capture how our business is doing and reassure everyone involved that we've made, and continue to make, the right decisions.Annual Report 2016/17
Words like 'undertake', 'process', 'mitigate', and 'extrapolate' don't really feature in our vocabulary at Red Kite, for the simple reason that their formality doesn't make for interesting reading for our customers. How do we know this? Because we've asked them, and they've told us. And traditionally, in many reports and strategies, they're often used to narrate information that can otherwise be explained in a much more accessible way.
With that concept in mind, we took a different approach with two major reports that we produced for our customers this year: our Annual Report and Value for Money strategy.
Everyone has to produce an annual report – our regulator and other stakeholders expect to see the work we've done over the year, and for us to tell them about our business. But being truly tenant-led, we knew that there was a better way of doing it, outside of the typical glossy brochure that could serve as a bookend. I'm not saying that there isn't a place for this type of publication, just that at Red Kite, it's not very 'us'.
The same applies to our Value for Money strategy. We know that how we spend our money – primarily rent paid by our tenants – is a genuine interest for our customers. They have to be comfortable that we are doing the best with every penny we get. But how do you translate a multi-page self-assessment into something that appeals to your customer-base?
What I want to share with you is that creating an engaging, entertaining and relevant set of information in a way that makes total sense to people, can be really easy. For our annual report, we worked with a group of our customers to develop a web-based infographic that allowed them to pick and choose what they read about, in bite-sized pieces. The idea of seeing a top-level set of key achievements, with the ability to click through to the next level of more detailed information, really appealed. "I just want to know that my repair will get done quickly, first time round"… "Me too, but performance of the contractor is interesting too"… so we delivered both – a quick figure on repairs, linking to more information about the contractor.
Our 'outside the box' infographic that presents our improvements information has been received really well, so we took that concept and developed it into an interactive version that would sit within its own website.
I have to say that without design and marketing agency Resource, we wouldn't have done such a super job with the graphics. After just two meetings to talk about the content and design, which was all decided on by our customers, we produced a fantastic Annual Review that was presented at our Annual Get-Together (our own version of an AGM). We literally asked what they wanted, and what they'd read, and it made total sense to develop it in this way.
For our Value for Money video we took a slightly different approach, albeit with the same principle in mind. After our self-assessment was put together – 16 pages of detailed information about how we're making strides in getting the best from our money – I challenged the desire of others to read it in full, so wanted to come up with something a bit different, that would open up the subject of Value for Money and build it into an area that everyone could understand.
There are so many brilliant products available on the market that create fun, exciting and nifty presentations – the likes of Prezi, Adobe Voice and iMovie – and they're designed for people like me (who have no design background) to push the boundaries of what you can present and how. I'm a huge fan of Powtoons and recognised that it could work for the nature of money and figures, so after a bit of cherry picking and sanitising of the self-assessment, pulled out the key facts and worked with our unparalleled New Media and Channel Specialist to put the video together. Alongside the more formal documents, it now sits on our dedicated webpage and has already had more than 200 views.
Over the last year, we've got into the habit of regularly using a bunch of different formats to present fairly standard information in a cool way. Colleagues are getting used to seeing things like Star Wars inspired meeting notes, iconic images for agendas and cheeky twists on famous posters to inspire a new level of involvement. Don't get me wrong – there is, and always will be, a place for printed information. The content of most reports is available in hard copy, I just whole-heartedly believe that by spending a bit of time creating something different, you will appeal to so many more people.
We're not 100% digital just yet, but we're getting there.