January 17, 2019
We spend so much time on our day-to-day work that reporting on our results is often a hasty afterthought, and PR reporting certainly comes with its own set of challenges. An exec or client asks for a report, so just throw some numbers in a doc, and send it off.
But reporting is actually a very important part of every comms job, and learning how to do it well can make the difference between being good at your job and being exceptional at it.
When done well, reporting can help justify your budget- or even your job!- show the results of your hard work, and pave the way for a promotion or raise. This is especially important as PR reporting grows to include social media reporting and more.
You may have inherited some report templates from a former colleague, or maybe you have a Frankenstein’s monster of a report cobbled together over years by lots of people (some of whom no longer even work on your team!). If you’re lucky, you’re starting from a blank slate.
But no matter what, the start of a new year is a great time to refresh your reporting. These tips apply to regular reports like those you probably prepare monthly, as well as one-off campaign or project summaries, and whether you're preparing slides, a text document, or something else.
Here are our 5 best tips to improve your reporting.
You’ll be amazed at how much credibility a good-looking report can generate. It’s worth the extra time and effort to create a visually attractive template you can use regularly. Consider:
Less is more when it comes to the text in your reports, as well. Don’t over-bullet or over-explain. If you can tell a story in two sentences instead of four, do it.
Even if you don’t have graphic design skills or resources available, you can keep your reporting clean and simple. Here’s a sample template you could use.
What are the major takeaways you’re trying to convey? Select a few key metrics or findings and highlight those. Even if you have multiple dashboards with dozens of numbers, pages of insights from your most recent campaigns, your job is to pull out what’s most important from that mass of data. Make it easy for your boss to immediately understand what’s important.
Don’t expect your numbers to speak for themselves, so always include benchmarks or historical comparisons. How do your current results compare to previous months or past campaigns? How do they compare to standards for your industry? Help your audience understand what these numbers actually mean to your team and your company.
We all hope that our metrics always go up and to the right. But sometimes they don’t. There are seasonal lulls, campaigns that don’t land, changes in markets, experiments that don’t work out. And that’s okay - these things are bound to happen. When you get less-than-ideal results, your job is to acknowledge them, identify the causes, and propose changes you’ll make moving forward. Don’t shy away from bad news in your reporting.
Make it clear how your results impact the larger organization. Show how what you’re doing contributes to a quarterly goal or makes progress on an important initiative. When you can, make clear connections to bottom-line business impact.
It’s not that difficult to improve your PR reporting and any other comms reporting to make it easier to understand, more interesting to read, and quicker to digest. And these steps will have an outsized impact on how your work is perceived.
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