Monstrous file sizes, misguided statistics, focusing on tactics instead of outcomes and insights… The ways in which we can deplete the quality of our work when sharing PR and marketing results are vast. And for busy C-suite executives, reviewing a 10-page report as opposed to flipping through three top-line slides is often the difference between whether or not they’ll make it home for dinner. To ensure our dear leaders make it home for family time, let’s look at a few ways to button up PR and marketing reporting so how we deliver results is as effective as the work itself.
Come to an agreement on which metrics matter
Before considering how to approach PR or marketing reporting, come to an agreement on what wins look like and the metrics you’ll use to gauge success with your C-suite leader. If how success is determined isn’t clear from the outset of a campaign, no amount of reporting is going to matter. There must be a universal agreement from the get-go, so no one’s scrambling for data that makes them look good but doesn’t actually provide utility to the company.
“If we simply look at pure measurement of just reach, for example, without data analysis of who, what, when, where, and how we reached them – and what the engagement rate is – , it does nothing to inform decisions in the future,” said Don Branch, vice president of strategic marketing for 3M.
One of the main reasons why we report in the first place is so we can use data-driven insights to inform future work. “One of our best practices is reporting in a way that shows a clear return on investment for 3M activations, which ensures that the results tie back to the business objective and communications strategy,” said Branch.
C-suite leaders want you to demonstrate the connectivity of your efforts to other areas of the business so they can clearly see how your work fits into the bigger picture. “The typical marketing or PR report is meaningless to business leaders because its contents are not connected to anything the business cares about — revenue, margin, cash flow, market share, and other key metrics,” said Mark Stouse, founder and CEO of analytics and marketing software Proof.
“There’s no sense of larger context, no calculation of cause and effect relative to business objectives,” he says. “If you are a marketing or PR pro, being able to compute and communicate the business effects of what you do is the only path to that seat at the table.”
Less is more
Imagine your CMO breezing through your report at 7:00 a.m. on the subway. Your job is to make sure that report is so digestible they can get through it in under 10 minutes. It doesn’t mean you have to cut slides about tactics; just keep them separate and for your own records, in case your CMO asks for them or wants you to present your strategy to a group.
Have you already worked on a lengthy report? Try whittling it down to 30 percent of its original form to deliver the ideas more efficiently. I like to call this the “70 percent noise-reduction rule.” It’s difficult to do at first, but it really forces you to be direct.
Adhere to internal communications guidelines when possible
Not every company size requires internal communications guidelines, but a broad framework of preferred fonts, deck templates, and the like can help streamline information consumption so your teammates’ brains can focus on the content, not the flair.
“Specifying a font may sound nit-picky, but it’s the kind of thing that, when consistent, can make a big impact,” said Amy Newton, 3M’s brand activation manager. “Consistency in presentation also helps to establish your credibility (internally).”
Consider the ordering of information
In addition to sharing top-line results prominently, consider how you order the information you’re reporting. Just like with business emails, list the most important information at the beginning instead of writing the content in a chronological way.
“State the most important information first as opposed to what is often the case: burying data and content in long, bulleted lists,” said Newton. “Instead, we use design to call out key statistics or insights and let them speak for themselves, providing minimal context when needed.”
Lastly, include what didn’t work in your favor
Reporting what didn’t work with your strategy is just as important as showcasing what did. PR pros have a habit of never wanting to be the bearer of “bad” news, but oftentimes the biggest learnings are uncovered during post-mortem assessments.
Senior leaders will feel more confident in their investments in marketing and PR if they know you’re iterating and evolving your strategy frequently.
A version of this article appeared on Forbes.