6 ways to upgrade your PR and marketing reporting

To inform your top bosses—and future campaigns—report in a concise, candid and consistent manner, whether your PR results are good or bad.

How can we streamline reporting procedures to make way for more vital aspects of our work?

Monstrous file sizes, misguided statistics, focusing on tactics instead of outcomes and insights—all can deplete the quality of our work when sharing PR and marketing results.

For busy executives, flipping through three top-line slides versus reviewing a 10-page report could determine whether or not they’ll make it home for dinner.

To ensure our dear leaders make it home at a decent hour, let’s look at ways to button up PR and marketing reporting so how we deliver results is as effective as the work itself.

Identify which metrics matter.

Before considering how to approach PR or marketing reporting, come to an agreement with your top boss on what wins look like and which metrics you’ll use to gauge success. That way no one’s scrambling to provide data that make them look good but don’t benefit the organization.

“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,” says Don Branch, vice president of strategic marketing for 3M.

Communicators report results 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,” Branch says.

Demonstrate connectivity.

Top leaders want to 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,” says Mark Stouse, founder and CEO of analytics and marketing software at 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 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. That doesn’t mean you have to cut slides about tactics. Just keep them separate for your own records and in case your CMO asks for them or wants you to present your strategy/results to a group.

Have you already written a lengthy report? Try whittling it down to 30 percent of its original form to deliver the ideas more efficiently. I call this the “70 percent noise-reduction rule.” It’s difficult at first, but it forces you to be direct.

Adhere to internal communications guidelines when possible.

Not every organization requires internal communications guidelines, but a broad framework of preferred fonts and deck templates can streamline information consumption so your teammates’ brains can focus on the content, not the flair.

“Specifying a font may sound nitpicky, but it’s the kind of thing that, when consistent, can make a big impact,” says Amy Newton, 3M’s brand activation manager. “Consistency in presentation also helps to establish your credibility (internally).”

Consider the ordering of information.

As with business emails, list vital information at the top instead of writing chronologically.

“State the most important information first as opposed to what is often the case: burying data and content in long, bulleted lists,” Newton says. “Instead, we use design to call out key statistics or insights and let them speak for themselves, providing minimal context when needed.”

Be candid about failures.

Reporting shortfalls is just as important as showcasing what has worked. PR pros never want to deliver “bad” news, but often the most significant lessons are uncovered in post-mortems.

Senior leaders will feel more confident in their investments in marketing and PR if they know you’re continually assessing and improving your strategy.

Rebekah Iliff is the chief strategy officer of AirPR. A version of this post appeared on Forbes.

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