Computer game style image showing character with level up to represent using data in reporting

The numbers game; level two

It’s hard to deny the importance of reporting to demonstrate the return of communications activities. But, for those in the business of telling stories, reporting can seem a little like wading through treacle.

Why? Well, reporting seems like a whole different kettle of fish to wordsmithing. Reporting is all about the numbers, right? Maybe not. Ultimately, reporting is still telling a story.

In the same way that, as communicators, we use surveys and data to create a compelling hook for our client’s stories, we have the opportunity to tell our clients a story through reports.

The good, the bad but hopefully not the ugly

Sometimes it’s not quite the positive and uplifting tale you would like to tell, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell it. It can be tempting to hide numbers that are less than encouraging to make way for more flattering figures, but if everything always looks rosy then you won’t see the true successes.

Not everything will work, sad but true.

Our tip? Set standard reporting parameters for every activity and campaign which align to the original objectives, it will give you a solid base to determine the most beneficial activities for an organisation or the preferred topics and formats for an audience. Much more useful than a pair of rose-tinted spectacles.

SMART is better than pretty

Whilst we are talking reporting data, we should possibly touch on ‘vanity metrics’. Basically, these are numbers which tell you nothing about a business or activity in relation to the goal. For example, you run a campaign to increase sales of a certain product in a portfolio, in your campaign report you include the number of social media followers. Why is this a ‘vanity metric’? While high numbers of followers look nice (it’s always nice to feel popular) it hasn’t had any bearing on an increase in sales. If you’re objective was an increase in brand awareness however, then that would be a good metric.

Next tip: look at the objectives set at the beginning of an activity and how they would be measured (if the objectives were SMART – Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timed – this bit will be easy) then set the reporting to match.

Substance and style

Finally, if you find the report boring to complete then chances are the client is going to find it boring to read. The information you are presenting may not reveal the meaning of life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it interesting and pleasurable to read. In all likelihood, your client contact will also have to feed your results back up the chain of command in their own organisation, so making it boardroom ready makes you not only helpful but ensures the c-suite get to see your professionalism directly too.

Last tip: take a little time to inject some personality and good imagery (read: no clipart) into the report and make sure key metrics are visible so everyone can see objectives delivered at a glance.

If numbers can make great stories for campaigns, then they can also make for some great end of month reading for clients.


Sarah Markulevicius

Account Manager