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The art of better reporting

Last month we wrote about the power of storytelling, touching briefly on its use within regular reporting. Here we look a little deeper into that theme.  Regular reporting is often all too often heavy on data but light on communications best practice. First of all, here are the typical weaknesses we are seeing when it comes to regular reporting:
Findings not conclusions: While the findings are clearly articulated, conclusions are often missing
So what? It is often unclear why the findings are important, leaving the reader to make their own interpretations
Graph or text heavy:  Lengthy text descriptions and pages of graphs and tables are overly relied upon
Same old story: The design template masks findings through repetitiveness both within and between reports
No room for the ad hoc:  While some trends may form part of the regular reporting, there is rarely room given for ad-hoc trend reporting

Why does this matter? Fundamentally because it significantly limits the effectiveness of the reports. They become too easy to skim read or worse still, leave too much of the interpretation of what the data is saying to the reader. Ultimately, a decision needs to be made as to whether you are choosing to simply report data or helping the business make decisions based on data.

Here are 5 tips for better reporting:

  1. Consider the needs of the audience(s)
  2. Revisit the template and think about the flexibility needed to land the message
  3. Understand the power of storytelling, especially when it comes to the report structure
  4. Lean towards infographics to land the key findings and conclusions
  5. Make sure the conclusions are clearly articulated

So it’s powerful stuff and relevant to any data and insights team. Embraced in the right way it will make reports sing, presentations land and the entire data and insights team increase its influence within the business.

At Seen&Read we help teams inject effective communication into regular reporting through storytelling training, template design and content creation or consultancy. Contact Scott McLean to find out more –

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