Get down and dirty with all the ins and outs of internal reporting: what it is, who it’s for and how to make yours Not Suck.
As anyone who’s experienced the sensation can attest, there’s nothing quite as eye-roll-inducing than an internal report landing in your inbox. While it may initially seem better than what you’re supposed to be doing, a few seconds in and you’ve begun your transformation into a glazed-eyed zombie as you get lost in a jargon-packed, number-intensive document that leaves you more confused than year 11 trigonometry.
BUT, when done right, internal reporting can hold the key to a company’s success. In fact, on point internal comms is often the sign of a company that is kicking goals right across the park. They’ll have informed and switched on employees, a strong sense of inter-departmental understanding and a management team who can make informed decisions on budget, funding and future directions.
So, if you’re looking to try your hand at internal reporting or maybe want to spice up your company’s approach to it, get scrolling! We’ve got all the intel on understanding what internal reporting is, what it does, who it’s for and how to make sure yours don’t induce a new breed of glazed-eyed zombies!
What is internal reporting (and is it right for my business?)
When we get right down to it, internal reporting is actually pretty simple. Beneath all those graphs and numbers we’re essentially just talking about collecting and – you guessed it! – reporting on information that can be used internally. And don’t be fooled into thinking internal reporting is the domain of big business because even the smallest of company’s can get in on the party! Your reporting might be less intensive, frequent or department specific, but you’ll reap rewards all the same. You’ll be…
- Increasing accountability as results are measured and shared
- Encouraging internal goal setting
- Promoting internal awareness as everyone is kept up to date with company activities and results
- Assisting with team building through the encouragement of transparency.
What should my reports include?
First things first, be aware that the primary purpose of internal reporting is to help people make decisions. You want to provide them with the data and information that gives them an accurate and informed overview of relevant results, teams, divisions and projects. Ask yourself who your audience will be and what kind of tone, approach and content they’re most likely to respond to. When it comes to what information makes the cut (or gets cut), we’d recommend recalling those wise words Coco Chanel once said: “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” Take her wisdom and apply it to your reports by refining, refining again and then refining some more! People will always appreciate brevity and you don’t want to foster a reputation for rambling!
If you’re lost on where to begin, you might want to start crunching the numbers on:
- Outgoing costs (spending)
- Incoming costs (sales, sponsorships)
- Website hits
- Social media growth
- Social media engagement
It’s also pretty important to contextualise your information, presenting data in a way that is easy to understand and makes sense. For instance, don’t just throw the past month’s website hits into a graph. Interpret the data by explaining where the hits are coming from, what their source is, how different pages rank and the amount of time being spent on each one. Be clear about why this information is important, how it compares to previous and/or projected results and how the data fits into the bigger picture. In short, you want to be turning that data into usable information.
How to make my reports not suck
Since I’m sure we’re all hoping people actually read the reports we’ve slaved over, it’s worth ensuring all your content is as inviting, interesting and engaging as possible. Avoid the aforementioned glazed-over looks and spice things up with some of our top tips for on point reporting:
HOOK THEM IN – As with ANY publication, you should be drawing your readers in with a headline that catches their attention and gets them excited about what’s to come. Follow this up with an opening that immediately addresses what the report is, why it’s important and why they should bother reading it.
ORGANISATION – In spite of our current (read: messy) desk situation, we can honestly say that we respond better to organisation. Give us a clearly structured story and we’ll always process it quicker and easier than we would a Tarantino film. Don’t stop at turning your data into information, organise your information into a narrative to help your readers make sense of it and encourage them to keep going. In the same breath, always try to eliminate superfluous jargon that could alienate readers and have them switching off before you can win them back.
GO VISUAL – It’s been reported that 93% of internal communication professionals believe that video has become essential. It helps people absorb a report’s message, increases a feeling of personalisation and is super accessible and flexible. Where possible, use videos, images or infographics to break up your text (or get rid of it all together), illustrate your point and get your message across. If you don’t have the time or money to produce your own visuals, there are some great free resources available!
CHANGE IT UP – If you’re not keen on monthly reports or daily data snapshots, you can set your internal communications onto high speed with a company-specific social media network, or intranet portal. Think of it as a personalised Linkedin, where your employees are kept up to date with bite-sized snippets into what’s going on. They can check the reports at their leisure and it becomes an online archive of all reported information.
Now you’ve got your internal reporting down pat, bring your PR skills up to speed with our guides on researching your competition, pitching exclusives to the media, and creating news when you have none.
Image credits: That’s Impressive Report by Glasgow Letterpress, Report Writing – Vogue Italia, Zimmermann backstage – Andrew Swartz