Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I love reports. I love falling into a big pile of information and pulling it together into something digestible to help my clients, and our team, evaluate our work and make strategic decisions for the next cycle. I’ve worked up reports of all shapes and sizes – for both media relations and content marketing clients, that range from multi-page narratives with lots of charts and graphs, to boiled-down infographic reports – with everything in between.
We’re about to flip the calendar to December, and end-of-year planning and reporting is looming around the corner.
But, have no fear – you can outsmart the reporting monster. If you start your end-of-year reporting now, you’ll save yourself a headache when you get back in the new year. Here are my steps for starting now so you can quickly close the loop in January.
Determine your format and start building a skeleton.
If your annual reporting process is nothing new, then you may already have a template established, which is great! But if you’re starting from scratch, that’s okay too. Starting your EOY report in December means you already have 11 months of data to work with. If you’re planning on showing monthly breakdowns of data, you have a lot to get started with (as in, you’re over 90% of the way there).
Before you dive into the data, now is a good time to ask stakeholders exactly what they’re looking for in a report – both from a data perspective and on the format itself. Some leadership may expect specific metrics, others may be inclined to get a more holistic view.
Do the heavy lifting of the analysis.
Unless your organization has a heavy tie to the holidays or has significant seasonality in December, then go ahead and analyze your data. Chances are, you’ll be able to identify trends, see ebbs and flows and will be able to memorialize results in a solid draft form. In the new year, factor in December and adjust the analysis as needed.
Remember to reflect.
The purpose of the end-of-year report is to show results and demonstrate that goals were met, and if they weren’t, to discern why this was the case and what can be done moving forward to course correct your strategy. Spend some time thinking about your previous year and the strategies and tactics you launched along the way. Document a few takeaways from the past year and leave some recommendations for consideration moving into the new year.
Bring in fresh eyes before you press “send.”
When you’ve been living in reporting land for as long as it takes to do a report, you can get lost. It’s helpful to send your near-final report to a set of fresh eyes. This person can not only help you proof the document, but they can also ask questions from the point of view of someone who doesn’t have all the information. If they’re not following the report, chances are your client or leadership isn’t either.