Producing a useful analysis or report to C-level executives is an exercise in precise, relevant and to the point communication.
As communications professionals it is only natural that we want our work to matter to the C-suite. Unfortunately, a lot of us fail to recognize that C-level managers need very specific facts and insights to help them make informed decisions. Thus, it is a common mistake among communication professionals to include too much detail in our reporting, when we should be focusing on a few key elements.
It is not about you
Brevity is a must for busy executives and board members. You may think that they have been looking forward all week to your exciting report on the results of last quarter’s press coverage, but you’d be mistaken. They are interested in what drives business outcomes.
Avoid the temptation to put in stuff simply because you hope it will make you look good and stop making lengthy accounts of everything you and your team have been doing. The details are not relevant – the results are.
Know your business objectives
The most critical step in putting together a useful report is knowing the strategic objectives of your business or organization. Only then can you link your activities and their outcomes to the overall goals in a meaningful way.
Helpful information to present to the C-suite includes:
- Measured outcomes and impact of communication
- Learnings from evaluation of past activities
- Insights that provide opportunities for improvement
- Imminent choices and their likely consequences
- Predictions and forecasts
- Critical facts and the status of KPIs
Precise, relevant and to the point
Your report should always follow these three important guidelines for reporting to the C-suite:
Precise: Are you providing specific details about the how, when, what and why?
Relevant: Is the information you are providing relevant to your audience’s needs? Will it help them make informed decisions about issues your organization is currently facing?
To the point: Are you presenting the information in the clearest, briefest way possible?
Pick a clear format
When it comes to communicating to the C-suite, less is often more. Providing a 1- or 2-page handout with an overview of everything they need to know will often prove much more useful than a lengthy report.
A format that includes both visuals, such as graphs and charts, as well as text will likely satisfy the need for a quick overview as well as a level of detail. You don’t need to spend hours with Excel spreadsheets to generate visuals that have an impact if you are using a monitoring software tool that has this option built-in—it’s a matter of click, copy, and go. Tweak it until you have perfected the layout.
Organizations can have widely varying amounts of data that must be analyzed for reporting and condensing it all down to a few pages can feel like an insurmountable task. In these situations, finding the right partner to assist with analysis and reporting makes solid business sense, as it will free up your time for planning and execution.
Remember that your goal is to help them make informed decisions but not burden them with information overload. It is a delicate balance.
Ask for feedback
Finally, try to get your audience’s feedback on the way you have presented your report. Even a few comments in an email will help you hone in on the perfect format and level of information. Here are a couple of useful questions you can ask:
- In what ways was this report helpful?
- Did you feel any of the information presented was redundant?
- Was there anything (visuals or text) you found confusing or vague?
- Did the report meet your needs for actionable insights and informed decision-making?