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Blog_Damien Paddick_Stop making boring reports

Stop making boring reports – Our 5 top tips.

18 May, 2023

"Reports are boring". "No one reads them". "The data is old". "They are difficult to understand". We’ve heard it all before, yet still, reports are a crucial tool for us to communicate performance, progress, and plans with our stakeholders. 

Whether it’s an annual report, a sustainability report, or a financial report, these documents provide valuable insights into your organisational operations and help provide insights to stakeholders so that they can make informed decisions. 

However, creating an effective report can be a daunting task, with pages of data to interpret, mountains of feedback to analyse, and visual presentation planning. So, take it from the professionals, and make sure these five tips guide your next report. 

Report with a purpose. 

Why is the report needed? It seems a simple question to ask, but it is so often overlooked. Clearly defining the purpose of the report will ensure you are not wasting time and have a clear vision of what you need to communicate. Whether it’s communicating your financial performance to investors, detailing your sustainability efforts for accreditation, or providing in-depth market updates to association members, making a clear statement about the purpose of the report and the audience it serves will guide you toward a report that is concise, relevant, and engaging. You can ask yourself, ‘is this data relevant to this audience?’ or ‘does this structure effectively contribute to the purpose of the report?’.  

Print, export, or URL.  

Reports take on many forms, from traditional printed reports passed around a boardroom table, an attached PDF in an email, or an interactive online webpage. The format you choose depends on the purpose of the report and how to get your message across to your stakeholders. Think of your audience, their mindset when they receive the report, and the time investment expected of them to read it. A quick performance summary shared with your team may be distributed as a PDF, whereas a broader audience expected to consume the content at their own pace may benefit from an interactive online report. Printed reports should be kept for when the reader is expected to sit with and reference the material over an extended period – although they can also be good for marking milestones.  

Visual presentation is everything.  

Creating a report involves more than just putting data and information on a page, you need to consider its visual presentation. The visual presentation of a report is much more than simply making it look nice; good creative support will help reinterpret and combine your data to enhance the story the data is telling – no more rows and rows of bar charts. A well-designed report helps the reader navigate the document, find the information that is important to them, and immediately understand it. It can be time consuming and detailed, but do not discount the power good design has in improving and enhancing your reporting. Outsourcing creative support, whether copywriters or graphic designers, can be the difference between a report that is read and understood versus one that bores and is ignored.  

To data review or not to data review? 

When looking at data over and over again, it’s easy to see the numbers blur together. But there is nothing worse than delivering a report with incorrect facts and figures. An independent review can help identify errors, inconsistencies, or areas where the report could be improved. Many have reviewers in-house, but an external review provides fresh unbiased eyes that can challenge the data from new directions, ensuring what you publish is robust and stands up to scrutiny. Subject matter experts with broad experience provide perspectives backed by substance, which yields the best results for your report and offers a plethora of insights for data management and even data generation. 

Let feedback feed your report.  

Finally, it's essential to use feedback from stakeholders to guide your report. This feedback can come from a variety of sources, including clients, employees, and industry partners – the broader and more diverse your feedback, the better. By incorporating feedback, you can ensure that your report effectively communicates your message and meets the needs of your stakeholders. Without this feedback, what is the goal of your report? If you are not sure what your stakeholders need, surveys and other engagement tactics are a valuable source of information to provide ample guides. 

After all the hours of careful planning and attention to detail that goes into a report, you don’t want your audience to gloss over, ignore, or misunderstand your content. Running through and using these tips will ensure you have a powerful and relevant report that speaks to your stakeholders! Success!

Now, if you want to skip the hours of planning, several draft versions, and data variations – we have a team of pros ready to take your report to the next level. Let's chat! 

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