Every executive demands it.
Every marketer produces it.
Almost no one loves it.
In this series, we’ll tackle the basics of marketing reporting, from what good reporting is to how to construct a simple report with the time-honored 6W framework in mind.
Part 4: How to Set a Reporting Cadence
When it comes to reporting, one of the most common questions is how much reporting we should provide. How often do our stakeholders need reports?
The easy, convenient, and often wrong answer is to provide reporting whenever we’re asked for it. However, providing reporting like this involves lots of fire drills, last minute scrambles to assemble data, perform cursory analysis and hasty insights (if any) and deliver a product which might not meet the needs of our stakeholders.
The better answer is to build a reporting cadence based on our audiences. Recall that our three audiences are:
- Deciders: people who will use our reporting story to make a decision or give us direction. These are typically our superiors in an organization.
- Collaborators: people who will use our reporting story to make choices or work with us to effect a change. These are typically our peers in an organization.
- Executors: people who will take direction from our reporting story and do what the story tells them to do. These are typically our subordinates in an organization.
Each of these audiences has a cadence, a schedule in their own work. Each of these audiences has defined, predictable needs. While we cannot anticipate every reporting need, we can plan for a significant majority of them.
Reporting Cadence for Deciders
Stakeholders and decision-makers in our organization typically require reporting around the business calendar. These are periods such as:
- Beginning/end of month
- Beginning/end of quarter
- Beginning/end of fiscal year
These corporate reporting periods occur as literal clockwork; by building reporting technology and schedules around it, we will meet expectations on quality and time.
In addition to the known reporting intervals, pay attention to executive calendars and published events. If we know a major trade show is coming up, we should plan to run reporting cycles before, during, and after the show. If we know a shareholders’ meeting or board of directors meeting is scheduled, we should plan to have reporting on KPIs and metrics available in advance.
Do you have monitoring set up on your own company’s brand name and key executives? If not, use a service like Google Alerts or Talkwalker Alerts to set up monitoring, and know in advance when announcements about upcoming initiatives happen - then plan reporting around them!
Once we have a known calendar of when reporting will likely be needed, we schedule events, reminders, etc. so that we’re prepared in advance to meet reporting needs and we cut down on the number of fire drills.
Reporting Cadence for Collaborators
Collaborators need reporting to manage their people, teams, and projects. Thus, if we have a sense of when they start, finish, or course correct on projects, we will be able to meet their reporting needs.
For example, if we know another team has its team meetings every other Tuesday, we schedule our reporting to be ready by the Monday in advance. Our reporting arrives in time for our fellow collaborators to digest it and make decisions based on it.
As with deciders, pay attention to calendars. Meeting invites hint at when our collaborators need reporting; asking collaborators to share access to their work calendars will help us help them.
Reporting Cadence for Executors
Executors need reporting whenever we provide updates or corrections to their work. This may be as simple as providing reporting in advance of a team meeting or one-on-one feedback sessions, or as complex as reporting for annual performance reviews.
Unlike deciders or collaborators, we have more control over our executors’ time and work. Thus, provide reporting at a cadence which permits rapid course correction. Consider a management methodology like agile marketing. The best times to present reporting are at the beginning of each sprint, before the sprint begins, and in the after-action review.
Staying in Front
By staying in front of reporting asks, using good judgement and existing calendars/known events, we make our lives simpler and easier while making our deciders, collaborators, and executors deliriously happy. Instead of panicking and creating last minute, poor quality reports, we give ourselves the time we need to create the analysis, insights, and recommendations that fit the needs of our audiences.
Next: Reporting Technologies
In the next post in this series, we’ll examine the different kinds of reporting technology, from dashboards to massive documents. Stay tuned!
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