As we’ve said elsewhere in this publication, the key to great reports is to use the data to tell a story. But teasing that story out of a pile of data is not as straightforward as you might think. Whether you are summing up your accomplishments for the year or summarizing a bad day in the media, your report writing will be faster and of better quality if you approach your work in a strict sequence with specific intermediate goals along the way.
Once you gain a little experience at this, you will be able to write a clear and effective report in four hours or less. Here’s a guide to how to plan your time and the steps you need to accomplish.
Get Your Mind Around the Problem
Who’s the audience? What kind of presentation will they prefer?
Let’s make a pretty safe assumption that the request for the report came from somewhere higher up in your organization. So first, put yourself in the head of the boss of the person who requested the report. Ask yourself what type of person he or she is:
- Are they a “word” person, like a former journalist, editor, or PR person, who is most comfortable getting descriptive data?
- Are they a “numbers” person, who will want just the facts and numbers and maybe a chart or two?
- Are they a more visual person, who will need to see data in graphs and word clouds?
And if you really don’t know what kind of person they are, then make sure you use all three forms of presentation in your report.