The first quarter of 2014 was crunch time for recap reporting. Many experiential programs come to an end right around the holidays. Some extend into the new year, but traditional market research projects usually wrap up by year’s end for clients to present results to senior management. Luckily, we do our best to prepare for these busy periods well in advance to best manage our clients’ needs. That’s not to say there aren’t lessons learned coming out of the reporting crunch.
I like to think that for every research report I write, I learn at least one new piece of information that I can use to improve my skills. Here are three market research reporting tips I have learned from my own writing over the past six months.
1. The report should tell a story
I read a book on how to improve the persuasiveness of presentations. One of the key sections was how to structure your report to read like a story, meaning it should have a beginning, middle, and an end.
The beginning of the report should present the research objectives and follow with any hypotheses or assumptions to be tested.
The middle should be the meat of the report, with all of the findings and analysis that are relevant to the objectives and assumptions introduced in the beginning.
The end should present the conclusions and answer the report’s hypothethetical questions.
This may seem like a “No, duh” recommendation, but it’s easy to forget to tell the story when you’re absorbed in all the numbers.
2. Cater the report to your audience
It’s important to keep in mind that, even though you’re the person writing the report, when you deliver it, someone else has to understand it as much as you do, and in a much shorter amount of time.
When I write, I’m always concerned that I’m not explaining adequately, which has led to copious bullet points written in small font to fit on the screen. That’s a slippery slope.
Now, I’m more conscious of the audience and I condense bullet points to valuable statements that don’t repeat statistics that can already be read on the charts and tables on the same slide. It makes reading easier for your audience, because they won’t miss important points you had hidden away in too much text.
3. Keep the report relevant to the objectives
Most market research projects have countless crosstabs with numerous statistics to throw into reports. While the crosstabs open the doors to analyze anything and everything, you have to filter out the statistics that are not relevant to the research objectives.
Keeping the focus on statistics that best tell the story will make it easier to tie the analysis together across pages or PowerPoint slides, allowing the reader to leave the presentation with a much clearer understanding.
It should come as no surprise that I had trouble keeping this blog post under 500 words.
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