In order to be able to report appropriately on your project’s results, you need a strategy describing what and to whom you want to communicate. Strategic communication is your next challenge!
If you’re addressing a variety of groups, this often requires using different reporting forms and formats. You can choose an informal option, for instance by using the telephone, a fax, email, conversations or group dialogues, or alternately focus on quite formal formats such as presentations, annual reports or accountability documents.
Depending on the goal and the audience, it may also make sense to combine various formats. For example, you could post an infographic on Facebook as a teaser for your comprehensive annual report, update your impact documents on your website, or send informative press releases to local media organizations.
Here we can do no more than give a rough outline of how best to fulfill your communications goals, as any more would be outside the scope of this publication. However, we can relay three lessons derived from past practice.
- Just do it. Trust yourself! The reservations held by some organizations with regard to robust public-relations work are in most cases unfounded. And, who knows: Maybe you’ll learn more than you expect from the follower comments on social media ...
- No one likes reading, seeing or hearing traditional PR prose. So resist the temptation to overwhelm your target groups with clumsy publicity or self-congratulatory copy.
- Credibility and integrity follow when your information is plausible and useful. For this reason, the way in which you collected your information must be clear, as should the context for the information.
Thus, make sure you consider,...
- Whom you’ll be reporting to (donors, project leaders and organization employees, or even the general population within your neighborhood...?).
- What your objective with the specific report is.
- What content will be relevant and interesting for the intended audience.
- How often and on what occasions reports should be made.
- What type of report is appropriate.
Next, focus on the details:
- What previous knowledge does the audience already have?
- What role do members of this audience play within the issue area (internal/external; influencers/influenced)?
- What function do they have with regard to the report’s subject (decision-makers, cooperation partners, target groups)?
- How much time do the potential readers have to engage with the information?
- What requirements do they have with regard to the report’s language and form?
- What kind of results are they particularly interested in? What kind of conclusions most interest them?
- What level of detail do they need?
- What hopes and fears do members of the intended audience have with regard to the issues addressed in the report?
- What is their attitude toward the issues?
- In what form are the findings relevant to them (for example, more/less workload; restriction/expansion of their ability to act)?
YEA reaches its stakeholders using these formats and channels:
- Mentors: emails, intranet
- Youth: social media, joint meetings
- Parents: bilingual parent letter, parent evenings
- Funders: regular two-page “YEA News," individual reports according to the individual funder’s request
- Regional press: regular press releases on specific issues, invitations to important events
- Cooperating organizations: regular in-person conversations
- Public: website, press
How often you report will depend on the individual case. Funders exert a different degree of pressure than might an association’s board of directors that needs relevant results at each quarter’s end. Make sure to bear these cycles in mind, because they have significant influence on when you have to collect and analyze data.
Please also take into account what results you can realistically communicate. For example, you can usually report quickly and promptly on the services provided – outputs – while reporting on results is often possible only after significant passage of time.
By the way: the next step focuses on how to communicate the results achieved through your work by tailoring it to specific audiences.