How Not To Writte… A business report

We’ve all been there. The boss comes in at ten to five and says ‘Oh, by the way, we need a quick report on the [name of client you’ve never heard of] account… by tomorrow… you can get that on my desk for the morning?’

The horror! The outrage! The pint that was calling your name! The complete terror of writing a report that doesn’t make the MD fall asleep within three pages of opening it.

But fear not, we have some helpful ideas for making that blank piece of A4 into a report that’s the work of corporate genius, and not a pile of donkey pish that’s used as lining for the boss’s cat’s litter tray.

Do:

  • Number one rule in corporate writing, as in life and Starbucks orders, is KEEP IT SIMPLE. And (equally important for report writing) KEEP IT SHORT.
  • Number two rule in corporate writing – don’t laugh at the phrase ‘number two’, and then…
  • Focus on the important facts. Identify the key messages you want to get across and keep it sharp, snappy and sexy (…maybe not sexy, but you know what we mean). In other words, put an ‘executive summary’ of the really juicy stuff right at the start of the report. Your boss and the rest of the management team are busy, busy people – they want to know the really world-shattering stuff that’s relevant to the business and the client relationship…and then get in a few rounds of golf before lunch.
  • Know your audience. The same as you wouldn’t do a sexy strip tease for all your neighbours, same goes for writing reports – don’t show it all at once and be careful who you expose it to. By knowing your intended audience you can hone your language so they understand quickly what you’re banging on about, and usually get what you want. If you don’t get what you want maybe that’s the time to consider, ‘taking it all off’.

Don’t

  • Use it as a place to have a rant at everything that’s wrong with your job, boss or company, especially if you haven’t done your research and have tangible facts to back it up. Yes, we all know that Paul in Ops is a total dick but where is the empirical data on this? Have you compared Paul’s dickishness to others in the office? Have you tallied the results across all departments? Have you outsourced your research to see if it’s, in fact, a common factor amongst all Pauls? If so, brilliant – crack on, provide those statistics, show us your mighty pie chart and then you can conclude that Paul is, in fact, a dick.
  • Use the dreaded business jargon, it’s dull and makes YOU look like a knobber. No point in optimising your organic growth potential in a saturated market, unless you and Paul from Ops are collaborating on making a business porno. (See even Pauls have their uses).
  • Fill the report with hundreds of oh-so bloody exciting bar graphs and pie charts. By all means, include some data visualisation of the BIG insights, but don’t try and blind people to your woeful ignorance of this client by going bat-shit-mental with the graphs and charts – it’s not big, and it’s not clever!  (Unless it’s about pies, then it’s amusingly ironic, so crack on).
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