"Social media results report" with calculator, glasses and papers

Most of the time, writing reports no one asked for is a waste of time. But there’s one important exception. Every one-person communications shop should prepare regular reports on what you do for your organization.

Why? To communicate your value. Remember, your boss probably has only a vague idea of what you do all day, and even less knowledge of how long it actually takes to do things like complete trade show paperwork (longer than you think, if you’ve never done it).

If you have performance reviews once a year, these reports will help you and your boss remember what you did 10 months ago. Even if you don’t need the reminder, your boss will. It’s more impressive to say “I updated 347 web pages this year” than “I maintained the website.” And if hard times result in layoffs, you really don’t want your boss to have no idea what you do all day.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have time to write anything else.” Make time for this. It’s that important. And it doesn’t have to take long. Use a header and bulleted list format for each area you are responsible for. Populate it by looking at things you’ve checked off your to-do list. For example:

Media Relations

  • Arranged interview with Reporter A from Paper XYZ. Article <title> published on <date>: <link>
  • Responded to questions from Reporter B from Blog C…
  • Updated 13 pages, and added new graphics for About Us section
  • Page views increased this month (from XX to YY); the most popular page was job openings, with ZZ views
Include web stats in your report. You should be looking at them at least monthly anyway to spot trends–might as well share the info with your boss. (And if you’re not tracking web stats, Google Analytics is free; start using it now.) Figure out a few things to track, and include a simple chart on this month vs. last month. Analytics tools provide plenty of graphs you can copy and paste in just a few minutes. If you use spreadsheets for tracking, just copy and paste the information into your report.
Other information you could include:
  • Email marketing results (open rate, list growth, etc.)
  • Social media stats (even simple things, like increase in followers, most popular tweets, etc.)
  • Activity reports for internal communications and/or other areas you manage
  • Planning updates – for example, “updated communications strategy to include new product line”
  • Committee/meeting updates
  • Events, including trade shows, conferences, presentations, training or networking events–anything you have attended or planned on behalf of your organization
  • An executive summary or quick list of items you need from your boss (I use my monthly report to request input on non-urgent items from my boss, to reduce the number of emails I need to send him. Be sure to clearly mark action items. I put them in bold, red font.)
At the beginning of every month, I use “Save As” for the previous month’s report and start updating it right away. I put things that I need to do but haven’t done yet in red, and change the font color and add additional details when they are done. Updating the report at the end of every week helps me remember to include everything I’ve done, especially small (but significant) things that I might forget in a few weeks.  If you tend to remember work things when you aren’t at work, try a service like Evernote, so you can add items to your report from anywhere.
I’ve never had a boss ask for this type of report, but they have all found it helpful. And I couldn’t write my required annual self-evaluation without it. If you aren’t sure about giving it to your boss, try it for yourself for a few months first.  I’d love to hear how it goes.