Guiding the Way: Mastering Effective Reporting to Leadership

“We report quarterly, but no one really gives feedback.” “Our information goes into an annual board report, and we’re not sure if anyone even reads it.” “We work hard, but don’t always feel seen.” “We have a new leader coming in and want to position our team’s value effectively.” We hear comments like these all the time, and campus communicators are genuinely concerned their efforts are lost in the sea of competing priorities. 

Campus leaders are inundated with information. How do you get them to care about yours? 

Keep it succinct. With online conversation, there’s endless data to consider and it’s easy to get lost in it. While it’s valuable to have comprehensive data to back up your reporting, develop the report itself by identifying what’s need-to-know vs. nice-to-know. This respects others’ time and prioritizes the information that’s most crucial for them to receive.

Speak their language. Most campus leaders won’t be as immersed in online conversation data as you are. Include context in your reporting to explain why the insights you’re sharing matter. If they connect with the purpose, they’re more likely to read and understand the report.

Make your reports goals-driven. It’s one thing to report that you increased your owned Instagram content. It’s another thing to report that you increased your owned Instagram content to generate greater enthusiasm among admissions audiences to advance the goal of increasing campus visit numbers. Anchor your metrics in your purpose, and others will more easily understand how social strategy ties into broader campus initiatives.

Let them know what you need. Feedback for feedback’s sake isn’t always valuable. If you’re looking for feedback on specific efforts or initiatives, make that clear in the communication. Are you looking for a decision? Resources? Guidance? Or are you just making them aware? Defining a specific call to action both makes it easier for them to determine your needs and for you to feel heard in your requests.

What if you’re asked to report information that doesn’t effectively support your story? 

Own your expertise. You’re unique in the amount of skill and knowledge you hold in this space. Leadership is often juggling multiple areas, processes, and projects. Assert yourself as a subject matter expert to build credibility. This will make it easier to advocate for effective reporting.

Understand the metrics that matter. We regularly hear from teams who are still asked to report primarily on vanity metrics because that’s how reports have been structured for years. This is a space where applying your expertise can go a long way to show why quality of followers matters more than quantity of followers. Especially during this period of social media platform instability and evolution, tying goals exclusively into vanity metrics can hold you back from making real progress. Connect metrics to goals in meaningful ways to effectively show where you’re making an impact.

Inspire champions. It doesn’t always happen overnight, but by showcasing your expertise and communicating these messages effectively, you can start to influence change. Clearly articulate your vision and purpose to create buy-in from above. This supports your authority to chart the course and ideally creates advocates for your work in areas of campus that allow you to work smarter.

It’s a dynamic time in higher education, and we’re watching ongoing waves of turnover at all levels of campus. Set your new colleagues and leaders up for success by knowing your strengths, opportunities, and challenges, and by effectively including them in the information that helps them do their job well.

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