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Why Stop at Calculate When You Can Actually Motivate?

There’s a lot of joking that happens about me around the topic of budgets and numbers. All the good-natured digs circulate around this general theme: “Kem hates numbers and spreadsheets…she only likes pretty pictures.” Well, it’s about time I went on record to set the story straight. I don’t hate numbers or spreadsheets. I hate BORING numbers and spreadsheets. As with ANY type of communication, the proper context and presentation can take information to new levels of inspiration. Why settle for calculations when you can deliver motivation? THAT’S my point.

Fact is, I’m a huge reporting advocate. I am a big time champion for data metrics and measurements. Skip this step  and you  risk making decisions on incomplete information. Good data (read: numbers) can provide significant insight not only about finances but also about audience behaviors, patterns, content responsiveness, social trends, etc. I get it. You get it. But, what is just as important as the data is that we present that data so it’s clear and  usable to all stakeholders (the left brains AND the right brains). The more people you have acting on the data, the better. Am I right?

You have a choice. Simply hand me a spreadsheet and tell me to manage my numbers. (Yawn.) Or, add a few simple visuals to help bring the data to life. (Now, I’m leaning in.) Need a quick sample? Compare this to this. See what I mean?

“Everybody experiences far more than he understands. Yet it is experience, rather than understanding, that influences behavior.” Marshall McLuhan

If you’re not paying attention to data, you need to. Start reporting to keep watch on numbers, trends and stories to make sure what you’re doing is actually delivering what you think it is.

If you’re already committed to data, metrics and reporting, you have the opportunity to take it up a notch. Just a few simple adjustments can make the data come to life for a broader audience.

  • Include sparklines, arrows and percentage changes to show trends and context.
  • Add a summary page to a report packet that bullets out the points of interest highlights.
  • Track not only stats and trends via numbers, but stories as well. One of our team leaders started a “Weekly Chatter Report” that summarizes everything people are saying in social media we should be aware of (good, bad, neutral). It’s real-time user feedback.
  • Introduce scorecards. They highlight smaller snapshots of a bigger picture (where one number alone doesn’t cover all of the touchpoints). (HT: Jon Edmiston for the inspiration)
  • Use a few colors to increase scanability (e.g., red bad, green good, yellow neutral,etc.).

It feels good to get this off my chest. I don’t hate numbers. Let’s just stop being boring about it. You in?