Have some time to waste? No? Well, do some reporting anyway

Reporting. The word most likely to send junior PROs into a suicidal, or homicidal, spiral. As painful as it may be, it’s a staple of PR – spend 20 per cent of your time doing PR and the rest should be spent coming up with ingenious ways of relaying the results.

Sometimes the obsession with reporting comes from the senior management who want you to pull together a 10-page word document covering the past three months’ results. They will then try to justify their huge wage by spending six hours turning it into another pointless PowerPoint presentation.

My boss, for example, is constantly asking what we think of the new “transition” he’s used. My response: “It’s good”. My mental response: “It makes no difference. No one cares. Please help me get those results you’re about to take credit for”.

However, and this is especially strange, sometimes the demand for weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual reports come from the client! Why, in the name of all that’s holy, would a client WANT us to piss around with a “coverage graph” instead of spending that time speaking with the media and GETTING them coverage?

Now I’m not saying all reporting is bad. You need it to know if your campaign’s a success … weekly calls are a quick, efficient way of keeping the client updated. The simple fact is, you don’t need a progress report for every day spent on the account. And you definitely don’t need it in PowerPoint, Word and Excel or a dinky little infographic on a dashboard!

So why is there so much emphasis on reporting in PR? Well, quite simply it's linked to image. Your boss, who doesn't really do any actual work on that account, wants to go to the client meeting knowing exactly what state the account is in. Same goes for the client who wants to appear knowledgeable in board meetings. Fair enough.

The problem comes when reports are used by clients and let’s face it, many in senior management, to smack you round the head when things aren’t going well. How many 'catch ups' have you had where, having explained that you've over-served on media briefings and features, your passive-aggressive boss stares blankly at you before asking why we're two hits off coverage target?

Reporting is a necessary evil. But if not handled correctly, it can easily become a weapon of mass-AE-destruction. For the good of the industry we urge you: Whenever you decide you really must have that report by end of play today, consider the sanity of the AE currently sat crying in the loo, rocking backwards and forwards hugging what appears to be a far too-slim coverage book.

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