5 Steps to Hero: Using Story to Transform Social Media Reporting

March 29, 2017 Kyle Harper

social media marketing

Somewhere in the depths of a B2B corporation, there’s a bright social media marketing specialist fresh out of college who’s working to bring the company up to date with modern social media practice. But despite some sales wins on LinkedIn and a rapidly growing following on Facebook and Twitter, he can’t seem to figure out why there doesn’t seem to be any interest—or even understanding—of his work coming from team leadership. He has fresh ideas and a vision for what he wants to accomplish, but no means of communicating why that might be useful to the larger marketing team.

Meanwhile, in an office only slightly removed from our social media specialist, a marketing manager is working on a lengthy email filled with line-by-line answers to questions about the marketing strategy she recently submitted to her leadership team. She has a clear image of where she wants her team to be in a year, and an even clearer picture of how it would help her aging B2B brand remain meaningful in a marketplace that’s rapidly trying to race off and leave them in the dust of obsolescence. But every time she’s given a chance to report, conversations of vision are quickly replaced with questions of immediate marketing ROI.

And so, two energetic marketing visionaries work side by side without ever finding each other.

While perhaps an extreme example, the nature of technical workplaces today has made it easier than ever to silo workers—and their thinking—even within a single marketing team. Good ideas are never heard, vision is never quite communicated, and so the pace at which departments are able to pivot to take advantage of new opportunity is stifled.

What if there was a simple way to keep everyone in a team on the same page, and to give everyone the opportunity to communicate their ideas on a regular basis? What’s more, what if this was a practice workers actually looked forward to?

The Importance of Reporting; the Need for Narrative

Most marketing teams have some kind of system in place for internal reporting on their activities. Whether it’s a spreadsheet of data points emailed to the boss every couple of weeks or a carved-out time for presentations to the whole team, it’s a practice that, at the very least, allows managers keep a finger on the pulse of their department.

But if reporting is only done as a matter of habit rather than purpose, then it’s more than likely that you have a lot of potential marketing ROI being lost in a morass of outdated metrics and uninspired recommendations. When reporting is done right, it should do two primary things: inform people about the current state of matters, and suggest a direction for moving forward that inspires discussion.

For good reporting to happen, you need workers who are actually excited to report.

This is where narrative comes in as a powerful tool. Narratives are what turn reports from walls of numbers or unengaging Powerpoints into actionable sets of facts and insights. The key difference being that traditional reporting focuses on what is without putting much emphasis on what could be. Here’s what that looks like.

Bookshelf with books

Image attribution: Roman Kraft

Making Your Reporting Heroic

A good place to start when it comes to turning your reports into stories is the heroic journey. It’s the familiar format that underlies everything from Shakespeare to Star Wars, and it naturally engages people with the struggle of whomever they’re observing—which in the case of reporting, would be the reporter. Once you’ve understood how heroic archetypes can relate to your brand (and what you do for your brand), you have the perfect structure to build out the rest of your report. These steps can help make that happen in the most effective way:

1. Be Visual

This is a common suggestion when it comes to any kind of presentation, but it’s also often one of the first things to go when marketers have to create material that isn’t going to be shared outside of their team. Visualizations can take time, but they help engage and communicate data more effectively than anything else.

Image attribution: ericfleming8

Image attribution: ericfleming8

2. Be a Teacher

Every time you give a report, try to find a few short spaces to teach the rest of your team something about your practice that they might not already know. This creates interest while also improving the way your position relates and works with the rest of your department. You might be surprised how frequently a little bit of understanding sparks new opportunities for collaborative projects.

3. Talk About Obstacles

This can be a hard one for internal reports. Everyone wants to put their best foot forward, so it’s natural to shy away from failures, shortcomings, and other holdups that have plagued your team over the past reporting period. But being authentic about struggles within your team sets a good point from which you can work forward (“Here’s how we’ll tackle this,” “Here’s where we’ll go next,”) and also gives members of your team an opportunity to offer solutions you may not have thought of.

4. Have a “Plot”

Along with your immediate reporting, take time in each report to talk about a longer picture, ongoing project or objective that your team has. Ongoing narratives—as opposed to immediate obstacles or successes—are a great space to convey vision, while also giving listeners a reason to come back regularly to your reports. Marketing managers, this means having clear, central objectives that you regularly communicate to keep all of your team members working towards the same goals.

5. Be Consistent

This is often the hardest part of reporting, but come up with a regular schedule and stick to it. A good schedule shouldn’t burden your team with unnecessary work, but should also be frequent enough to adjust for changes that affect your workplace. Quarterly is often a good place to start, while more aggressive teams might want to try monthly reporting.

With narrative reports, our intrepid social media marketing specialist and marketing manager can now be on the same page. Their unique visions and struggles can be shared alongside the rest of their peers, and new space for dialogue and offering help can be opened up regularly. Narratives are frameworks that people know how to tap into naturally. Stories provide purpose that incites action. Reporting is how people understand where they are in a large company or mission. Combining these ideas will turn your regular, dull reporting meetings into spaces for powerful and engaging transformation.

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Featured image attribution: Jaz King

The post 5 Steps to Hero: Using Story to Transform Social Media Reporting appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.

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