You’re likely already familiar with the concept of Active Listening. It’s often used in counseling, workplace training, and conflict resolution. Active Listening requires the listener to concentrate, comprehend, respond, and be able to remember what was discussed.
The trademark tactics of Active Listening include:
- Establishing trust.
- Expressing concern.
- Contributing by asking open ended questions.
- Body language that shows you’re engaged.
- Being patient and waiting to share your opinion.
- Seeking clarification on specific details.
- Using verbal confirmations like “I see” and “I understand.”
- Paraphrase to confirm you understand.
- Offering relevant experiences.
Business leaders agree that practicing Active Listening makes you a better manager. Harvard Business Review has published several articles linking great listeners to team effectiveness and successful businesses.
It's logical to think what works well for your management team should also work for communicating with your marketing organization.
So that got us thinking about parallels between Listening and Reporting.
For years, Directade has advised clients on methods of improving the effectiveness of internal marketing reporting. Too often, creating weekly reports is treated like a chore. They are delegated to a low-level Marketing or Finance manager who emails a copy and paste template late on a Friday evening that only a handful of team leaders read over the weekend. No real analysis. No clear action steps are agreed. You can say nothing is truly learned.
Let’s now apply the techniques from Active Listening to Active Reporting.
The person tasked with issuing internal reporting should be from a position of strength and trust. In order for key stakeholders to take them seriously, the responsible party should be knowledgeable and be able to field questions. Ideally the report should be distributed by the MP&A leader or head of marketing with the team credited.
Show Concern and Understanding
The author’s analysis should call out trends and raise alarms where appropriate. The summary should be critical and recommended next steps must demonstrate they fully understand all contributing factors.
As the analysis is being written, the author should meet with Marketing team members to confirm accuracy of observations. This work should not be done in a vacuum. Talk with people.
Meet to Communicate and Interact
Stakeholders should convene an in-person meeting once a week to review the current marketing status and align on next actions. This can be labelled a weekly media call or a marketing decisions meeting.
The person issuing the report should send the documents at least a few hours prior to meeting so the attendees have an opportunity to investigate any surprising findings in the report and feel comfortable raising those topics in the discussion.
Given the tight timelines of issuing the report and having the meeting, it should always be acceptable for attendees to respond to a question with “I don’t know the answer, but I’ll look into that and follow-up”. A response in 24 hours is perfectly acceptable.
During the team meeting, brand leaders should tackle media decisions and seek buy-in from their team members. The report author will see the value of their analysis and act as a resource for any clarifications. They can also track the decisions made over time versus performance.
When applying Active Listening techniques to reporting, the overall process within the marketing organization will improve.
Some may dismiss this Active Reporting concept as the “soft side” of reporting, but it’s an essential piece of the puzzle. With brand leaders and team members coming together to agree on what’s happening now, and agree on what to do next, then truly effective decision making can take place.
If a report falls in an inbox, and nobody is there to discuss it, does it still make a sound?