The Follow Up – a key part of communicating insights

Golden eggPosted by Ray Poynter, 2 March 2022

At the moment I am writing a book which is provisionally titled “How to find and communicate the story in the data”. As part of that process I wanted to share some thoughts on the need to follow up the delivery of your report/presentation/insights. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions.

Delivering the story is not the end of the process, for several reasons.

  1. If people have not understood part of the story, there is a good chance they won’t get in touch with you to ask you to explain it, you need to take the initiative.
  2. If the story was hard to accept, for example, if it is bad news, it is unlikely that the story will be taken on board from a single session.
  3. You are less likely to understand what parts of your process worked and which did not if you don’t ask.
  4. In the presentation/report you reported the key findings, but not the ‘nice to know’ items. However, these ‘nice to know’ items are usually of value to the business, so you should find ways to utilize them.
  5. The reporting of continuous projects, e.g. tracking studies, may start OK, but needs to be re-visited every so often.

Following up with the client
There are lots of ways of conducting follow ups, for example, email, phone, in person, or even a survey (sometimes). My preference is a phone call, but I adjust how I do the follow-up to match the preferences of my clients and the situation.

For the follow-up, make sure you have a checklist of things you are going to cover, for example:

  1. Does the client have any questions about the report/presentation?
  2. What does the business plan to do with the findings?
  3. Is there anything that the business would like more clarification or detail on?
  4. How was the length of the presentation/report?
    • What could have been left out?
    • What should have been more detailed?
    • What was not there that should have been there?
  5. What about the specifics?
    • The format?
    • The visuals?
    • The language?
  6. Best and worst?
    • What was the best thing about the report/presentation?
    • What was the thing that could be improved the most?

Dealing with the ‘Nice to Haves’
We all know that the main report/presentation should focus on the ‘need to know’ items, not the ‘nice to know’ material. However, there is usually good value in these ‘nice to know’ items, when they are attached to the right problem, and if they are delivered to the right team.

There are two ways I like to use the ‘nice to know’ items. The first is to compile a nice to know report for my key client. The second is to find out if this information is actually a ‘need to know’ for somebody.

The nice to know report can be as simple as an email highlighting things that you want to share with the client, but it can equally be a text document, or some very simple presentation pages. In my experience, most clients are delighted to receive a compiled set of ‘nice to know’ items, one or two weeks after the main debrief. It can also be a great conversation opener for future projects.

Locating the ‘Need to Know’ people
Often, some of the items you discover in the research are classed as ‘nice to know’ because they are not relevant to the specific business question you are addressing, or because the audience for the main presentation/report is not the right audience for that information.

A good example of finding people for whom the ‘nice to know’ information is actually ‘need to know’ was an employee satisfaction project I ran a few years ago for a multinational client. The main report covered the key issues, a comparison between offices, roles etc, with a list of key actions that should be taken by senior, global management.

In the employee study, as well as the issues of corporate importance, there were a number of interesting findings, usually relating to a specific location. For example, at specific sites there were issues such as: ‘standing meetings causing a disruption other teams’, ‘leaks in the gents toilets’, and ‘IT problems relating to hot desking’. All of these issues were ‘need to know’ for somebody. I found out who should receive these pieces of information and forwarded them as an email, with an invitation to chat about them. This delivered value to the client, for very little effort from me, and it connected me to a wider range of people in the client organization. Having a wide set of contacts is something with I find improves my long-term association with a client, increases my ability to be useful, and improves the likelihood of future projects.

Improving the reporting of continuous studies
One specific type of follow-up relates to continuous projects, such as brand trackers or CX projects. Reports are often produced monthly and often show little variation from one edition to another. Even when these reports start to become stale and less relevant, it is not unusual for the client not to ask for changes, because the deterioration in their usefulness is gradual.

Once or twice a year it is a good idea to specifically address reporting. In essence, you are seeking to find out:

  1. What needs changing?
  2. What needs adding?
  3. What should be removed?

For all three of these items, you need to try to get the views of everybody who reads these reports, so you may want to use a survey if the number is large, perhaps including a link with the reporting and following up by email.

A good framework for this type of follow-up is:

  1. How often do you look at this report?
  2. What sorts of questions are you using the report to answer?
  3. What pages, tables, charts do you tend to look at? (And, what do you never look at?)
  4. What sections could be clearer or easier to use or shorter?
  5. What information or analysis would you like to see included?

If you are interested in this topic and the book I am writing, you might want to access the slides and recordings from my recent webinars on this topic, click here to access them.

One thought on “The Follow Up – a key part of communicating insights

  1. Ray. This is excellent and a critical reminder of the importance of follow-up – something that management consultants have always been good at.
    A few builds on the good practice you have outlined. First, if you have framed the decision choices as part of an end presentation, you create a natural segue to asking about the actions taken.
    Second, if you have built into the presentation the idea of explaining how what you are recommending can be ‘connected’ to the best of what the organisation is already doing (as opposed to presenting stark ‘alternatives’) you will have built a bridge between the presentation and subsequent action.
    Third, it’s helpful to identify the ‘Warrior’ in the client team i.e. the person most likely to take personal responsibility for making things happen, and getting an empathetic action-orientated dialogue going with this kindred spirit.
    I hope this helps.

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