Communication that Sticks

The last mile of business analytics is poorly paved. Most of the effort and investment has been put into gathering, centralizing and warehousing data; relatively little time is spent on thoughtful, creative analysis and ensuring that results are communicated into the minds of the decision-makers. It is this last piece that may matter the most.

We can construct engaging stories from the data and put together winning PowerPoint decks, but the window of opportunity to communicate our results always seems frighteningly narrow. Weeks of analysis and synthesis can get crammed into a single 30-minute agenda-item. The cramming part isn’t so much the problem (it demands focus on the key results—I am more concerned about the fleeting attention of an audience that has a dozen other priorities, is awash in information, and may be data-phobic. Not to mention the risk of getting derailed by conversations about the data sources and statistical significance.

How can we share our analytical results in a way that will stick to the distracted mind of an executive? Moreover, is our obsession with top management misplaced when insights about the business should be spread to all levels of an organization?

One place to start is to consider how to break through the cluster of information with creative communication techniques. Here are a few ideas—I’d be interested in hearing your ideas or success stories:

  • Catch them in their downtime. At one client, we created flyers that showed the results from a customer survey and posted them in the bathroom stalls under the title "Learn as you go." We gave a captured audience something to read. Maybe we were too timid—why not go all the way with custom-printed toilet paper?
  • A new format. When traditional slides seem to numb your audience, maybe a new information format is in order. Try a science-fair type poster, a web page, or a short book (check out self-publishing with Lulu). We once created a movie (Windows Media only) to show customer behaviors; a year later I got a request to show the movie in order to re-establish the key message. That’s sticky.
  • One-page summary. Provide your audience with something to take away that summarizes your key messages. You might hand out (or stuff mail boxes with) a laminated one-pager with your most important framework and results. A colorful summary that begs to be thumbtacked to an office wall is better than a 40-page black-and-white deck that begs to be thrown out.
  • 10’ display. It seems to be in vogue for companies to have big TVs in the lobby to stream corporate propaganda to the minions. Reach out to corporate communications to see if you can get into the program.