Communicating efficiently on web data in writing: a daily challenge for web analysts.

Web analysts do a lot of thinking and a lot of research on their own on a daily basis. Yes, web analysts spend a lot of time with themselves. But the ultimate goal of their work is to do something with the results and unless analysts analyse their own site, they will need to communicate their findings to the “others” (yes, other human beings!).
I think it is all the more challenging when we, web analysts, need to communicate efficiently on something that no one asked us to do but that we feel is relevant. Why? Well, because our audience is not expecting to get some analysis, and our audience is generally very busy so how do we make our e-mails stand out from the crowd?
Actually, one might think: “Why should I have to make extra effort for my e-mails to get noticed? At the end of the day, it is a work e-mail and consequently should be read full stop!” Well, unfortunately, it is rarely the case. Our audience: colleagues and bosses are busy people just like us and will only tend to deal with the “urgency of the day” and too often will think: “yes, nice read but not for now”. So……….what tactics can web analysts adopt so that we are taken seriously?
I often think about my web analytics e-mails as e-mail campaigns. Therefore, I make sure:

1) I use a catchy subject line:
I always make sure one of the following words is in the subject line: Outcomes, Impact, Opportunities, Threats, Loss, Gain, Significant. Basically, I use words that make people want to open my e-mails, it’s as simple as that.

2) I send my e-mails at the right time of the day:
Yes, I try to avoid sending them at a time where people are either very busy (Monday morning) OR too relaxed (Friday afternoon).

3) I send my e-mails to the right people:
Now, that’s not always an easy one; although it might seem like it. The challenge consists in neither being too narrow nor too large. Let’s not be too narrow: for example, if I send an analysis on organic search, in some cases, I might want to also send it to the paid search manager. After all, both channels are linked with each other and therefore what is insightful and actionable for one search channel might also be relevant for the other search channel. Let’s not go too large: I try to only include the people that can actually take actions with the data. If I include too many people, it will be too impersonal and no one will end up taking any actions as they will think the “others” might do.

4) NEVER EVER send an excel document on its own:
Excel is dry, it does amazing things but I find the idea of opening an excel spreadsheet and look at data I am not familiar with very unexciting so chances are, other people do too. People should not have to open excel documents unless of course they want or need to dig deeper in the numbers. But the analysis provided should be enough. I still tend to attach the raw data (knowing that 50 per cent of the recipients will not open the excel document and rightly so!) in case someone asks for it.

5) Include words, numbers, context and graphs in my e-mails:
A good analysis is like a good recipe: made of a mixture of quality ingredients. At the end of the day, analyses need flavour and substance. Depending on what I want to demonstrate, I might want to use more words than graphs and vice versa.

6) Ask questions:
Sometimes, we might not have all the information needed to deliver a full diagnosis. So why not ask questions in our e-mails? I think it makes sense. Good analyses are the result of a multitude of pieces of data, and these pieces will not always come from the web analyst.

7) Follow people up:
Obviously, I follow up with face to face conversations/meetings to get feedback from my audience and to decide on what the next steps are.

I would love to have your feedback on this and please share any tips you may have.
Thanks for reading!
Penny

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4 Responses to Communicating efficiently on web data in writing: a daily challenge for web analysts.

  1. I have to agree that communication of findings is a key aspect of being a good web analyst. What are your thoughts on the length of emails? I find myself usually writing long emails as I feel the need to explain and to give details – which can be off-putting to many recipients. But, to me, a short email will not include all the information they require to make their decisions. I know I come at this as an analyst so I like more information but where do you think the balance should be between including enough detail without writing an essay?

    • Penny says:

      Hi Peter,
      yes, I think it is very hard to find the right balance as we need to provide intelligent information which will require detail but we also need to be concise at the same time so that we don’t discourage our busy readers from reading till the end!
      So what do we do then?! I think if as analysts we feel the information provided is not straightforward, then we need to go and chat with the recipients afterwards to make sure that everything is understood. It may be that a face to face meeting is required with all the stakeholders. But the more I think about this, the more I think we need process in place so that the data collected is used and or understood at least.
      How do you make sure your analyses are used?
      Thank you for the comment!
      Penny

  2. I sometimes include video in the mix. I find that recording a short screencast as I take someone through an on-screen report can be very useful. It’s also great when you’re trying to illustrate an issue on the site, of course.

    Jing is a great system for recording these, since it enforces a 5 minute limit. It used to be 2 minutes, which was an even better discipline.

    Jing also allows you to upload to screencast.com, where they can be password protected. You wouldn’t want to upload these to YouTube!

  3. Rafi says:

    Another useful article.

    When clients send you excel spreadsheets, you open it fairly quickly; especially when they mark the email as urgent. But when a colleague emails me with a spreadsheet, you are absolutely correct: I make sure that is at the bottom of my priority list. Hmm, I just remembered something: I emailed my colleagues recently with an excel spreadsheet. No wonder they didn’t reply yet!

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