Report your projects newspaper style

Have you ever received a report that tells you everything and keeps you wondering what is really important for you? Everybody is information overloaded. Nobody likes to read everything to figure out what is important. Targeted information delivery is more important but also easier than ever.

Rather than sending the same information, report, newsletter to everybody why don’t you allow for some customization?

Newspapers are a good example: there are many of them. You choose the one that suits your interest. Whether you are a Conservative or Socialist, Economist or Business Leader, Politician or CFO – you will find your right mix of sources: newsletters, magazines or websites for your preferred publishing frequency: continuous, daily, weekly, monthly or even less frequent.

Newspapers structure their offering to help you find what is important for you:

  • Top priority news are on the first page,  secondary on the second page.
  • The rest falls into categories: home, foreign, business, entertainment that follow the same logic.
  • And then there are some newspapers that have a page three.

The news messages themselves are structured into sections: title, summary, and body to aid quick scanning.

Writing good messages is challenging as precision and brevity need to be balanced. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”*

This concept is pretty much standard in the publishing industry: Target, Categorize, Prioritize, Structure & Perfect

How could you apply that to your own information publishing strategy? Assume you are publishing a status report covering all your projects in support of your project portfolio management activities (your target):

Categorize: Each of your projects will fall into categories based on their scope and target audience. E.g. IT, process, strategy or finance, sales, R&D. Project News would generally inherit the categories from their projects but also distinguish between project topics like budget, scope, timing, quality, roll-out etc.

Prioritize: Project members would write news for the most critical (ie. Red or yellow) issues and give an overall status headline for all projects to cover the “all green” cases.

Structure: For each news message they provide a priority, headline, summary and the full text (the sections).

Perfect: Before publishing, a PMO could review and/or revise the messages based on published standards and adjust for different styles and tone. A good practice is to predefine a maximum number of words for each section.

Publish: Publishing can be continuous or at fixed intervals and be direct and/or based on an approval process.

Subscribe: Stakeholders can select the messages they are interested in based on profiling their preferences for categories and/or specify the codes of the projects they are interested in and choose a delivery frequency.

Deliver: The messages can be delivered printed or electronic e.g. using electronic formats suitable for tablets in full or shortened with the full information available online.

 You can use modern content delivery technologies to implement this pretty easily. Publishing, subscription, and delivery can all be automated. Give it a try!

 * Barbara Minto describes a  professional approach for writing based on her time at McKinsey in her book The Pyramid Principle. She defines a perfect text to be MECE – Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive.