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Help! My Boss Wants to Know How Our Site is Doing

You’re in a team meeting and your boss turns to you and asks, “How’s the site doing?” In that moment, a million ideas (and maybe a bit of panic) run through your head.

Does your boss want to know about:

  • The newsletter you sent out this morning?
  • The tweet that went viral earlier this month?
  • The new report that your organization released?
  • The number of applicants for the most recent round of grants?
  • The new snazzy headline photo you added to the homepage?
  • How well the latest fundraising campaign is performing?
  • Or… or… or?!

Working in digital communications, you often have many initiatives running simultaneously, and so it’s not immediately obvious what the best way is to inform your leadership on how your web platforms are performing.

“Can I just say how many visitors we had this month?”

Nope. Why not?  We’re looking for valuable visitors, those who complete the actions that are important, not those who just glance at a page and leave.

“I’ll just report on everything!”

Please don’t.  Save yourself time and energy by not creating a multi-page report detailing the outcomes of each and every online activity. Detailed reports can be an enormous drain on time for the people who create them, as well as for those who need to read them. Few people will have the time or patience to sift through the details to find meaning in the data.

So, What Should You Do?

The answer lies somewhere in the middle, and requires some small advanced planning to carry out.  At its core, in every status report (or quick update) you should do these three things:

1. Relate performance to organizational goals

The key to giving a meaningful status report is to tie it to your mission. By referring to your organization’s overall strategic plan (if available) and through discussions with leadership, identify 2-5 key goals. These should be high level and encapsulate all ongoing communications activities. For example:

  • Educate the public on a particular issue
  • Raise funds
  • Register new volunteers
  • Provide grants
  • Take a specific action

The important thing is to have agreement on what the goals are, and be able to map all ongoing web communications activities to them. Once you have your categories in place, you can always speak of progress in these term. For example:

Your boss: “How is the site doing this month?”

You: “We are doing really well in fundraising (a primary goal) through our recent social media campaign (activity 1) and we’ve seen a big jump in conversions by optimizing our donation form (activity 2).”

TIP: If you find yourself with an outlier activity, take a moment to examine whether that particular thing is strongly contributing to your organization’s goals.

2. Provide transparency into what activities went into an outcome

By providing the Level of Effort (LOE) that went into getting a particular result, leadership can better understand the Return on Investment (ROI) of the activity itself. I’ve frequently found that web teams sink significant effort into getting nominal results simply because there was no transparency into the LOE.

Your boss: “How is the site doing this month?”

You: “We were able to attract 1% more first time visitors to our educational content (primary goal) by recruiting ambassadors, providing them hashtags, and having them live tweet at a conference (activity). We spend about 2 weeks preparing (transparency). We may want to reevaluate this strategy for next year.”

3. Provide context into how the activities performed, and why

By comparing the performance of your current activities to similar ones completed in the past, you are able to set expectations and improve over time. Setting expectations against past performance avoids running into situations where leadership is concerned with unexpected trends.

Your boss: “How is the site doing this month?”

You: “Overall traffic to our grants content (a primary goal) was lower because we chose to focus our email outreach (activity) on a more targeted group of applicants. We plan to follow up with the grants team at the end of the month to identify if we succeeded in capturing more qualified applications even though there were fewer overall visitors.

Final Thoughts

Leading a digital team isn’t easy, and communicating the success of your efforts can often be tough. But by (1) relating your activities to your organization’s mission, (2) communicating the return on investment of the activities you take on, and (3) providing insight into your strategy, you will go a long way in building trust with your leadership.

Now with that: get out there and tell your boss how well your site is performing!


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