By Wesley Hall, Analyt­ics Manager

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One great thing about being a digital analyst is that we get many chances to be impact­ful in our jobs. The major­ity of our contri­bu­tions come from respond­ing to marketers and senior leaders who need to make informed deci­sions. Effec­tively answer­ing ques­tions is as much art as science, so I offer you a few guide­lines in provid­ing the very best responses to research tasks you are given.

1. Take the time to understand the question.

In every busi­ness time is money – so an Analyst’s’ ability to listen and summa­rize is just as impor­tant as his or her tech­ni­cal skills. Treat every ques­tion like the discovery phase of a project. Make sure you define the objec­tive as well as the para­me­ters (date range, audi­ence, data sources, etc.). Write down your objec­tive along with the question(s) you are going to answer and refer back to what you have written as you work to make sure you stay on track.

2. Choose the best format to deliver your findings.

Keep in mind that your research and report prepa­ra­tion is meant to be quickly under­stood and acted on. Do not make your audi­ence sift through spread­sheets and charts to find answers; instead, summa­rize and direct your audience’s atten­tion to your outcomes. Use charts, graphs and spread­sheets to illus­trate your points, not to make them. If your format has not been decided for you (e.g. you are contribut­ing to a deck) choose the simplest format to convey your message. Will a well written email work instead of a spread­sheet? Can you summa­rize your find­ings on one spread­sheet tab instead of three?

3. Lay your information out using C-F-C.

Caveats: Give your audi­ence the back­ground infor­ma­tion they need to put your find­ings in the proper context. Date ranges, segments used, data anom­alies, etc… should all be spelled out so your reader knows the land­scape of what you are present­ing.

Find­ings: The foun­da­tion of your research will always be the raw data you provide. There is no room for error when it comes to data integrity, so take all precau­tions to ensure you have the right data sources and queries. Share the results of your queries in succinct state­ments that coin­cide with your format.

Conclu­sions: I hold the view that a Report Writer distrib­utes numbers while an Analyst provides inter­pre­ta­tions. It is unthink­able to share charts or graphs without a narra­tive summa­riza­tion of what they repre­sent. After all, the purpose of gath­er­ing data is so that someone can take action on it. Always wrap up your find­ings by explain­ing to your audi­ence what your outcomes are and how they can utilize them.

A few, final notes:

Remem­ber that people digest food and infor­ma­tion in chunks, so use bullets and outline forms rather than long narra­tives. Make it your mission to leave your audi­ence feeling empow­ered by your find­ings rather than bewil­dered by catch­phrases.

Lastly, remem­ber to have fun. As the cele­brated author Char­laine Harris once said, “if I quit having fun, then it’s time for me to quit working”. Let your unique person­al­ity shine through your analy­ses.