How should analysts communicate?

I’ve written a lot about communication mediums. I’ve been dreaming of a post-excel world for quite some time now – getting us out of that slumber and into a world of active communication with people. And perhaps, in a more normative moment, people who matter.

It’s been particularly hard to change long standing patterns of behavior. We’re getting there, gradually. Whenever something is hard, I take 90 steps back and go extreme case hunting.

Come with me and let’s have some fun.

At the one extreme, what if an analyst could only communicate through video? What if they were particularly effective at it, especially with the editing? What if it was edited in a compelling way – ultrasoundbyted – like the Next Time on Hell’s Kitchen? See below for an example of the North American style:

Very effective editing techniques that draws drama when very little actually exists. Rapid sound bytes interspersed with notable quotes – and hyperbolic statements like:

“If you think you know….the conversion rate…THINK AGAIN!”

Highly entertaining and in the tradition of wake me up when the data is done. If the goal is effective communication – engaging both the auditory and visual – it would be outstanding.

I’m not altogether joking about such an approach. Perhaps, literally, analytics needs to be wrapped in a such a package.

At the other extreme is The Economist style guide. The Economist has journalists who sound remarkably similar, communicate in a fairly authoritative and playful way, and blend story, data, and implications together fairly well.

So, yes but – it’s economics and it’s journalism and it’s international.

In many ways, what an analyst must also weave the political dialogue (this was the insight that drove the campaign…) with the data (here’s how it did…) with synthesis (this is what really worked and we should do again!…) within one document.

The single sheet in the back of The Economist, which breaks out the key economic performance indicators out by country and group, replete with their single line insets, resembles much of what is going out today. Even The Economist doesn’t lead with data. They lead with cover story and editorial.

The predictable ending to this post would be: an analyst should communicate in the manner and medium that their audience wants.

But that would be pretty weak. And I’m not even certain if that’s really all that right.

Instead, perhaps, I’ll argue that an analyst should communicate in the manner and medium in which they will be the most effective at driving action.

Do you think that analysts could do a lot better at communicating insights, and that perhaps, the medium is to blame?