If you’re in the middle of a large campaign for a client, and they’re knocking on your proverbial door (or inbox) about the status, you’ll need to show them something.
LIke a Project Status Report.
Ever since I was a kid in elementary school, the word “report” has seemed really daunting and official sounding, and for me, a report was usually accompanied by some type of poster board with random pieces of construction paper glued to it.
That’s not exactly what we’re talking about. But close (not close at all). But remember, you’re not here to bore your client. You need to give them a high-level overview, keep them engaged without getting into finer points of your creative director’s preferred method for Lightroom color correction.
Why Clients Like Project Status Reports
1. It shows you’re working on something.
Clients hate it when they receive a bill from every week or two and don’t know what you’re doing. Yeah, a retainer is nice for agencies…but not always for clients. You’ve got to show your value and what you’ve been up to.
2. It shows you’re proactive.
But if your client is even thinking about number one then you’ve failed in communicating. You’re the one that should be proactive in communicating and helping clients see where their dollars are going.
3. It shows you have the big picture in mind.
Clients have hired your agency because you’re better at creating and caretaking their marketing. You’re the expert. And clients want their experts to also have their business goals in focus when making creative work. Status reports help everyone take a step back and re-assess what work is happening.
4. It verifies or disproves common misconceptions
Everyone (especially clients!) have their own opinions about what works and what doesn’t, especially in regards to marketing and advertising. A project progress report can be a way to test hypotheses and show what’s working and what’s not. If done at certain intervals, it also gives you time to pivot to a new course of action if needed, rather than waiting until the end of the project or campaign to see the results.
5. Addresses scope creep and budget
Clients like to know if things are going off the rails or away from the core purpose. It’s also the role of the agency to make sure the client is also sticking to its goals without scope creep. The project status update gives you common ground.
The core reason for a project management status report is communication. You’re doing this to help your client and stakeholders understand how things are progressing.
The 6 Parts of Your Project Progress Report
1. Recap The Project Plan
Just give a quick summary of the agreed upon project plan and what’s at stake. When you’re working with clients, you’re never sure who this might get passed to…and who is and is not familiar with your project. This way you can level set all of the expectations and deliverables before diving into the status of a project. If you’re using project management software, you can map your tasks and project info into your tool, and set due dates, deliverables and attach other relevant project info right there. That way you’ll stay organized.
2. Identifying Info
Go ahead and put a contact with the appropriate info. This is probably your account manager, the creative director and maybe even a VP depending on how the size of the client. Yeah, it’s okay for your junior traffic manager to put this together but they don’t necessarily need to be on the report. Clients want to know the big dogs are taking a look at their work.
3. Review Benchmarks
Here’s the meat of the status review. What are the deliverables and where are you in achieving those? What’s been accomplished, what’s in progress and what still needs to be done? Also, what big milestones are on the horizon that also have to be considered? This is also the place to note how the different parts of your campaign will come together. You can also see how estimated time and estimated budget are stacking up to reality. A lot of project management tools also offer that feature, helping you connect your workflow with your reporting.
This part should address three key questions:
What has been accomplished? This could be everything up to the date of the report or only the milestones in between since the last report. It depends on the scope of the work and what has been done.
What’s currently happening? This is the work that’s currently in progress. If you have regular check-in calls with your clients, then a lot of this may already be covered. Again, this section may depend on how regularly you want to do a project status report.
What’s next? These are the next big deadlines and milestones that your agency will be tackling for the client. List out your initiatives, events, campaigns or major ad pushes that you’ll be working on. Think about what the next few weeks or month holds for the project
4. Budget Review
Give a quick word on what’s been spent and what’s still left with the deliverables. You may also want to talk about any places that you’re over or under budget, and the reasoning behind that. Ideally, this isn’t the scary portion of the report, but a place to engage in meaningful conversation about the results that your agency is creating
5. Issues or Change Requests
What problems are you facing in completing your deadlines and deliverables? Vendor trouble? Client miscommunication? The need to scale up and find more resources? Technical delays?
These are all important issues that the client should know about. But don’t only talk about problems–discuss solutions as well.
Change requests are usually what the client is asking for in creative direction such as with a video, ad campaign or event. Give a status of what the decision was and the reasons why your team made this decision. You’re not just documenting what the requests are, but are providing direction on the best choices moving forward.
Issues and change requests could be different sections of your project status report, depending on how much you need to address.
Now here’s the fun part. (Well, fun if you have good news…). You can show off what your team has done and the results that you’ve been able to get. Better in-store sales from your dynamic store displays? Check. Great engagement with those splashy banner ads? Check. Increased online sales from that top notch marketing automation funnel your team concocted? Check. By this point, you should know what you’re reporting on. It’s a good idea in your project proposal to discuss with your client about which metrics are important and how you’ll be judged. Now is the time to talk about those, or how you’re on track to make those happen.
What about the format?
I’d suggest taking all of your information and creating a Powerpoint presentation that you can explain and then creating a PDF with all of the relevant information. This is also your chance to go a little bit deeper especially around the analytics and budgeting. You may want to include spreadsheets around this, depending on how analytically minded your client is.
Project Status Report Example
Project progress report examples can help you to get a better understanding of common report structures. Hence, we want to provide some inspirational project status update examples to get started. So, here’s a list of multiple project status report examples:
Agile Project Status Report – The Agile Warrior
Weekly Status Report – techno-PM.com
One Page Project Status Report – techno-PM.com
Project Status Report Templates
Examples can help you to get a better sense of the general structure of project status reports. Project progress report templates allow you to immediately get started and to create your first status report in seconds. Feel free to use any of the following status report templates:
Weekly Project Status Report Template – BPMgeek
Status Report Template – 4pm.com
Status Report Sample Template – Weekdone
Project Status Template – cPrime
Project Status Report Template – California Department of Technology
Once you start with a project status report and get into a rhythm, reports no longer have to be so intimidating. Your client will be more satisfied and knowledgeable about the direction of your campaign. Your workflow will also be smoother with the client feedback after a report, helping you make tweaks along the way.
This article is a guest post and was written by Josh Spilker.
Josh Spilker is a content strategist for B2B SaaS companies, including ClickUp, a top-rated free project management software solution. Josh lives in Nashville, TN with his family. Follow him on LinkedIn.