Brief: If you think about it, linguists couldn’t have chosen a better term to describe business documents that summarize “need to know” information for executives who haven't the time or inclination to wade through massive dissertations. If you’re asked to prepare a briefing report, keep the words succinct and pithy in mind as you extrapolate key data your bosses expect to find. Think like a writer when you pull data from reports, then become an editor whose goal is to weigh every word for impact while leaving critical data intact.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Be sure to differentiate your briefing report from an executive summary, a longer document that can run up to 10 pages and includes a call to action that doesn't belong within the body of an executive brief.
Getting Started With Your Report
Understand the purpose of a briefing report. Executives seek the product of an analysis rather than the analysis itself, so keep this in mind when you craft your executive brief from information found in the originating report. Reviewing briefing paper examples can help you clarify the purpose of your report.
Begin the brief by stating the problem/situation, explain its relevancy and then repeat — in precise, accurate language — the evidence and conclusions contained in the master report. Adopt the journalist’s reverse pyramid to structure your brief. Extrapolate and then commit to paper the most important data at the beginning. Add less important information in descending order to create the body of the brief.
Use straightforward English devoid of sensationalism, superlatives and fluff to refine your brief. Include timetables, varying perspectives as they support or refute your thesis and couch everything in the nomenclature of your target audience. Strive to make the brief self-containing, a synopsis that requires no attachments or extraneous documentation to explain important points stated in the original report.
Structuring Your Report
Employ headers, subheads and bullet points to help executives move effortlessly through the briefing report. A CEO briefing template, which you can find online, can help you structure your report. Revisit long paragraphs and chop them up to tighten the report’s pace. Give specific measurements or numbers so nothing is left to the imagination. Verify every point for accuracy. In particular, if there are discrepancies in data, explain why they’ve occurred.
Completing a Final Review
Submit your briefing report to the test of objectivity to make certain you’ve omitted bias lest you risk having the data questioned and your ability to formulate this type of report put into question. Err on the side of caution if the main report from which you’re drawing data has no direct conclusions that were reached. Rather, state that so there’s no misunderstanding about you, the author, having left out critical information.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.