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How to Write a Report to a CEO


Even the most secure employee can get butterflies when asked to write a report to the company’s chief executive officer. CEOs hold formidable power and exert enormous influence when it comes to careers. Formulating a report that’s worthy of her eyes is no small assignment. Make certain that your material is presented in a way that gives the executive exactly what she needs while putting you, the author, in the best light possible. After all, staffers have been known to move from obscurity to prominence thanks to a great piece of work, so use this report to get on your CEO's radar.

Take your first marching orders directly from the CEO so you begin the project with first-hand information. Tamp down any intimidation you may feel by committing to getting every point of reference clarified before you leave her office. Take copious notes. Ask for background material. Don’t leave the room with unanswered questions.

Ask the CEO’s secretary or assistant for tips on researching and writing the report you’ve been charged with conceiving--nobody knows what the boss is looking for more than those who have direct contact on a daily basis. Request a copy of a typical report the CEO considers compelling and well-formatted so you understand what she expects within the pages of the completed treatise.

Conduct research using one or more of the following techniques: interviews, archival research via the Internet or library, evaluation of charts, graphs and raw data and, if appropriate, gather anecdotal material that can be used to support the facts and figures you’ll include in the final submission to the CEO.

Write long when you start. Explain the situation at hand, delve into the pros and cons of moving ahead with the project, position or situation, state conclusions in a rational, unbiased fashion and make recommendations if this is part of your mission. Compile a comprehensive package of background materials to serve as appendices, should the CEO wish to locate and digest your original sourcing.

Edit for content and readability. Remove every word in your report that isn’t necessary. Chop run-on sentences to increase the "pace" of the report and pay particular attention to spelling, grammar and punctuation. Strip the report of superlatives, sensationalism and clichés. Use bullet points and subheads to help your CEO navigate the contents of your report.

Run the final draft by the CEO’s secretary or assistant. Make reasonable changes based on their suggestions. Extract the most relevant content from the report to formulate a one-page executive summary. Use a binder to hold and organize the executive summary, report and appendices. Submit the report to the CEO on—or, ideally, before—deadline.

About the Author

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.

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