Organizing and Selecting the Best Information for Your Product

Analyst Product Writing
July 5, 2023


Depending on the topic, you probably have more information than you know what to do with. Your customers are busy and you want to ensure they take away your key messages, without being inundated with information. This puts a premium on being concise and clear, and selecting the best information for your product. 

When starting a new product, you typically want to start with the key intelligence question (KIQ)–what question are you trying to answer for your client? Why are you telling them now? Why should they care? What is next? 

Once you have your KIQ, it is time to organize your document. There is no one-size fits all approach, but to give you an idea of a typical format for an intelligence product, it could look something like this:

  • First paragraph: Your “what” (with a lead sentence or textbox containing your BLUF–Bottom Line Up Front). The remaining sentences and bullet points will cover the new development/what is occurring now. 
  • Second paragraph: Your “why”–why is this happening now? In this section you provide your analysis about why this new development is occurring and some of the possible reasons behind that.  
  • Third paragraph: Your ”outlook.” In this paragraph you will include some possible action steps for your customer and a few options about what could happen next. 

For longer products, you would draw this out–you could have two paragraphs that cover your “what,” then a meaty middle section (four to five paragraphs) for your “why”, and two to three paragraphs at the end for your “outlook.” 

Now that you have your product outlined, how do you select the best information? Here are a few tips:

  • Devise a method to quickly organize your findings. A quick and easy idea for this is to keep a document with all of your key sources in one place so you can pick and choose what you need. 
  • Select three to four of the most important reports or examples to support your analytic judgments and cite those in your various sections.
    • Put your most important examples first, particularly those that directly impact your clients. 
      • For example, if you are writing a report with a section on terrorism, if there was a terrorist attack against your client, and for example, one of their restaurants was bombed by a terrorist group two years ago, cite that first. 
    • You should also include the most recent example(s) or event(s) that most strongly back up your analysis.  
      • For example, in that same report with the section on terrorism, if there are 10 additional terrorist attacks in the past three years, you only need to include the most recent ones in your document…maybe two or three of those.
    • You can also select reports based on the source’s credibility–firsthand access is always best, for example.
      • For example, if one of your reports discussing a terrorist event is derived from a reputable news agency and the rest came from social media accounts of users who did not witness the event, you can select the news article. 
  • As part of the research process, also develop an information cut off time. There will always be more information out there, but at some point you have to stop gathering examples and start writing.
    • Manage your time wisely and leave enough room for research, writing, and editing.
    • If you need to tell yourself to stop at a certain point in time, no matter how much research you completed, you stop. You can set a timer, put a reminder on your calendar, use time boxing, whatever works best for you. 

And remember:

  • Clients are looking to you to provide the analysis for their questions and problem-set. Yes, they want to see some examples and they want reporting to show why you are coming up with your conclusions, but that does not mean you need to provide every report/source that shows how you got there. You do not need to show all of your homework! 
    • If your client wants more information after they read your report, that is ok–you can provide them with additional examples in a follow-up email, or during a meeting.

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