Spring cleaning isn’t just for your home: ‘tis the season to declutter your messaging by conducting a communications audit. By reviewing the effectiveness of your communications, you can distinguish between what delivers an attractive return on investment and what you need to polish.
An effective communications audit asks:
- What are our communications goals and objectives?
- How well is the current communications plan working?
- Are our messages clear and consistent?
- Are we reaching key audiences with our messages?
- Do our communications prompt our audience to act?
- Which communications have been most effective?
- What do customers think of our communications?
- Do our communications support our strategic plan?
- What would make our communications more effective in the future?
- What communications opportunities are we missing?
How to Audit Your Communications
Use these 12 steps to complete your communications audit:
Step 1: Determine what to audit. Review both internal and external communications. Include everything from your standard identity pieces (business cards, letterhead, logo and signage) to promotional materials to news coverage received. Analyze your website, social media profiles and online marketing materials.
Step 2: Choose your research methods. To conduct your audit, select among numerous research methods such as one-on-one interviews, focus groups, online or telephone surveys and media analysis.
Step 3: Evaluate your communications. Spread all of your internal and external communications pieces from the past year on a conference room table. Ask:
- How did we inform the public about our business?
- What worked? What didn’t?
- Who were our audiences?
- What were our key messages?
- What media coverage did we receive? Was it effective?
- Did we successfully tell our story?
Take the time to analyze each communications piece. List what worked, and what didn’t.
Step 4: Look outward: Query your customers. Choose neutral researchers to query your customers through such means as electronic surveys, one-on-one interviews, telephone interviews or focus groups. Your goal is to understand customers’ impressions of your communications and how to improve.
Step 5: Look outward: Query your community. Reveal public perceptions by asking what the community knows about your organization and how they perceive your brand. Include key constituents, such as board and committee members.
Step 6: Look inward: Query your staff. Solicit the opinions of employees, from executives to junior staff. Ask whether internal documents served their needs and what new communications could help them do their job more effectively. Also examine how your staff present your brand to the public. Do all employees have an accurate, consistent “elevator speech” about your organization? Do they speak with one voice?
Step 7: Analyze your media coverage. Keep all your press coverage in a media binder. Coverage can include television and radio transcripts, Web coverage, news articles and paid ads. Look at the frequency and reach of your coverage. What is the tone and impact? Are your key messages being promoted? Are your audiences being reached? Did you miss any media opportunities?
Step 8: Conduct a SWOT analysis. Analyze how you can capitalize on strengths, stop weaknesses, maximize opportunities and defend against threats.
Step 9: Review policies and procedures. Consider whether your standard operating procedures, crisis communications plan and social media policies are up-to-date and reflect best practices.
Step 10: Review your staffing needs. Do you have the talent you need to achieve your goals for 2014? Do you have the structure that will help you get where you want to go? Would outsourcing help relieve the stress during the periods when your team feels overwhelmed? Do you have a succession plan that motivates employees to grow and give their best?
Step 11: Think like a consultant. Based on your findings, what would you recommend to yourself for future communications? Select a team to help you analyze your audit results and strategize about future actions.
Step 12: Plan for future communications. Use your research as the starting point for creating a communications plan that will help your organization reach its business goals.
Use these communication audit tips to clear away cobwebs to make your messages sparkle – and help your company cut through the clutter.
When was the last time your company performed a communications audit?
Lisa Goller helps businesses tell their story. As a Toronto-based Strategic Freelance Writer & Editor, she helps executives and entrepreneurs stand out, look good and save time. Learn more at lisagoller.com
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Smith, Katlin. Ten Steps for Conducting a Communications Audit. UrbanWords™ Group
Vahouny, Karen. Get started on your communication audit. Communication World. July-August 2009.