A Communications Audit will answer this question. An Audit is a systematic research method, which will identify the strengths and weaknesses of your current internal and external communications.
An effective Communications Audit will identify:
- How past communications were handled
- Key audiences, what they currently know about your business, service, product or organisation, what they need and want to know and how they prefer to be reached
- Strengths and weakness in current communications programs
- Untapped opportunities for future communications
A Communications Audit asks:
- What are our current goals and objectives for communications?
- How well is the current Communications Plan working?
- Are our messages clear and consistent and do we have a coordinated graphic identity?
- Are we reaching key audiences with our messages and moving them to action?
- What communications have been most effective?
- What do customers think of our communications?
- Do our communications support our overall strategic plan for our business or organisation?
- What would make our communications more effective in the future?
- What communications opportunities are we missing?
There are 10 critical steps required to complete your Communications Audit.
Determine key areas to be audited. Look at 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. Don’t forget to analyse your Website and other online marketing materials.
Choose your research methods. To conduct your audit, there are numerous options including: one-on-one interviews, focus groups, online or telephone surveys and media analysis.
Collect and evaluate your past communications. Spread out all last year’s communications pieces – internal and external – on a conference room table. Then, Ask:
- How did we inform the public about our business? What worked? What didn’t?
- Were our branding-graphics coordinated and messages consistent?
- Who were our key audiences?
- What were our key messages?
- Did we reach our audiences with the right messages?
- What media coverage did we receive? Was it effective? What media opportunities did we miss?
- Did we successfully tell our story in our communications? Take the time to analyse each communications piece. Create a written list of what worked, and what didn’t. Survey a few trusted staff and clients. What did they appreciate and why? What didn’t work for them?
Look outward: Query your customers. Choose neutral researchers to query your customers if possible. Electronic surveys, one-on-one interviews, telephone interviews or focus groups are just a few options. Select a limited number of questions to analyse your communications from your customer’s point of view. Then Ask:
- What are your impressions of our communications?
- What do you think of our branding, identity pieces, Website and other marketing materials?
- How could we improve our communications?
Look outward: Query your community. What does the community know and perceive about your organisation? Take a broader look at the impact of your communications. Again, ask questions to reveal public perceptions.
Look inward: Query your staff and volunteers. Don’t forget your internal audiences. Collect their opinions about your communications. Then Ask:
- What are your reactions to communications during the past year?
- What was effective? What wasn’t? What could be improved?
- Did internal documents serve your needs?
- What future communications could help you function as part of the organisation?
You will need to determine if all communications were understood by all internal audiences. And then examine how your internal audiences present your organisation to the public. Do all employees have an accurate, consistent explanation about your organisation? Do you speak as one voice?
Analyse your media coverage. Keep all your press coverage in a media binder. This can include television, video and radio files and/or transcripts and Web coverage. As in Step 3, spread your media coverage around a table. Include 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? What media opportunities have you missed? To oversee coverage, contract with a news monitoring service.
Conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. Pull your data together from the previous steps. Do a SWOT analysis of your communications using a simple chart: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Weaknesses, Analyse how you can capitalise on strengths, stop weaknesses, maximise opportunities and defend against threats.
Think like a communications consultant. Based on your findings, what would you recommend to yourself for future communications? Select a team to help you analyse your audit results and strategise about future actions.
Put together a plan for future communications. Use your research as the starting point for creating a Communications Plan for your organisation. Either create the plan internally, or hire a professional to design and implement your plan.
Reference: Katlin Smith, APR, Principal, UrbanWords™ Group2018 www.urbanwordsgroup.com