I’m a linear thinker—systematic and deadline oriented. That’s why I like communications audits. Audits are systematic ways to assess where you are, what’s working and what needs tinkering. You get a realistic sense of your impact.
We linear thinkers know that everything works best after logical preparation. So this month I thought I’d share some questions and answers to help you get the most from a communications audit.
WHY ARE YOU DOING AN AUDIT?
Before starting an audit, ask yourself what you are hoping to learn? * Do you want to audit your communications to a specific audience, such as donors, policymakers or clients? * Do you want to see if your brand is being communicated effectively? * Do you want to find out if your core message is getting through?
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO AUDIT?
Do you want to evaluate a specific program, or look at your organization as a whole?
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO LEARN?
For the greatest impact, go deep with your audit. I like to divide my questions into three categories: strategy, implementation and organizational support. These sample questions will help you get started:
Strategy questions * Do you have clear strategic communications goals? * Do you have specific and measurable objectives? * Do you have clear messages?
Implementation questions * Are your communications materials effective? * Are staff members good spokespeople? * Do your audiences see you the way you see yourself? * Are social media and traditional media relations strategies integrated?
Organizational support questions * Does your senior management understand/value communications? * Is there enough money to do the job well? * Do all staff members see themselves as communicators?
WHAT RESEARCH TECHNIQUES ARE HELPFUL?
There are several research techniques you can use. The ones you choose will depend on both your goals and your budget. I frequently recommend one-on-one interviews with key staff, stakeholders and target audiences. You can also conduct online surveys to reach a broader group. And there are plenty of social media tools to listen to what your audiences are saying about you to their peers.
I also review organizational print and online materials to evaluate how effective they are.
WHO SHOULD CONDUCT YOUR AUDIT?
While an audit can be done in-house, it is a great task for a consultant. Consultants bring external perspectives that enable them to look and listen objectively. As outsiders, consultants can often elicit more open (i.e. brutally honest) information in interviews.