Do your communications efforts seem unfocused or unsuccessful? Are you about to launch a new initiative and want to make sure your messages will be heard? If so, it’s time for some spring cleaning.
What is a communications audit?
A communications audit evaluates the scope and effectiveness of your external communications. It covers more than the types of communications you produce and how often you send them out, however. It also reviews your messaging and your branding.
As with a financial audit, the most effective results come from engaging an outside consultant. Your CEO, staff, or board may have good insights, but you really need fresh eyes and ideas, too. A good auditor is very experienced, and might even had stood in your shoes as a communications director or manager. In addition to offering honest criticism, he or she should offer positive steps you can immediately take to improve your communications program.
What is the scope of a good audit?
A good audit covers every external communication you produce in print or online (website, video, blog, social media, email, etc.). It should answer the following questions:
- What is our communications “hub” and is this the right choice for us?
- Have we chosen the right communications channels? Are the channels well integrated?
- Do we present a clear, consistent image (brand) and messages across our channels?
- Are we targeting our audiences with the communications channels to which they are most receptive, or are we ignoring their preferences?
- Are we producing each communication with the right frequency?
- Are we providing enough fresh content–updates and news about our work?
- Are we telling enough of the right stories?
- Do we have the right calls to action in each piece?
- Are we using our mission statement, tagline, vision statement, or other key messages appropriately?
- What writing style do we use? What kind of personality does it project?
- Is our content easy to scan and easy to read?
- Do we use good grammar? Is our writing free of typos?
- Do our communications look and feel similar?
- Is our design system appealing, uncluttered, and consistent with our brand?
- Do we use enough of the right kind of visuals?
- How successful is our media relations work? Does the press represent us as leaders or experts?
- How should we measure overall communications effectiveness?
- Can we do more with our communications budget and staff?
- How are our “competitors” or other organizations like us communicating with their audiences? Are they more or less effective than us?
There is no “one size fits all” communications audit.
I’m going to be candid here. I have seen some boilerplate recommendations from nonprofit marketing experts who charge thousands of dollars for lists of standard recommendations I could write up in an hour. This is not what you need. You want an auditor that will understand who you are trying to reach and why, review your existing communications in depth, and write a set of custom recommendations that fits your audiences, your goals, and your brand.
Please don’t settle for less than that.
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