Before you send out another press release or write your next employee newsletter, ask this question: “Are my company’s communications operating from a detailed plan customized for my clients, employees, and press contacts?” If your answer is no, there’s a communications audit in your future. The general goal of a communications audit is to identify how a company interacts with key audiences such as customers, employees, and the media. Once the information is researched, formal recommendations for preserving or enhancing the processes are presented. When should public relations pros request a communications audit and how do you plan an audit?
If your company is dissatisfied with its investment in a public relations program, wanting to refocus corporate initiatives, having trouble finding the time to keep employees informed, or suffering from poor visibility for its products/services, you might a consider a review of your communications. A well-authored communications audit provides a company with a blueprint for setting goals and targeting audiences. The blueprint helps to create a strategy document used to formulate an action plan. If the plan is too large to implement at once, a phased approach might be adopted to execute all components.
The four-step communications audit process includes:
During the planning stage of your communications audit, all stakeholders and decision-makers in your company’s communications strategy are identified, and a plan for interacting with employees, customers, and media during the audit is drafted.
Information about your company’s current communication strategy, as well as information about your company’s information needs, is gathered with tools such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, network analysis, content analysis, technology assessment, critical incident analysis, or document analysis.
This time is set aside to evaluate and make recommendations based on the information found during the audit.
A formal document is created and presented with professional recommendations to optimize your company’s communications strategy.
If your company has never had a communications audit and is concerned about how communications and public relations strategies are affecting the bottom-line, begin a search for a qualified auditor soon. Should your company be a part-time business or only have few employees, a complete communications audit may not be necessary. However, an audit of target customers and media opportunities could be the push your business needs to move to the next level. To ensure a successful communications audit, use the following guidelines:
Select a qualified public relations individual or firm that understands your business. Choose an auditor that makes you feel comfortable, and has the background to ask the right questions.
Keep decision-makers on the project to a minimum. Sometimes the adage can be true: if you want to kill a good idea, form a committee.
Provide reasonable access to information. If certain areas of information are off-limits or have no impact on the audit, provide these guidelines to your public relations team/auditor as soon as possible for planning purposes.
Inform employees of the communications audit. Employee buy-in promotes a smooth transfer of information and can be used to hasten the communications audit process.
Remain open to questions being asked by the auditor. A communications audit is an offensive maneuver not a defensive strike or judgment.
Ask questions. A professional public relations consultant will welcome questions about the process, and should provide progress reports to reduce the “where are we now” questions.
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.