What is a Communications Audit?
A Communications Audit is a systematic research method, that will identify the strengths and weaknesses of your current internal and external communications. Simply put, a communications audit is an exercise conducted to define, review, and recommend ways to improve current communications deployed by an organization.
Audits can take a fair amount of time, money, and manpower to execute depending on the scale, and the size of your municipality. So, the question is, are they really worth it?
The simple answer is, yes. According to Susan Scott, ABC, “Increasingly, (public service) organizations need to demonstrate accountability, strategic thinking and planning.”
“Accountability and results-oriented outcomes are part of business and strategic plans; so too, they must be part of marketing communications plans.”
How to approach a comms audit
There are a few ways you can approach a communication audit for your organization, all of which will depend greatly on your need, and current resources.
When planning an audit here are some of the things you’ll want to consider:
1. Internal vs. External – will you audit internal communications or external communications? Perhaps you will audit both, in which case you’ll want to consider conducting it in phases.
2. Departmental vs. Organization-Wide – You’ll want to consider whether you are auditing one department at a time or if it will be an organization-wide approach. Departmental audits can give you a glimpse of the microcosm of comms, whereas an org-wide approach will make it easier to identify gaps and/or redundancies.
3. You’ll also want to consider if you’ll be auditing all mediums of communications. Maybe you want to audit your print communications only, or perhaps only the surveys in your organization. Breaking an audit down into mediums can help you take smaller bites out of a task that can potentially be overwhelming.
Execution is key
Regardless of how you decide to approach an audit, there are a number of ways you can ensure it’s conducted in an effective way, and that you’re not wasting any of your valuable resources.
1. Define Your Purpose – Ensure you have a clear objective and goals for conducting an audit. There’s nothing like starting a project and part way through wondering, “why are we even doing this?” This leads into the second tip to:
2. Identify Project Sponsors – Once you’ve defined your “why” it will be much easier to generate “buy-in” from key players in the organization. Clearly define what’s in it for them and the organization, and call on this team to act as cheerleaders if you find others balking at the project.
3. Make it Easy for Others, and the least disruptive, as possible. We all know most municipalities are working with already lean staffing, and more often than not people are wearing many hats and having to do work off the side of their desk, so introducing more work into the mix for people won’t be an easy sell unless you can clearly show the benefits and provide as much support as possible.
4. Follow Up on Findings and Recommendations – Make sure you include a plan for how you are going to follow up on findings and recommendations. If you just do the audit and don’t have a plan for what’s next, the work will most certainly be all for nought and it will be difficult to convince people of the value in the future. You’ll want to consider how you will report back to everyone involved on how the audit went and what the next steps are.
5. Check your Bias, and your Ego, at the Door – Oftentimes, communicators are very close to the entire organization, and the findings may show that there are areas for improvement in some of the work you have likely put a lot of effort towards. It’s important to recognize that recommendations for improvement are a benefit for you, and your team because you want to be the best at what you do AND provide the best communications for your audiences. This is also a good reason to consider hiring a consultant to conduct the audit. The outside perspective can bring fresh insight and also remove any bias from the process.
Overall, a communications audit is a practical way of ensuring you’re using the right tools to send the right messages, to the right audiences. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea, try breaking it down into smaller ones and used a phased approach.
Ready to get started? We’ve created an easy-to-use audit checklist, and you can download for free here.