Several days ago, I finished a communications audit for a client that has customers throughout Tennessee. If you’re not family with a communications audit, it’s simply a management tool that helps an organization gauge how effectively it’s communicating with various audiences.
While people may think that others understand and accept their messages, we are often unaware of how the messages we send are received, understood or accepted. An audit helps identify strengths and weaknesses in an organization’s communications, as well as perceptions that exist and barriers which prevent or inhibit effective communication. An audit also flags areas that areas that may require more in-depth, quantitative research.
When I do an audit, I always include:
• A review of past methods and vehicles used to communicate with various audiences.
• The collection and analysis of information about perceptions individuals have about the organization; what they want and need to know; how they prefer to be reached; and the extent to which organizational communication is clear, consistent and relevant.
• An analysis of what would make communications more effective in the future, along with specific recommendations.
In addition to reviewing this organization’s communications materials and vehicles, I interviewed employees as well as customers from one side of the state to the other to determine perceptions and how communication could be improved. By comparing employees’ and customers’ answers about key issues and perceptions, I was able to identify common concerns and trends, as well as to see where gaps exist between what they think about a particular matter.
As it turned out, there were three reoccurring themes I heard over and over again. All three are intertwined, and the good news is that there are practical ways in which they can be greatly improved, though they won’t be fixed overnight and they will require a financial investment.
It’s hard to fix something if you don’t know exactly where it’s broken. A communications audit helps answer that question and provides a roadmap to get an organization’s communications back on track.
Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to advertising agencies and businesses.