The beginning of a new year or the transition into a new major phase of an organization is an ideal time for organizations to take a fresh look at communication goals and processes. It allows for a holistic review of what the communications strategy is achieving and kick off the New Year or phase discovering how to communicate better and more effectively.
According to Wikipedia, a communication audit is a comprehensive evaluation of an organization’s ability to send and share information with various audiences within the organization as well as key constituencies outside the organization such as customers and sometimes investors. Simply put, a communication audit is therefore the process for evaluating the effectiveness of an organization’s communications strategy, both internally and externally.
It is a methodical review using accepted research techniques of how well an organization communicates with all of its major target audiences and stakeholders. The audit focuses on messages disseminated, types of media used, and the extent to which the communication goals are achieved.
The objectives of a communication audit are to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of the communication process between the organization and its stakeholders. A communication audit also helps to identify missing links in the communication setup with the objective to improve future communication by developing a strategic plan.
The principal value of a communication audit is its benefits in terms of measurement. It can determine whether the funds an organization is spending on communication objectives are spent well or not. Also, it can establish benchmarks by which an organization can measure its future communications effectiveness, that is, how well the organization will do in five years from now. A well-researched communications audit can uncover weaknesses in an organization’s communications programs, what is lacking to make them more effective and what messages are getting through to which target audience.
A communication audit involves two main areas:
- The attitudinal aspect
- The communication aspect
The attitudinal aspects involve the differences between what senior management is saying about an organization and its problems, what the organization’s own PR team are saying about the organization and its problems and what external groups are saying. The reason behind the audit is to find out how much their views are out of sync so that the organization can take steps to get them back into sync.
The communication aspect of the audit involves the messages that are disseminated in materials like newsletters, brochures, press releases, etc. and relates these to the messages that are actually being conveyed by groups outside the organization like consumers, stakeholders, media, etc.
There are various reasons that may lead to the necessity of conducting a communications audit in an organization. Some of these reasons include, but are not limited to, the following:
- When there is new management in the organization especially at the highest level in the organization.
- When an organization changes direction. For example, offers new products or services, merges with or is acquired by another organization.
- When the organization constantly finds itself on the defensive, reacting to attacks by external stakeholders.
- When crisis issues are more often than not catching the organization unprepared; when its system for spotting and analyzing issues is not working effectively.
- When target audience or customers question the relevance of an organization’s overall efforts; when there is no research to demonstrate whether the organization’s communication efforts are hitting home with its target audience.
In conclusion, as an organization grows, their external and internal stakeholders increase. One needs to know how to adjust their communication plan to satisfy both stakeholder needs. To do this, the organization must perform a communications audit in order to assess the communication practices currently in play. This determines which of the communication tools are working well and points out the areas in which the organization can still strengthen its communication performance.
As a Communication Agency, we are able to advise on strategies to develop a communication audit for your organization as well as offer services in developing and implementing it. Talk to us!
Account Manager, Public Relations
Global Media Alliance
Linked In: Francis Tawiah