You Audit Finances and Legal Risks, but Why Not Your Communications?

making connections with audiences

Chances are, you know the value of various audits. Financial audits ensure your accounts and statements are correct and show financial stability and integrity. A compliance audit ensures legal obligations are met and risks minimized. Yet, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of a communication audit, and it can be one of the best investments you make in your nonprofit or small business.

A communication audit checks the efficiency and effectiveness of your communications — both internal and external. Audits can illuminate areas of strength, and reveal areas of weaknesses. This allows the organization to minimize the risk of miscommunication and, more importantly, develop stronger relationships. In fact, an audit can solve many problems, from bringing in customers to retaining them. When it comes to your reputation, an audit can clarify how the business is perceived by those it relies on for success. It ensures your communication matches the reputation you want to have. Most important is that an audit serves as a starting point to creating a strong strategic communication plan.

What does a communication audit give you?

As with any audit, a communication audit may vary in scope. They typically seek to answer some important questions by visiting the following areas:

  • Assessment of your brand purpose and defining the desired reputation: Clarity and focus here serve as the foundation on which the rest of the audit stands. Surprisingly, many nonprofits and small businesses haven’t done the necessary work defining a clear message of purpose. An audit can show any shortcomings or lack of differentiation with competitors.
  • Clarification of business goals: All your communications must focus on achieving your business goals. An audit will look at this first. What are the business goals you’re trying to achieve, and how does your communication support them? Are these goals clear to both you and your audiences?
  • Identification and segmentation of audiences: It’s a common mistake to give all your audiences the same messaging. An audit looks at all the people you communicate with and defines how their relationship relates to your goals. What is your relationship, and how do they find you? What do you want them to think about your organization? How can they support you? Your key audiences often go beyond customers or donors to a nonprofit. This may include customers, members, staff, suppliers, legislators, or anyone else you rely on for success.
  • Evaluation of organizational listening: Success depends on relationships, and relationships depend on effective communication. That is a two-way affair. This is critical, as 42% of organizations fail to gather feedback from constituents. Do you have systems in place to gather feedback from key audiences? Is that information being used to develop communication strategies and messaging? If you don’t have mechanisms in place, an audit will most likely recommend ways to do that. It may also include surveys or focus groups as part of the audit to gather the needed information.
  • Clarification of audience objectives:  Wanting people to know about you or your mission isn’t enough. What do you want each of your audiences to do? What do they need to know to do those things? Are you and your staff delivering on that?
  • Message evaluation: Are your messages clear? Do they include a call to action your audiences know how to do? Are they appropriate for your target audiences? Are they consistent? Do they resonate with those you are targeting?
  • Review of existing communication channels: Are you using the best channels to reach your key audiences? Are you using them to their full potential? A review may look at all your social media, website content, web statistics, SEO, keyword integration, as well as the content of your brochures, newsletters, blogs, and even how your staff works with customers.
  • Review of competitor communications: This includes a review of SEO, keywords, and ranking comparison of competitor websites and messaging.

Deciding the scope of an audit

While their best use is in developing a comprehensive communication plan, audits can be used for any number of strategic purposes. They can look for issues or be directed to solve specific issues. A good first step is to talk with an expert in public relations about your goals and roadblocks see if such an audit — whether full or limited — might help you on your quest for success.

Clear Wisdom Consulting uses a proven methodology in building relationships and designing effective communication.

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