Some days I wake up wishing I was living in the ‘70s. The music scene was exploding with ABBA’s Dancing Queen and John Lennon’s Imagine, Stephen Spielberg released the classic horror flick Jaws, and flares were a standard dance floor fashion item.
Pop cultural factors aside, it was also a golden era when we weren’t overwhelmed with thousands of advertising messages on a constant basis.
If we had a time machine to go back to the 1970s, we could once again live in a world where the average consumer was exposed to between 500 and 1,600 daily advertising messages.
Sounds like a lot, right? Well it isn’t.
Since the advancements of communications technology and the explosion of online advertising in our interconnected metropolis of 2020, today’s consumers can now expect to see between 6,000 and 10,000 ads every single day. Delving deeper, out of the 86,400 seconds we live each day, we are seeing an ad every 0.06-0.11 seconds.
Now that is a lot!
With this statistic in mind, it’s becoming harder to stand out from the increasing level of advertising messages hitting our frontal lobe. And attention spans are also dwindling.
Even if you do manage to stand out, the challenge every marketer lives and breathes is how to keep the attention of potential customers.
Harnessing the power of communication plays such a crucial role in your customer outreach. We have produced the following article to help ensure your communication strategy is perfectly matched to your audience, resulting in truly valuable connections that translate into sales.
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Have you ever wondered whether anyone is receiving your communication and whether you’re truly being listened to? Is there a way to measure the success of your communication and monitor any room for improvement? Without feedback, this is almost impossible.
Can you recall the last 3 advertisements you heard or saw, and what business they belong to? I bet that in most cases, the answer is no. It’s clear that we have an abundance of information at our fingertips, but we often crave clarity, purpose, and direction.
As your business develops, both the internal and external audience will grow. Determining which communication tools are working efficiently can help identify where your business can progress. Otherwise, how will you know if you are as successful as you could be?
Are your business communication efforts effective?
A thorough communication audit is the safest way to answer this question.
A robust audit is a valuable step in your strategic communication process. It will present a clear picture of the effect of communication on your audience from both an internal and external perspective. It will determine if your communication is servicing the needs of your business or requires an adjustment. It will identify information gaps, unclear messaging, and channels that aren’t delivering as initially intended.
It will also help establish a benchmark for all ongoing communication, so you can measure efficiency and allocate your resources astutely.
Equipping yourself with the insight from a communication audit will help you concentrate effort into the aspects of the business that work, resulting in increased revenue and real results.
A communication audit will analyse and reveal:
- how past communication has been handled
- what communication opportunities you may be missing
- which communication strategies work best
- what your employees and audience think of your internal and external content
- what you can do to improve your content
- whether your content supports your organisational business objectives
- your key audiences – what they currently know about your business, what they need to know, and how they prefer to be reached
- the strengths and weaknesses in your current communication channels and the untapped opportunity for future communication.
What’s The Problem?
Without an audit, how do you know your communication is working towards meeting your business, marketing, and communication objectives?
If you aren’t able to show that your audience understands and is responding to your communication, you may be losing considerable revenue and opportunity.
If your marketing communications are underperforming because, for example, they are speaking to the wrong audiences, on the wrong platforms, in the wrong way, you will find it difficult to generate positive results from your effort.
And if your staff that create business collateral misunderstand your internal communications, you company could be wasting money for content that isn’t in line with what your business stands for.
A communication audit is crucial to sustainable, long-term communication success.
Sure, you might think you’re doing okay without one, but a communication audit will help you harness the opportunities that may be lying dormant in your business and rise above your competitors.
When was the last time you carried out a communication audit in your business?
While we focus on striving forward, how often do we look back to examine our progress and where we are now?
It may be time to conduct a communication audit if:
- you’re responding in a reactive, rather than proactive, manner
- your communication efforts continuously miss the mark – you are not reaching the communication objectives you have set, fall short of engaging with your audience and ultimately don’t convert them – resulting in absence of revenue
- your communication falls on deaf ears
- you have low or zero employee and customer engagement
- your audience and employees seem unreachable or hard to reach
- there is a silo mindset throughout the business
Even if you believe you are doing the best you can in this space, without undertaking an audit, can you really be sure?
At a minimum, scheduling an annual review can give you the confidence that your team is on the right track. It can alert you to possible deviations that may stop you meeting your communication objectives before it becomes too costly to shift your scope. It gives you a structured approach to communication, backed by knowledgeable insight and data.
Why Do Communication Audits Matter?
A communication audit determines how effective your current communication tools are, highlights their strengths and weaknesses, and provides suggestions and recommendations on how to advance. After all, who doesn’t want to improve?
A communication audit helps build trust and commitment among your staff, stakeholders, and external audience, like your customers.
Trust between your business and its internal and external stakeholders is a key component to any organisation. It must be continually nurtured to grow – just like any other relationship.
The first step is to understand why you are conducting a communication audit. It won’t serve you to fly in aimlessly with the hope of coming out successful on the other end.
Perhaps you’ve started a role as an internal communication consultant at a new workplace and want to evaluate where the business stands in terms of its internal or external communication. Or perhaps you head up marketing at your company, are looking to create a Communication Strategy, and want to conduct an audit to help clarify your strategic direction moving forward.
Whatever the reason for conducting an audit, make sure there is clarity around:
- what it is you want to achieve
- why you want to achieve itwhat you will do with the information presented to you.
You will have a better understanding on factors including all internal and external methods of communication.
While conducting a top-to-bottom audit of your communication may seem like an overwhelming task, the result can be a blessing in disguise. An audit will reveal weaknesses in the business and open your eyes to those futile tasks that have little to no outcome or can be executed more effectively.
A communication audit allows you to put energy into areas of the business that present an abundance of opportunity and improve your relationships along the way.
It may be time for a communication audit if:
- your employee feedback has dropped
- your external stakeholders are no longer engaged
- new and existing customers have declined or diminished
- your top of the funnel sales leads has dwindled
- employee retention is a problem and sick leave has increased
- stakeholders and investors are unhappy
- you don’t know which medium is right for which audience
- you continue to respond in a reactive, rather than proactive, way.
Conducting a Communication Audit
Undertaking the ultimate communication audit will help you identify and fill any communication gaps that your business may have. It will give you insight to improve your communication system and excel in all your communication.
A communication audit is fantastic for improving outcomes and results, as well as solidifying strategic thinking and communication management skills. An audit will help make strategic messaging decisions and open your eyes to the opportunities that lie ahead – allowing you to unlock sustainable communication success.
Let’s focus on the key components that make up a communication audit, and how you can harness the findings for business success.
1: Determine the scope
To paint a realistic picture of your current communication status, you should plan out what communication methods to focus on. If your organisation is large, it may make sense to break the audit into smaller components.
For example, if your business is a not-for-profit in the health and disability sector, it may be wise to focus on analysing all aged care communication first, followed by disability – rather than looking at the business as a whole. This allows you to concentrate on one area at a time and understand what works best for each component.
Alternatively, you may like to focus on internal, then external, communication. This allows for a clear divide between the two channels, making it easier to determine how to proceed. Once you have determined your scope, it’s time to move on to step two.
2: Collect and evaluate past communication methods
With the scope defined, it’s time to gather and analyse all of your content from the past 6-12 months. This includes all your digital and printed content. A simple way of evaluating this content is to develop a spreadsheet listing each of the platforms, with relevant questions analysing your performance on that platform, a ‘yes, no, or unsure’ response, and the outcome of this.
Some of your communication pieces may include:
- business cards
- business logo
- promotional material
- media coverage
- business website
- marketing material
- newsletters – internal and external
- public service announcements
- media releases
Some of your questions may be:
- Did we convey the right information?
- Did we convey the right message?
- Did we receive any feedback – was it positive or negative?
- Were there a lot of questions – did we have to clarify or re-communicate?
- Did we incorporate a visual component?
- Did we reinforce broader business messaging?
- Did we use a variety of channels – if so, what did we use?
- What goals/objectives did this satisfy or achieve?
Recommendation: We suggest having a separate spreadsheet for each of your communication methods, in which you can apply all of the necessary questions. Also include to a comment and solution section to determine how to address any issues or opportunities.
3: Identify feedback methods and how you will collect insight
When it comes to gathering information from people who have received your content, there are several methods, including:
- formal and informal interviews – one-on-one or group sessions
- a feedback mechanism attached to your current content
From an internal communication perspective, it isn’t necessary to get feedback from all staff. Instead, engage a healthy cross-section of people across multiple disciplines, locations, and levels. You can get more honest feedback by keeping it anonymous through software like SurveyMonkey.
Ask staff and internal stakeholders about their impressions of your current communication techniques. What did they feel was effective, and what wasn’t? What could be improved? Did the internal policies and procedures provided to them serve a benefit, and where can they see room for improvement? What future communications could help them function as part of the business?
Similarly, when querying customers and potential customers, ask about their impression of your business through the key communication methods outlined above. What do they think of your website, marketing, and communication materials? Do they understand the brand, the messaging, and what they are being asked to do? Has it provided value to them, and is there any room for improvement?
Gaining feedback from multiple facets of the business across all mediums lets you to receive a well-rounded view of how your information is received. This gives you the facts you need to develop your ultimate communication strategy.
5: Conduct a SWOT analysis
A SWOT analysis is a standard approach used to determine your strategic direction. Use a quadrant similar to the graphic below to take notes of your current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in relation to your communication.
This approach will allow you to build on your strengths, close gaps on your weaknesses, leverage your opportunities, and prepare the business to reduce or avoid potential threats.
We have listed some examples below to get you thinking about how this may apply to your business.
You can also update this document every 6-12 months to ensure you’re on track to reaching your communication goals. You are aiming for your weaknesses to become strengths, and threats to become opportunities.
6: Plan for the future
By using your SWOT analysis and assessment of your current landscape to guide you, it’s time to make recommendations. Be as objective as possible, and don’t be afraid to make complex or difficult changes based on your findings.
Here are some tips on how to get started:
- Build your plan in segments of 3, 6, 12, and 18 months.
- Incorporate reviews every 4 months to ensure you’re on track.
- Plan for changes that have the most impact on areas of concern for the business – these will have a bearing on cost, efficiency, culture, and productivity.
- Start with the lowest hanging fruit. When you conduct a communication audit, the feedback can feel overwhelming. Concentrate on improvements you can make quickly and that will deliver meaningful results. This will help build positive momentum, particularly with your internal stakeholders.
7. Review your findings
If you have already broken your communication audit down into areas – focus first on the one that has the most impact on the business and the biggest setbacks.
Draw conclusions from the data you have received and combine your findings in a report that lists:
- an overview of the findings and why a communication audit was conducted in the first place
- a description of how you executed the communication audit
- an executive summary of your findings
- an analysis of employee opinions and perceptions
- recommendations for improvement and how you will implement this, including a timeline.
8. Communicate your findings
Now that you have gained substantial learning from conducting the audit, it’s imperative to communicate your findings. This is crucial for both your audience and stakeholders – particularly for those who contributed to the audit. People are inclined to support what they helped produce, so ensure you effectively communicate to all relevant staff and stakeholders what you found out, how you plan to address it, and by when.
Audits are essential for improving both short- and long-term results and outcomes, as well as building strategic thinking and communication impact. A communication audit will help make informed decisions based on real-world feedback, opening up the plethora of potential opportunities that provide sustainable communication success.
By conducting a top-to-bottom audit of your internal and external communication methods, you are provided with a wealth of intelligence that has innumerable benefits to your business.
A communication audit provides the knowledge you need to:
- find out where your communication methods are excelling and where they are falling short
- determine where you need to invest your time to increase overall efficiency and impact, and where you can pull back
- improve what you are doing with the tools in your arsenal.
Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. – Rudyard Kipling
Through thorough research and understanding of your internal and external communication methods, you can then place focus on these methods to better understand where you need to make changes.
From an internal perspective, the main driver for a communication audit is staff engagement – which can make or break a business. A solid relationship with your staff helps to build trust and ensures team members understand the direction of the business and their role in achieving that vision. After all, without our team of resilient staff soldiers, we have reduced strength.
From an external perspective, the main driver for a communication audit is alignment and impact – determining the best channels of choice for specific audiences and frequency of communication, as well as how successful it is in relation to your overall business objectives. By making educated and informed decisions, you can ensure your revenue and efforts are being utilised in the best way possible.
Remember, the goal of communication is not simply to share information. It is to motivate, engage, inspire, and create a true impact with your audience that works to meet set objectives. A communication audit will open the realm of possibility within your business. Without assessing where you have been to date, how will you know the best path to take moving forward?
This audit will allow you to assess your strengths and weaknesses, and where you can improve. It will create a seamless approach to communication within the business and with your customers.
Ultimately, you will be able to drive home your messaging and put time and resources towards what will work, resulting in increased revenue and results. An audit provides you with the knowledge to put energy into areas of the business that present an abundance of opportunity and improve your relationships along the way.
Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity. – Nat Turner
The great news is that you can easily and effectively conduct a communication audit to determine the opportunities between management and employees, and management and external parties. It will help to determine the ideal channels for particular audiences, the frequency of communication for these audiences and how you can create a sustainable system of success moving forward.
If you’re stuck on where to start and need guidance with your communication, our experienced team have a wealth of knowledge that will amplify your businesses potential, skyrocketing your communication from zero to hero.
Read our latest blogs on Communication Strategy: Foundational Pillars For Marketing Communications & Beyond and Communication Plan: A Vital Connection For Business Sustainability to get your communications on track for success.
If you would like to know more contact our friendly team today to chat about how we can get the most from your communication.