What’s a communications audit?

You’ve likely heard us talk about communications audits on the blog, on our website and in videos and maybe even in person, too. While audits are not a new concept, at Hodges, we view audits as a crucial starting point for working with new clients.  It’s a way to create an informed foundation for developing the best possible communications strategy to achieve a client’s goals.

But let’s back up a bit. What exactly is a communications audit?

An audit is a comprehensive evaluation of an organization’s ability to effectively communicate with its key constituencies. An audit typically aims to:

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  • Assess communications related to attracting key audiences and/or new customers
  • Analyze the competitive landscape
  • Research and develop audience or buyer personas (i.e. your key targets)
  • Identify strategies, tactics and messaging tailored to personas
  • Help determine clear-cut communications goals and metrics for success
  • Recommend a strategic path forward

Our audit process is comprised of four main sections:

  1. Research – We begin with a total download with your team. This is where we take a deep dive into your business, goals, challenges and what you’re hoping to accomplish with the audit. We then move on to conduct internal and external research and interviews. We talk with your key stakeholders—everyone from your internal audiences to your clients and other external influencers, including on occasion even your peers. We also take a look at your existing marketing and communications channels and materials.
  2. Analysis – Next, we take everything we’ve learned through the interview and research process and put it into context, which usually includes a SWOT analysis of your business, your competitors and opportunities and threats in your market.
  3. Recommendations – Then it’s time to apply what we’ve learned by providing strategic direction. We also typically include fleshed-out personas (which are fictional representations of your ideal prospects or audience). Together with the personas, our strategic recommendations will outline key messaging and how to reach your audiences with that messaging using the appropriate communications channels and vehicles.
  4. Next steps – What are recommendations without a plan of attack? We’ll take the strategy and create a plan of action so your team can begin implementing the tactics or determining what resources may be needed to do so.

The audit process typically takes about three months from start to finish, but when it’s complete, you can kick off a communications strategy with clear goals and clear direction, which can save your organization a lot of time and resources in the long run, but mostly, put you on a path toward achieving your communications goals.

Now that you know what’s involved in the audit process, how do you know if you need one? Here are 5 signs that it may be time for an audit.

Paulyn Ocampo

Since joining THP in 2008, Paulyn has helped execute strategic plans for clients like AMF Bowling Centers, Allianz, Tridium, Silgan and The Peterson Companies. A Norfolk native, she earned her undergraduate degree in mass communications, with a concentration in public relations from VCU.

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