Use a Communications Audit to Energize Your Team on Your Mission
By Jan Goldstein
Whether you've just joined a nonprofit in a communications role or been thinking your organizations public relations program is in a rut, it could be time to conduct a communications audit.
Done well, an audit should be an inclusive process to engage stakeholders, steward key donors, and move your mission forward.
A successful audit will equip your staff and board members with effective messages and tools for todays competitive landscape and evolving media channels, and can generate a widespread sense of pride and enthusiasm across your organization, and help remind industry reporters about your mission. For your communications staff, an audit can provide the creative spark for media pitches, marketing collateral, digital channels, the website, and thought leadership opportunities.
Once youve determined that your PR program may need a refresh, get buy-in from your organizations leadership team. The audit should be led by a communications professional, but the results should be owned by everyone in the organization because they can provide a clear path to re-energize all initiatives, materials, and events.
Elements of a communications audit include the following:
Asset Review: Gather and review existing print collateral, past media coverage, digital channel content, and other internal documents.
Ask if your messaging and visual branding are consistent and compelling. Dig into your analytics to see what portions of your website and social posts are performing best. And dont forget a competitive analysis to see where like-organizations are succeeding where yours may be falling short.
Interviews: Who is your organization trying to motivate and inspire? These are the types of individuals you should interview.
Select a small representative group and include those who have been involved for a long time, and others who are more newly engaged. These will include board members, institutional and individual donors, funders on your organizations wish list, leadership and frontline staff, volunteers, service provider partners, and reporters. Ask direct and consistent questions in each interview that will help you understand what audiences know about your organizations mission and activities, how they perceive your effectiveness, and if they have ideas about what you could do better.
To elicit unfiltered feedback and give these individuals peace of mind that their comments will be kept confidential, its important to conduct these interviews using an impartial and independent third party, such as a PR agency or outside consultant.
Leveraging Data for Consensus: For your audit to be successful and actionable, your organizations leadership needs to be willing to embrace everything it reveals, from the good to the bad to the unexpected.
Review all of the information you have gathered, looking for trends and surprising results. Create a presentation for your CEOand as appropriateyour leadership team, to report on the findings and provide analysis and recommendations. Together, determine what elements should be shared more broadly with board members. Getting everyone on the same page about whats working and what needs to change is an essential goal of the audit.
Messaging and Strategic Communications Plan Development: The most important outcome of a communications audit is a clear understanding of how your organizations mission and effectiveness are perceived, both internally and externally.
That understanding serves as the foundation for building out a strategic communications plan, and for developing messaging that tells your nonprofits story in compelling new ways and, potentially, to reach new audiences. If you have an active board, consider recruiting a few membersthose with a marketing or journalism background are idealfor an ad hoc committee to help you with this important step.
Asset Refresh: Conduct a comprehensive review of your digital assetsyour website, social channels, email marketing templates, and even recorded voicemail messages and email signaturesto ensure every communications channel is aligned with your refreshed strategy. Do the same with any written/printed materials that your organization plans to continue to use.
Tracking and Reporting Progress: A personal note to thank board members and donors and to share a refreshed piece of collateral will make them feel appreciated for participating in the audit and, more broadly, feel good about their involvement with your organization.
A communications audit, when implemented thoughtfully and strategically, can be a great tool for engaging internal and external stakeholders, a mechanism for gathering data to inform fresh and compelling messaging, a spark to refocus your PR program, and a way to re-energize your colleagues around your mission.
Jan Goldstein is a senior vice president at Solomon McCown & Company. She leads the firms mission-focused practice, working with leading nonprofit institutions in education, health care, and human services. Email email@example.com or call her at 617-933-5281.
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