The word audit can feel really scary. It feels like someone is coming for you and looking for all of your mistakes. But that’s not what we mean when we talk about a communications or marketing audit! Instead, think of it more as a review or a check-up.
We just want to see how things are going. We want to know what’s working, so we can do more of those things. We want to know what’s not working so we can stop doing those things or make adjustments. Audits are also helpful in planning for future growth — you need to know where you are before you can plan those next steps.
All of that said, the idea of doing a full communications and marketing audit at your nonprofit can feel very daunting because it feels like a lot of work. And you are right about that! It is a lot of work!
One way to make the communications audit process more manageable is to focus on the answers you are really seeking and then choose the kind of audit you start with.
We recommend and do training on five different kinds of communications and marketing audits.
1. The Channel Mix Audit
This big-picture audit focuses primarily on which communications channels you are using and how often you are posting or publishing content in each one. We know from our annual Nonprofit Communications Trends Report research that the number of communications channels used and how frequently content is published to them is one indicator of communications effectiveness. This is a great audit to start with when you are looking at your communications team’s capacity.
2. The Content or Messaging Audit
This communications and marketing audit looks specifically at your messaging. What topics are you talking about? What are your calls to action? Is the mix of topics and calls to action appropriate for the target audiences and communities you are trying to reach?
3. The Brand Audit
The review is centered on your visual brand and style guide in this type of communications and marketing audit. How do your communications and marketing look? For example, are the use of your logo, colors, fonts, etc. consistent across your communications? Do your communications follow your style guide in terms of the written content’s voice, style, and tone? Consistency in how you present your communications is important and so a brand audit helps you review that.
4. The Strategic Objective Audit
To perform this audit, you first need to know what your marketing strategies and marketing objectives are! Let’s say one of our objectives is to raise awareness about a topic. During this audit, you would look at all the communications you do that are intended to raise awareness on that topic. Are you delivering the right messages to the right people in the right places and the right times to raise that awareness? This audit will help you answer that and likely lead to recommendations for improvement.
5. The Tactical Best Practices Audit
The previous four audits looked across multiple communications channels. In the tactical best practices audit, you pick just one tactical communications channel at a time and do a very granular and specific analysis of whether you are implementing the best practices for that channel. For example, the best practices for an email newsletter are quite different from the best practices for Instagram stories. That, of course, means that you know what those best practices are and can gauge how well you are implementing them.
See, it’s not so scary when you break down the idea of a big communications audit into more realistic steps.