No Time for a Marketing Plan? Start With a No Pain, All Gain, Do-It-Now Nonprofit Communications Audit

More on Communications Audits

I recently received this Ask Nancy query and was eager to respond ASAP, as this is a question I hear frequently from nonprofit communicators like you…

Dear Nancy,

Colleagues at two other organizations in our county are in the middle of communications audits. I’m interested, but don’t know what that process would mean for our organization.

What is a communications audit, and what value does it deliver? We’re overloaded as it is and it’s hard to even consider taking on even one more thing!

Thanks much,
Denise Harris, Project Director
Human Services Coalition

Denise asks a great question, seeking not only the definition of this marketing strategy but it’s value, so she can weigh ROI (return on investment). That’s the ideal way to prioritize marketing strategies.

Dear Denise,

First of all, let me promise you that executing a communications audit is a far happier experience than an IRS audit! And in doing so you’ll generate an immediate impact:  The audit findings will save you time immediately on completion, helping you focus on doing more of what’s working, and less of what’s not, while providing a clear framework for prioritizing.

Ideally, I’m a big believer in the value of creating a full marketing plan — so you know where you’re going (clear goals) and the best way to get there (based on realities of your target audiences wants and values, factors in the environment in which you work). But if you don’t have time for that right now, or it seems too daunting, a communications audit is a great place to start.

  • Definition — What is a communications audit?
    • A snapshot view of what you are doing marketing wise, evaluated that against your marketing goals and benchmarks, and in light of the wants and needs of your target audiences, and what your competitors and partners are doing.
  • Value — You’ll use your findings to:
    • Be more strategic: Ensure you’re reaching the right audiences with relevant messages via the right platforms, to increase engagement and action.
    • Get the most from your marketing investment: By increasing internal awareness of current approach vs. more productive opportunities, and building this practice into a habit.
    • And you’ll continue to leverage this information (and new findings your seek out) on an ongoing basis to fine-tune your strategies and tactics to work better than ever before.
  • Follow these steps:
    • Drawing on conversations with your colleagues and with target audiences, and on research of colleague and competitive organizations communications.
    • Ask these questions first:
      • What are our marketing goals and the benchmarks we can use to measure our progress towards them?
      • What do our target audiences (the folks we need to engage to meet our marketing goals) want and value?
      • What do we want them to do and what might help and/or get in the way (call to action)?
      • Are our messages relevant to our target audiences? Are they engaging them and motivating them to act?
      • Where and when are their open-minded moments (the times and channels–e.g. Facebook vs. a PSA) that they’re most likely to digest our messages? This is where to invest!
      • What are others competing for the same engagement, time, donations doing well (models)?
    • Assessment comes next:
      • Assess all communications materials channel by channel (e.g. all websites, all email communications, all print materials, all direct mail) against these criteria.
      • Assess consistency of key elements (e.g. messages, branding) across channels, products and programs/campaigns.
  • Make indicated changes ASAP!
    • Do more of what’s working well. Cut what’s not.
    • Get inconsistencies in line with branding standards asap to ensure its’ easy for your network to recognize–in a moment, at a glance–that the marketing content is from your organization, and make it easy for them to remember and repeat it to friends and family.
    • Eureka–Clarity and immediate time savings!

Hope that helps, Denise. I urge you to go for it, and let me know how it goes!

All best,

P.S. How do you audit your communications, and what do you do with your findings? Please share your communications audit guidance here.