Communications Assessments: Looking Within to Communicate Out

Communicating to a Group

By David Deschenes

“When you consider our limited staff and marketing budget, we put out a LOT of information – bi-annual fundraising letters, quarterly newsletters, flyers, and an annual report. We also send more than 30 e-blasts a year and have a robust presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s all important, timely and informative communications. But we’re struggling to keep up with it. We rely on other departments to get us at least the starting content for our collateral, and we often can’t get it when we need it. We feel like we’re always scrambling or trying to ‘wing it’ with content that’s owned by others.”

This was one of the primary concerns we heard at our first meeting with a new client who had hired us to conduct a communications assessment – a top-to-bottom audit of all current marketing and communications efforts in practice by the organization.

A communications assessment, also referred to as a communications audit, can help an organization find answers to the following questions:

  • Do our employees and key volunteers understand our organization’s vision?
  • Are we reaching the right audiences at the right time with the right information?
  • Are our messages clear and consistent? Do they support our mission message?
  • Do we know what past communications have been successful?
  • What communication opportunities are we missing?
  • Do we have a communication strategy in place to support our goals?

The components of a communications assessment include the following:

  1. A review of print collateral such as brochures, flyers, annual report, fundraising letters to measure branding and message consistency, distribution methods, and timing
  2. Interviews with key staff, volunteers, and stakeholders for their perspectives on what’s working and what is missing or can be improved
  3. Online surveys to the community to measure public perception
  4. A communications SWOT analysis to define the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that the organization needs to consider as it moves forward with recommendations

Careful analysis of this information can uncover issues that didn’t seem so obvious. Take our client mentioned at the start of this piece: their initial concerns seemed to be related to the volume of marketing material being generated. But as we interviewed staff at the organization, we discovered that this problem had to do more with workflow and timing than volume. People felt that they weren’t informed about upcoming events and campaigns in time to do their part in putting together information for the marketing department. And this resulted in all work getting bottlenecked.

The end result of every communications assessment needs to include a set of realistic recommendations: action steps that take into account the organization’s available resources.

Many organizations would like to improve their communications, but may not be sure how to go about it, what they need, or where to begin. A communications assessment will provide all that, and more.

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