Tuesday, April 28, 2009

APR Flash Cards: Communication Audit

Here's the weekly APR Flash Card.

Category: Research
Front: Communication Audit
Back: Informal, Primary
Pros=accesses alignment with organizations goals, comprehensive evaluation of tools, independent evaluation of plans.
Cons=costly, need thorough definitions and plan, labor intensive, combines the cons of focus groups, interviews and content analysis.

A communications audit is exactly what it sounds like: a collection and review of the communications for a certain project, time frame or organization. In my experience the key to conducting an audit that is worthwhile and doesn't make you pull your hair out, is to clearly define what you are going to include.

In theory, it includes everything. But, fortunately, you get to define "everything." You set the time frame: one month, one year, since the beginning of time. You can look only at items you produced, only items you distributed to certain audiences or through certain media, or you can include items produced by outside sources such as news stories or user-generated content.

In practice, I'm a fan of the communication audit. I think there is a lot to be learned by looking back at what's been done before. I tend to use a communication audit in my research stage if I'm revamping an existing plan, if I'm formalizing a campaign for something that has had little promotion in the past, or if I'm starting a project for an outside organization. I've also participated in communication audits of my own work performed by outside consultants. This was really interesting too. I got to see how a communications professional who was not familiar with my organization perceived my work.

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