Audits Aren’t Just for the IRS: How a Communication Audit Can Help You

Audit. It’s one of those words that often makes people duck for cover, especially during tax season. But if you’re in the business of building interest in your organization, there’s one kind of audit that can truly take your work from good to great:

The Communication Audit

A communication audit is a comprehensive review of everything you’re creating to communicate about your organization. It helps you step back to see the big picture you’re painting while showing you how, where, and why the picture’s individual components come together.

You can conduct a communication audit yourself, or with the guidance of an outside consultant for an additional layer of objectivity. It can be part of a larger strategic effort, like rebranding or a stand-alone evaluation.

Are you Creating the Impression you Want?

From your email signature to your website, every single touch point you produce combines to create a distinctive image and message about who you are and what you do—whether or not it’s the impression you intend to create.

Sometimes, it takes laying it all out on the table all at once (and we mean that literally!) to really see how your image and message come together across your communications—especially when different individuals and departments, like development, admissions, or marketing, are responsible for producing different pieces.

As you might expect, inconsistencies in quality, in tone, and style are frequently revealed by a communication audit. And for some, those “inconsistencies” might be so wide that it doesn’t even seem like it’s all coming from the same organization.

Looking at it all together is a great way to see where there are cracks – as well as opportunities. And surprising insights can also surface!

For example, take an interesting challenge we encountered during a rebranding for the Delaware Art Museum. Our audience research revealed that people didn’t recall hearing about upcoming programs, despite widespread, high-quality, multi-channel marketing efforts. Through a communication audit, we discovered the Museum’s visual branding was so consistent that people might not be able to differentiate one piece from another. It’s possible their audience had gone “brand blind” and needed more variety to inspire attention and action.

Uncover what you’re actually spending time on—and whether it’s worthwhile.

There’s no doubt, you’re doing a lot in your office. A communication audit can help you see which of your many activities are moving you towards your goals, and which are distractions. It gives you the information you need to better prioritize projects and to make sure work is appropriately assigned.

A communication audit can also uncover the gaps in your efforts to reach your goals. Often a new Strategic Plan will be put in place without adjusting communications activities. How will you reach a new goal if your marketing and development are still pointed toward old directives?

While conducting a communication audit with the Histiocytosis Association, we discovered a key audience was not being served. The organization supports a rare disease that mainly is diagnosed in young children. They had the leading educational resources for parents and medical practitioners — but nothing for the kids themselves. Seeing this gap led to Iris creating boy and girl “Histio Warrior” mascots for the organization that are now sold on everything from pillow cases to coloring books — creating a completely new revenue stream for the organization.

Develop a framework for assessing and implementing new initiatives.

Looking at communications from the perspective of prospects, purpose and process helps you see how it all fits together – and where it doesn’t.

When we do a communication audit at Iris Creative, we catalogue everything that’s going on in your marketing and communications program, including: what’s being done, when it’s being done, its purpose, and who’s doing it.

It’s not enough that a tactic works well for your audience, it needs to be realistic to execute and move you towards your goals.

We all have those dead weight projects that are done because they’ve always been done (or someone important wanted it and you have no way to say no). An audit is a powerful tool to stop doing what’s draining you and build support for what you actually need.

To help you get started collecting your materials, download our communication audit checklist here.

If you’d like an outside perspective on your communications and would like to explore the idea of a communication audit, give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at