Are your employees engaged with your messaging? Is your content working? Do you have any blind spots in your communications?
If you don’t know, you’re probably considering a communications audit (or you should be). Here are four common missteps to be aware of before getting started:
1. Doing it for the wrong reasons. Justifying your job? Getting your boss off your back? Finding a new way to defend old tactics? Those are a few common misguided reasons for launching a communications audit.
So what are the right reasons? Here are several, according to Jim Ylisela, co-founder of Ragan Consulting Group:
- To make the business case for change
- To document what’s working, and what isn’t
- To find the gaps—and there are always gaps
- To establish a baseline to measure your progress
- To show employees you care about what they’re thinking
2. Starting without a plan. Jumping in without a strategy is a recipe for disaster. That doesn’t mean, however, that your planning must be exhaustive.
At minimum, start by asking—and answering—these questions:
- What do you want to measure, and why?
- To what end? What will we do with what we find?
- What’s your theory? (You know more than you think you do.)
3. Not managing expectations. Nothing kills an audit like unrealistic expectations. Execs, for example, often expect up to 100% engagement in employee surveys.
“The truth is the average response rate is usually between 20% and 25%,” says Ylisela. “Anything better than that is unusual.”
Keep expectations in check by dividing your approach into three simple categories:
Quick fixes: These are matters you have control over and that don’t require permission or collaboration from others. For example, you can start writing better headlines immediately.
- Short-term improvements: These changes require collaboration or permissions beyond your team. They can include items like implementing a company style guide or training managers to rely less on email and more on check-ins.
- Long-term changes: These interdepartmental changes must be budgeted and planned for in advance. They include implementing new technologies like Teams or upgrading your company intranet.
4. Valuing hard data over hard questions. It can be easy to gather reams of data if your audit includes internal surveys, focus groups, leadership interviews and channel analysis.
“Numbers are your friends,” says Ylisela. “Stats and hard numbers help you build a case for change. After all, what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done.”
But, he warns, don’t overlook the hard questions in your quest for hard data.
Ylisela advises getting beyond the numbers and digging deep to answer questions like these:
- Are you a good communicator? What can you do better?
- What do employees really need to know but aren’t getting?
- You rely on your managers to explain leadership decisions to their employees and give you feedback. So, how do you know that’s working?
- Hardest of all, what are you prepared to do to connect employees with the organization’s mission and values?
Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and event producer. Jim Ylisela, co-founder of Ragan Consulting Group, will reveal more audit insights in Ragan Training’s Oct. 4 webinar, “5 Steps to a Winning Communications Audit,” with guests Guillermo Fuentes (Southern New Hampshire University) and Mark Hendrickson (Moffitt Cancer Center).