How to conduct a publications audit in 5 easy steps

If your publications are collecting dust, follow this protocol to clean them up and get them doing their job.

Is it time to trash your employee newsletter?

In Part I of this series, I discussed the importance and benefits of a publications audit. But how do you actually do one?

My approach is to follow the five C’s. This article only focuses on print materials, but you could use the same steps for a combined online/print approach.

1. Collect

Find all print promotional materials that exist in your organization: brochures, case studies, newsletters and the like.

To do this, visit your supplies/inventory “closet.” No idea where that is? Talk to your marketing and communications people. Is your company spread across several buildings? If so, speak to the administrators at each location. Find out what they use—especially what they display in the front entrance.

Put all the publications in a folder for safe keeping, and label it Appendix A.

2. Classify

Create a chart that identifies the key traits of each publication:

  • Type: Is it a brochure, a newsletter, case study, etc.?
  • Age: When was it published? (No date included? Ask around.)
  • Audience: Is this meant for prospects, customers, board members?
  • Objective: What is its purpose? To sell products? Introduce your company? Build your reputation?
  • Key messages: Identify the top three.
  • Visuals: What is there besides text? Graphics? Photos? Other?
  • Contact information: How does it tell the audience to reach you?

This chart is Appendix B.

3. Canvas

Solicit feedback from your colleagues. Pick two or three employees from each department, preferably those who use or need publications in their dealings with external stakeholders.

  • What print publications do they use? Which ones do they find especially useful?
  • What do they have that they don’t like (or outright refuse) to use? Why?
  • What publications don’t currently exist that they would like? For what purpose(s)?

This is Appendix C.

4. Consider

Here’s where the fun begins. Take a step back to soak in everything you’ve got.

You may discover golden nuggets such as:

  • You already have what employees need. They’re simply not aware of it.
  • You don’t need certain publications anymore. Why? Nobody’s using them.
  • How to make the most of your dollars and time. Only keep the publications that provide the most value to employees.

You will also be able to find answers to important questions such as:

  • Is messaging consistent across all publications?
  • Is there anyone else who could benefit from certain publications already in existence?

Warning: You’re going to think about all the time and money put toward each and every publication. And yes, you’re going to realize a lot has been wasted for very little impact.

But this is also why you’re doing the audit—to see what has worked, what hasn’t, and to determine what you should do in the future.

5. Counsel

With all the work you’ve done, you now have a fantastic tool for making recommendations to the powers that be.

For example:

  • If your director says, “We need a brochure that does X,” you can point to the history of using said brochure and recommend how to improve upon the past. (Depending on your audit, you might instead recommend doing away with brochures entirely.)
  • You may decide that employees need to be re-educated on what publications currently exist within the organization—including the ones that should be discontinued immediately.
  • You have proof that Publication A is more useful to external-facing employees than Publication B—proof that absolutely cannot be ignored.

A publications audit can be a huge undertaking, but given the knowledge you can accumulate for maximizing business results, it’s certainly worth the time and effort.

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.