A communication audit is a form of a comprehensive evaluation of the communication process of an institution/corporation. Unfortunately, not many PR practitioners have practiced communication auditing for various reasons.

Many parties have not yet realized that many organizations fail because there are problems in their communications department. For this reason, it is necessary to carry out a communication audit to learn smooth communication practices, guarantee quality information, encourage trust, improve reputation, and ensure organizational sustainability.
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At least, that’s the picture that PR INDONESIA got when conducting a quantitative survey of 60 respondents. They all had a background in the public relations (PR) profession from across agencies/corporations. Of the total respondents, 37 percent stated that they had conducted a communication audit in the last five years. In contrast, 63 percent have never done it.

Both respondents who have or have not conducted a communication audit generally agree that a communication audit can be carried out if it has full support from the leadership. In addition, it requires the same perception and understanding from top to bottom about the benefits and impacts of a communications audit for business continuity.

Ideally, a communication audit is conducted to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of a communication activity or program by assessing the quality of information communicated, measuring the quality of relationships, describing communication patterns in organizational groups and external stakeholders related to topics, sources, channels, frequency, period, and quality of interaction, including providing recommendations on changes that need to be made.

According to Puji Lestari, lecturer of Communication Audit at UPN Veteran Yogyakarta, many parties have not yet realized that many organizations fail because of problems in the communication department. Smooth communication practices will ultimately produce quality information, foster trust, improve reputation, and sustain the organization. In fact, because of the importance of the communication audit, the Communication Auditor SKKNI has been in existence since 2015. What is certain, he said, is that the core of the audit is honesty and needs to be based on the will to go in a better direction.

Make a Big Impact
Pupuk Indonesia Holding Company (PIHC) is one of the state-owned companies that has conducted a communication audit. According to SVP Corporate Communication of PT Pupuk Indonesia (Persero) Wijaya Laksana, the reason is like in a battle: they don’t want to be like the Hulk who attacks indiscriminately, even though there is only one target. Instead, they want to be like Hawkeye. You only need to shoot once but never miss. This effort can only be done, one of which is if PR conducts a communication audit.”

When conducting a communications audit, they cooperate with a communications consultant as a third party. The objectives are to map the perceptions of internal and external stakeholders towards the company, analyze communication strategies and practices that have been carried out so far, and recommend planning and preparation of corporate communication strategies in the future. The findings are that respondents want more directors to appear in public, there is a need for guidelines for handling crisis communications, clear positioning, communication barriers between internal PIHC and subsidiaries. “The results and impact of the communications audit findings are enormous for our division, as well as the company as a whole. In the end, we can contribute more optimally in helping corporations achieve their goals,” he said.

Likewise with PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (Persero). To date, the company, known as PT SMI, has recorded two communications audits. Namely, in 2017 and 2019. According to PT SMI’s Head of Corporate Secretary Ramona Harimurti, the communication audit is a means of introspection. From that point on, they can conduct a more precise stakeholder mapping, develop a grand strategy, and explore ideas to improve communication tactics to make it more effective, efficient, and relevant.

The findings and recommendations from the communications audit initiated them to form a stakeholder communications representative (SCR). SCR involves representatives of SMI colleagues from various divisions. They play a role in building good relations with stakeholders in their respective business units. So, said Mona, two things are needed in conducting a communication audit: the support of all divisions and the synergy between management and communication implementers. And, of course, the support from the leadership.

Meanwhile, the Communications and Information Services Bureau of the Ministry of Finance (KLI, Ministry of Finance) accommodates communication audits into the Communication Research and Audit Subdivision (RISA) organizational structure. According to the Head of the KLI Bureau of the Ministry of Finance, Rahayu Puspasari, since 2020, audit and communication evaluation activities have been included in one of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI), or they call it the Main Performance Index (Indeks Kinerja  Utama/IKU).

The implementation of a communication audit is crucial because it helps them know stakeholders’ responses and input from the public. Thus, they can align the message delivered with public expectations. “Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity,” she said.

Steps Needed
Meanwhile, according to the Managing Director of DASA Strategic Communication SAM August Himmawan, audits can be carried out at the planning and evaluation stages. Usually, the reason for conducting an audit at the planning stage is because the client needs the basis, grounds, data, and information to determine the communication strategy and program that will be carried out.

On the other hand, an audit at the evaluation stage is carried out because the client wants to know the effectiveness of the communication program, perceptions, feedback from each stakeholder, as well as messages, media, and communication channels that have an impact. In addition, it is also to find out the gap between strategy and implementation, including recommendations for future communication strategies and programs. “The practice of communication audits is crucial. Like financial audits or others, communication audits should also be carried out regularly every year,” he said.

CEO and Principal Consultant at Kiroyan Partners Verlyana (Veve) Hitipeuw summarizes at least five steps that need to be taken when conducting a communications audit. First, determine the scope of the audit. Second, look back at the communication goals that have been selected at the beginning when planning communication activities. Third, collecting supporting data either through secondary research such as studying the results of media and social media monitoring, activity reports, and primary research such as through interviews, FGDs, or surveys.

Fourth, analyze the data collected and then compare the gap between the goals to be achieved and the current situation. Fifth, draw conclusions and formulate recommendations/strategies in the future. Ideally, said Veve, the communication audit process is carried out by an external party. The goal is that the results obtained are more objective and avoid internal bias.* Ratna Kartika

 

This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 76th Edition, issued on July 2021, page 6-7.

 

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