A communication audit is a comprehensive evaluation of an institution or corporation’s communication process. Unfortunately, not many PR practitioners conduct communication audits for various reasons.
At least, that is the picture that PR INDONESIA obtained after conducting a quantitative survey of 60 respondents, all of whom are in the Public Relations (PR) profession from across institutions/corporations. Of the total respondents, 37 percent stated that they had conducted a communication audit within the last five years. While the other 63 percent never had.
Both respondents who had and had not conducted a communication audit generally agreed that a communication audit could be implemented if the top management fully supported it. In addition, it also required the same perception and understanding from top to bottom of the company about the benefits and impacts of a communication audit for business sustainability.
At its core, 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 that occur both in organizational groups and external stakeholders related to topics, sources, channels, frequency, period of time, to the 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 have yet to realize that many organizations have failed due to communication problems. Smooth communication practices will ultimately produce quality information and foster trust, reputation improvement, and organization sustainability. In fact, because of the importance of communication audit, Communication Auditor SKKNI has been established since 2015. What is certain, she said, the essence of audit is integrity and needs to come from eagerness to improve.
Pupuk Indonesia Holding Company (PIHC) is one of the state-owned enterprises that has conducted a communication audit. The reason behind it, according to SVP Corporate Communication of PT Pupuk Indonesia (Persero) Wijaya Laksana, if it was a battle, they didn’t want to be like the Hulk who attacked indiscriminately, even though there was only one target. Instead, they wanted to be like Hawkeye, who only needed one shot yet never missed. This could only be done, one of which is by conducting a communication audit.
They engaged a communication consultant as a third party when they conducted the communication audit. The objectives were to map the perceptions of internal and external stakeholders towards the company, analyze communication strategies and practices that have been carried out thus far, and recommend future communication strategies and plans. The findings showed that respondents wanted the board of directors to appear more often in public, there was a need for crisis communication guidelines, clear positioning, and the existence of communication barriers between internal PIHC and its subsidiaries. “The results and impact of the communications audit were enormous for our division, as well as for the company as an institution. In the end, we could contribute more optimally in helping the company to achieve its strategic intent,” he said.
Similar with PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (Persero). To this date, the company known as PT SMI has conducted two communications audits in 2017 and 2019. According to PT SMI’s Head of Corporate Secretary Ramona Harimurti, the communication audit is a means of introspection. From the communication audit, they could conduct a more precise stakeholder mapping develop a grand strategy, including exploring ideas to improve the implementation of communication tactics to be more effective, efficient and relevant.
The findings and recommendations from the communication audit initiated them to form a Stakeholder Communications Representative (SCR). SCR involves representatives of SMI colleagues from various divisions taking part in building good relations with stakeholders in their respective business units. Therefore, Mona said, there were two things needed in conducting a communication audit. First, the support of all divisions. Second is the synergy between management and communication implementers. And, of course, the support from the top management.
Meanwhile, the Communications and Information Services Bureau (Biro Komunikasi dan Layanan Informasi/KLI Bureau) of the Ministry of Finance accommodates communication audit into the organizational structure of its Communication Research and Audit (Riset dan Audit Komunikasi/RISA) Subdivision. 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 as one of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) or what they refer to as Main Performance Index (Indeks Kinerja Utama/IKU).
A communication audit is important as it helps them understand the responses of stakeholders and feedback from the public. So they could align the messages relayed with the public expectations. “Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity,” said her.
The Need for Stages
Meanwhile, according to the Managing Director of DASA Strategic Communication SAM, namely August Himmawan, audits could be carried out during the planning and/or evaluation stages. Usually, the reason for conducting an audit at the planning stage is because the client needs a basis, reason, data and information to determine the communication strategy and program that would be implemented.
While audit at the evaluation stage is carried out because the client wants to know the effectiveness of its communication program, as well as perceptions and feedback from each stakeholder. Also, to identify impactful messages, media, and communication channels. In addition, to find the gap between strategy and implementation. Last but not least, 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 on a yearly basis,” he said.
CEO and Principal Consultant of Kiroyan Partners, Verlyana (Veve) Hitipeuw, summarized there are at least five steps that need to be taken in conducting a communications audit. First, determine the scope of the audit. Second, look back at the communication goals that have been determined at the beginning when planning communication activities. Third, collect supporting data through secondary research, such as studying the results of media and social media monitoring, activity reports, as well as primary research, such as through interviews, FGDs, or surveys.
Fourth, analyze data collected and compare if there is a gap between the goals to be achieved and the current situation. Fifth, draw conclusions and formulate recommendations/strategies going forward. Ideally, said Veve, the communication audit process is carried out by an external party. The goal is that the results obtained will be more objective and to avoid internal bias.* Ratna Kartika
This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 76th Edition, issued on July 2021, pages 6-7.
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