Every communication activity requires adequate resources. But if other communication activities could continue, then why is communications audit often neglected?
In fact, according to Kiroyan Partners CEO and Principal Consultant Verlyana (Veve) Hitipeuw, conducting communications audits could enable public relations practitioners to get a complete picture of the communications process in the company/organization and assist in the development of future operating procedures that suits the company. “They will know which ones are performing well, which ones are not and what should be done going forward. This is the most important thing,” said Veve through a written statement to PR INDONESIA, Thursday (22/7/2021).
Unfortunately, many public relations practitioners still do not perceive communications audit as a necessity. To this day, communications activities are generally only measured based on tangible indicators. For instance, the number of articles published, the media that attend to cover the event, or the festivities. Despite the fact that this is only a facade and does not provide a comprehensive reflection of the communications’ effectiveness.
“Don’t view communications audit as a complicated or expensive additional burden. To such extent that it becomes an excuse not to do it. Instead, we should see it as a necessity and part of the communication process,” said Veve. She continued, if this audit has become a necessity, the PR will plan and work on it from the start. “So, what needs to be changed is our perspective in looking at the audit itself,” she added.
Understanding and Being Certain
The good news is, said Veve, there are ways we can do to get started. First, we must understand and are confident that a communications audit is a part of our organization’s communication process. We can convince other people, including the leadership, regarding the communications audit function if we are confident. If you have received support from the company policymakers, it is likely that the next steps can be implemented.
Furthermore, PR must ensure from the outset that all parties involved understand the purpose of the communications audit process and their respective roles. There are times when a lack of understanding becomes the biggest challenge in the communications audit process. “There should be no miscommunication,” said the woman who is also a lecturer in the Communication Audit course, Global Strategic Communication Department at Swiss German University.
Meanwhile, from an organizational perspective, one must be able to open up and not act defensively, especially if the findings show that things are not going well and need improvement. “We need to accept it gracefully instead of blaming the auditors. Accept the audit results for the good of the organization and ourselves,” she added.
One thing that is important to note, organizations often tend to be more concerned with external stakeholders. On the contrary, internal stakeholders are the key to the success of the organizational performance, which will determine reputation. The audit coverage can also be adjusted to the needs of the organization. From internal emails and newsletters to communications with the public, it can all be audited.
The adjustment could also be applied for the time period. For example, if the initial goal is to establish a communications program for three years, conducting a communications audit in the middle of the second year is advisable. This is to find out what needs to be improved. Apply the same thing in year three to make improvements from previous years.
As for the concrete steps, Veve described them into five stages. First, determine the scope of the audit. Second, look back at the communication goals that have been selected at the beginning during the planning of communications activities. Third, collect supporting data either through secondary research such as assessing the results of media and social media monitoring, activity reports, as well as primary research such as through interviews, FGDs, or surveys.
Fourth, analyze the data collected and examine whether there is a gap between the objectives and the current situation. Lastly, conclude and formulate recommendations/strategies moving forward. “A communications audit will not be useful if we do not make plans and follow-up actions based on the recommendations of the audit results. So, don’t just stop at the audit,” she said.
Ideally, said Veve, the communications audit process should be carried out by an external party. Despite the additional costs, it has many advantages. First, the results obtained are more objective and avoid internal bias. Second, as experts in communications audit carry out the work, the results could be expected to be more optimal. Lastly, it will not interfere with the routine work/programs of the internal PR team.
Even so, it does not mean that internal parties/company communication teams cannot carry out communications audits. This method also has its own advantages, one of which is that it does not require too much cost. Second, it does not require an onboarding process. Because most likely, all parties involved already know each other.
However, there are a few things that public relations practitioners need to pay attention to when choosing this method. Among other things, not to be objective/biased, internal auditors do not have adequate knowledge and experience. Also, it can interfere with the routine work of the company’s communication team.
According to Veve, if a communications audit is seen as necessary, like any other communication activity, public relations practitioners will definitely try to implement it. Therefore, there should be no reason that the audit cannot be carried out because one has to pay consultants and the fees are expensive.
This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 76th Edition, issued on July 2021, pages 14-15.
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