By Madeline Brooks
Image Credit: www.shellypalmer.com
Audit. The word carries dreaded connotations of taxes, evaluations… but what about communications? Communications audits, which I first learned of at my internship, are systematic evaluations of internal and external communications. By analyzing aspects of an organization’s written, online, and internal communications, one can improve these areas as well as formulate new communication plans. It’s the plan of attack before heading into battle.
Though communications audits are typically performed for organizations, their value extends to personal communications as well. Public relations hopefuls must maintain an arsenal of communication tools to build their personal brand – Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, websites, and Google+, among others. Given the professional value of communication outlets and the amount of time put into them, why not spend an afternoon assessing your use of these tools to make sure you convey your message as effectively as possible?
Auditing your personal communications strategy need not be confusing or require the services of an expensive PR firm. Begin organized and analyze one piece at a time. I recommend filling out a spreadsheet with the following areas of interest:
- Outlets – What platforms do you use to build your brand and communicate with other PR professionals? Think of expanding into additional outlets, or cutting back on others that offer little value in your professional pursuits.
- Audience – You communicate with employers, professors, friends, and family. How will you tailor your messages to each? Does your current communications strategy cater to these groups?
- Tone – No matter your personal brand, your messages and vocabulary should consistently convey this across all communication platforms. Each word in a post or tweet is a building block in your brand. Is your brand solid and consistent, or shaky?
- SWOTs – Most communications audits assess strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. By identifying these aspects, one can see what to keep doing, what to change, and what to look out for in the future.
It’s easy to keep doing more of the same in our communications, but maintaining our current strategy is not the same as improving it. We need to step back and make sure we do not waste effort on ineffective or inconsistent messaging. Pause to research your communications strategy and perfect the next step, whether it’s a LinkedIn update or new blog post.
A personal audit revealed weaknesses in my own communications, from words I use too often (“great”) in tweets, to the woeful neglect of my LinkedIn profile. Personal communications audits require some tough love, but a brief analysis provides a high return on investment. By comparing your communication tactics side by side, it becomes clear which methods complement – or hinder – your professional development. It’s not too late for a little spring cleaning. Audit your personal communications strategy to see what needs work – your tactics should change with time, experience, and feedback. A good communications strategy is never static.
Image Credit: www.yoursix.com
Maddie Brooks is a sophomore communication interest major with a concentration in public relations. She is a Social Media Ambassador and is involved with PRSSA and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. She currently interns with the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation. She hopes to pursue a job in public relations for a healthcare or nonprofit organization after graduation.