How to carry out internal communication audits

When was the last time you audited your company’s internal communication?

This month I wrote a short guide for the Institute of Internal communication, @IoICNews, to help internal communicators navigate through some of the options that surround IC audits and make choices that are right for your organisation.

It was the first in a series of guides that are being published by IoIC under a new initiative called “nuts and bolts.” You can read the information I wrote below:

How to carry out internal communication audits

audit‘Audit’ means to listen (it comes from the Latin word auditus, which means ‘to hear’), and this is a great mindset to be in when thinking about your company’s communication.

An audit is an evaluation of activity, or objective report, and can take many forms.

Why audit?

The primary purpose of an internal communication audit should be to ensure everything is aligned to your communication strategy. If it doesn’t fit, is it worth doing?

It should help you answer questions like what’s working well, what employees think, whether messages are clear and what has been effective. Plus it should help you spot opportunities for future improvements and know what to stop doing.

Where to start

Start with the why – it’s critical to know why you’re doing the audit in the first place; determine the purpose to help you keep on track.

With your goal firmly in mind, audits can be a rewarding and revealing way to thoroughly assess how effective your internal communication is and identify actions to take.

Don’t underestimate the time it takes to collate and evaluate data and channels. If you’re serious about conducting an audit, you will need to invest effort, money and resources.

Aspects to think through are:

  • Why you’re auditing your internal communication
  • What will be included (qualitative and quantitative data)
  • Timing: how long it will take
  • Frequency: decide whether you will repeat it every month/six months/year
  • Resources: make sure your aspirations match your available time and budget
  • Impartiality: whether in-house comms team can analyse insights objectively, or whether to outsource to a third-party
  • Appropriate representation: across all functions, roles, levels and locations
  • Communicate the fact you’re doing it
  • What do with the information once you have it
  • Communicating the results and timeline for any actions
  • Evaluation, capturing lessons learned for next time.

What is included in an internal communication audit?

This can vary wildly and largely depends on what you are trying to achieve from reviewing your internal communication.

Ensure you have both quantitative (stats, numbers, surveys) and qualitative (observations, interviews and case studies) data. Having both means you have a rounded picture and have all the facts to hand to enable you to draw conclusions.

I’ve found qualitative data to be incredibly helpful to provide context behind some of the numbers.

If you use stakeholder maps internally or SWOT analyses (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) during your comms planning, you can use them for auditing purposes too.

When I undertake audits, I keep the end goal in mind to keep the whole process focused. Often issues come up that could steer you off course. For example, you could uncover the fact jargon is causing widespread misunderstanding, and identify the need for a glossary. Park this as an action and recommendation as part of your final report.

Who conducts the audit?

I’ve conducted my own audits while working in-house and now have the privilege of doing so on behalf of my clients, so have experienced both sides.

There’s no right or wrong answer; it depends entirely on the organisation, comms team and the resources you have and how open you feel employees will be with you.

It’s also worth considering how objective you are – in other words, whether you can take constructive criticism or positive feedback in the spirit it is shared.

If budget doesn’t allow you to outsource outside your company, particularly facilitating focus groups, think about asking another department, perhaps HR, to conduct them on your behalf.

Focus groups

Internal communication focus groupsMany communicators conduct focus groups as part of their audits. These can be a fantastic way of getting to the root of why communication does or doesn’t flow in your company. They can put context around your intranet visitor numbers, channel readership stats and enable you to hear direct insights.

Before and during, communicate the fact they are happening. Post-focus group, share (broadly) what was discussed, what next steps are and timelines for action and opportunities for employees to continue to have their say in future.

(I took the image on this page in December 2013 when I was running focus groups at the Zoological Society of London, ZSL, as part of a complete communication audit I devised and ran for them. This was the set-up for some of my focus groups).

Final report

The final stage in conducting an internal communication audit is to communicate it. Draw conclusions from all the data you have collated throughout the process, make recommendations and share your findings and thoughts with your relevant stakeholders and the wider business.

Create an action plan and timeline to address or continue to assess your activities and capture lessons learned.

Don’t audit for audit’s sake if you don’t intend to act on the findings – employees quickly get survey fatigue, so make sure you have a plan in place at the beginning to know what you want your end report to look like, e.g. a presentation to your Board.

Finally, good luck and enjoy the process; you’ll gain some valuable insights and be better informed and equipped to know exactly what does and doesn’t work in your organisation, which is never a bad thing.

IoICNuts and bolts
Since publishing my guide last week, another nuts and bolts paper has been published. It looks at 10 key steps for developing a respondent-friendly survey.

You can read more information about the guides in the IoIC LinkedIn group or their website. You can find them on Twitter @IoICnews.

What’s your experience of running internal comms audits? What would you add to my advice? You’re welcome to tweet me @AllthingsIC or comment below.

Post author: Rachel Miller.

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Founder of All Things IC communication consultancy. Chartered PR Practitioner and CIPR Fellow.

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