How effectively are you communicating your brand?

By Lynn Manternach / Guest Editorial

As we ponder communications planning and budgets for 2015, now is a good time to take a step back and think about the big picture.

We’re all operating in a rapidly changing environment. Competitors change, consumer perceptions change, and our products and services change. Through all that, the brand remains consistent. But how we communicate it needs to change, as well.

That adds up to a lot of details to track. As you think about how to increase the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, it might be time for a communications audit.

A communications audit is a careful and systematic look at how an organization communicates, both internally and externally. It can be a huge production with a significant budget, outside consultants and multi-month timeline – or it can be implemented internally on a smaller scale, using existing resources. It’s all a matter of your objectives and intended outcomes.

If you plan to conduct the audit yourself without outside assistance, it’s important to keep the scope tight and focused. There are two key areas to include in a basic audit. First is an analysis of the tangible items you have produced for communications purposes over the past year. Second is an understanding of how internal and external stakeholders perceive the materials you have created.


Collect and evaluate current communications

Gather all of the existing collateral material that is currently in use. Include your standard identity pieces (business cards, letterhead, logo, signage, etc.), promotional materials, digital communications and social media platform content. Consider any special events or trade shows if they are important communications tactics with external audiences.

Make sure you include internal communications materials as well. Your brand starts inside your organization, so communications aimed at internal audiences especially need to align with the brand.

It is helpful to create a master chart that organizes information for each item, such as timeframe, audience, reach (how many printed pieces, how many Facebook fans/Twitter followers you have, how many people receive your e-newsletter, how many people visit your website, etc.), cost and staff time. Also include any known return on investment information you might have to help determine which communications best lead people to taking the action you want them to take.

Next, take a close look at each piece and analyze it for overall effectiveness, consistency, clarity, accuracy and call to action. From a branding perspective, look at how well each piece communicates your brand position and promise.

Is your logo/wordmark/tagline and contact information used consistently on every piece? Would someone recognize all the pieces as being produced by the same organization? Is there design consistency between your printed and digital communications? Are you communicating one or two main strategic messages throughout your communications mix?

By the end of this phase of the audit, you should have a pretty good idea of ways you can improve the effectiveness of your collateral materials in the future.


Talk to internal and external stakeholders

The next phase is focused on understanding how well you are communicating your brand through the materials and messages you have developed.

Can your targeted stakeholders articulate your brand? Do they perceive your brand the way you intended them to? Which communications do they tend to pay attention to and why? Do they understand your key messages? Do they find your communications engaging? Relevant? Informative? Accessible?

Consider an online survey, interviews or focus groups to gather the insight you need. You don’t need a huge survey effort to get the insight you need. Even as few as a dozen completed surveys or interviews within each specific stakeholder group will help you understand how your brand is perceived. More importantly, the answers will help you understand how to tweak your materials for better results.

Conducting a communications audit is helpful for organizations of all sizes. For smaller organizations, it can be a very helpful annual exercise to make sure resources are being deployed most effectively. Make sure you take the time to build an action plan to detail the next steps. An audit can be eye-opening, but the true value comes from the actions that are taken as a result.



Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. ( in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire. Contact Lynn at