Why would your organisation invest in conducting a branding audit?
Because in today’s marketplace, you probably can’t afford not to. Find out how a communications audit can return surprisingly positive bottom-line benefits to your business.
The branding audit – can you afford not to do it?
It is commonplace for organisations to conduct audits. These are usually in response to meeting compliance requirements of one sort or another, as in the areas of finance and OH&S. They are givens and the cost and time they take is considered a necessary part of carrying on business. So why would your organisation invest in conducting a branding audit, which is not demanded by any regulatory body? Because in today’s marketplace, you probably can’t afford not to.
A branding audit is designed to track how a company relates to the environment in which it operates and is a mechanism to help identify strengths and weaknesses as they relate to external opportunities and threats. In a nutshell it takes the guesswork out of writing marketing plans by enabling companies to select a position in an environment based on known factors.
By conducting a systematic, critical and unbiased review of the environment and the company’s operations you can answer the three critical questions of: Where is our company now? Where do we want to go? And, How do we get there?
Economic climates change so rapidly these days and to ignore change you run the risk of falling behind and missing a change in customer trends. By conducting an annual audit of your branding communications you can keep pace with change.
An effective branding audit quantifies the efficiency of your branding and sets a benchmark from which to judge the value of future efforts. So, even through organisational change or the loss of key personnel, there is a point of reference to measure against.
The notion of evaluating communication efforts is a process most organisations conduct intuitively as part of smaller to medium projects. A systematic, documented and enterprise-wide approach is the intelligent way to ensure validity and integrity of large-scale projects.
The benefits are high – cohesion of disparate corporate materials, coordination of efforts across multi-site or de-centralised organisations and clearly defined objectives. It’s all about being proactive and getting your marketing ducks in a row across the organisation, rather than taking a piecemeal approach so often adopted by companies in reaction to a crisis such as falling sales.
How exactly does an audit work? The benefit is that you can set your own “terms of reference” for a communications audit. It can be as simple or as comprehensive as your needs (or budget) demand. It can be carried out entirely by creative agency staff or jointly with your own personnel.
The core element is an objective examination of all your organisation’s communications, from brochures right through to emails and the look of your premises. Materials are reviewed for consistency and quality, according to a points value system. It’s all about how your customers and external contacts see you.
An identical process looks at your competitors’ communications, using the same criteria. The competitor review can be as widespread as is appropriate to your market.
Interviews with employees and clients add more depth and highlight areas worthy of attention.
An independent analysis of the overall audit findings is prepared and presented in report format. It pinpoints weaknesses and strengths, and lists recommendations to address these.
The result will always be more focused objectives, more clearly defined strategies and a basis for prioritising activities. Whether you choose a one-off audit or lock into a yearly review, your company will have a much clearer path.
Of course, not everything an audit turns up is positive. In the same way a financial audit might uncover an unfavourable tax anomaly or a sales analysis could demonstrate that the CEO’s nephew is the only one in the sales department not meeting targets, a branding audit might present you with some nasty findings. But at least you’ll know what is happening. The first step in problem-solving is identifying the issues.
While some organisations are comfortable running with the old “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy, when it comes to your marketing systems you have to ask yourself: How do I know if it’s broke? Without an audit, you probably won’t … not until it’s too late, anyway.