Jami Hahn is the founder of the Forward Communication Strategies and a panelist for the 2017 Ops Webinar Series.
Just the word “audit” tends to make most of us feel ill. Or at least apprehensive. So think of a communication audit as more of a “benchmarking study.” Strategic communication is a critical component in your organization’s ability to reach and exceed business objectives. And just as you would with other key areas of your organization like operations, marketing, and finance, communication must be reviewed, directed, adjusted, and monitored to ensure the best possible outcomes.
To benchmark communication effectively, you want to get a handle on everything that is going out to your franchise network and your home office employees. In one organization I worked with, when I asked leadership how many “touchpoints” went out to the franchise network each week, the answer was “not that many.” When I actually tracked that number down, it was closer to 15-20 emails per week from various departments. That’s roughly 80 emails a month, or 75 too many. You add that to phone calls, webinars, direct mail, field visits, and virtual meetings, and you’ve got a recipe for communication failure.
That’s not to say it’s not fixable. I find many organizations are doing a lot of the right things, just not in a strategic or effective way. For many, with just some minor tweaking and a little course redirection, they’re on their way to better outcomes and greater franchisee and employee engagement. Even bigger changes aren’t that hard, either, once you apply what you know about today’s communication to what you know about the organization’s objectives.
Focus groups can be extremely helpful in this effort. Numbers tell you only half of the story. It’s the insight from those who receive the communication that really help you define what’s working, what’s missing and what needs to happen next. I have found most franchise owners are all too willing to talk to you about communication, so you’ll want a good cross-section of your network to get a true picture of what’s happening. It’s also helpful to include home office staff to better understand their needs and how they work with the network. Sometimes, it’s not the message or delivery method that’s not working, it’s just not going to the right audience at the right time.
The key to an effective audit is how you use the information you gather. Once you determine where you are at, where you want to go, and the best way to get there, you’ll want to put the right measurements or KPIs in place to monitor your plan. Consistent execution is crucial. Strategic communication is all about connecting the right people with the right information at the right time to move your business objectives forward. And since you’re dealing with people, you’ll need to constantly adjust and evolve your communication strategy based on the information available. For most businesses, a comprehensive benchmarking study is good to do every 2-3 years, depending on the speed of change in your organization. A “progress report” – or a brief check-up on the impact of your plan – is good to do annually. These help you affect the race during the race, and ensure you are getting the results you want from your communication strategy.