The barriers to growth for a company often lie in one of three possible issues with the marketing and communications program — the wrong strategy, lack of integration or incorrect resourcing. Conduct an annual audit of your marketing and communications program to provide clarity on strengths and gaps, but most importantly, on where you need to add resources and where you can reduce them. Not only is this smart business management, but it will also prove to be good for business.
Most often, I find companies lack a defined strategy or their strategy is not aligned with business needs and objectives. A well-defined strategy not only provides execution guide rails for the team but can also save valuable resources for the company.
The second most common gap I see is a lack of integrated planning. While it’s difficult to achieve, integrated planning is essential for reducing drag and improving the effectiveness of all the marcom disciplines. It has the power to improve your return on spend (ROS) and make your marketing budget go further. Often, teams make the mistake of planning by discipline rather than planning as a function. It takes time and discipline to plan together, and that is why companies usually don’t do it, but integrated planning often yields more creative and powerful programs that cost less to implement.
When strategy and planning are off, this is usually an indicator that an organization is lacking that capability or that the resourcing approach is incorrect. In a small organization, the team is often expected to do more than they are equipped to do, or they are stretched so thin that they take shortcuts on fundamentals such as strategy, planning and analytics — or worse, they completely skip them. If you don’t have the existing talent, outsource these three phases, but don’t underestimate their importance. These factors help determine a company’s growth (or lack thereof) and the success or failure of a company.
Taking a hard look at your talent is not about a lack of trust. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is about creating trust and showing empathy. Setting individuals up to succeed versus throwing them into the deep end builds trust and loyalty. This, in turn, enables you to recruit and retain the best talent. You can provide opportunities to grow while providing a safety net for them and the company.
Every audit I do is a little different because they are based on what the company’s issues and needs are, but below is a high-level overview of the process.
1. Leadership interviews to understand the needs and expectations for comms. Sample questions include:
• What are the business objectives and challenges?
• What is the impression of the current comms program?
• What does success look like?
• Who do you compete against?
2. Comparison audit against a benchmark entity or competitor:
• Owned channels.
• Earned coverage.
• Social activity.
3. Program audits, including:
• Employee interviews and job description evaluations.
• Reporting practices.
Approach these with the goal of providing immediate and actionable steps to improve the team’s approach and yield relevant business results. Put findings in a document with observations, recommendations and best practice examples to ensure the team can work against each recommendation and toward a well-honed marketing communications team.