Communication Audits

A communications audit (a.k.a. marketing audit) gathers top executives to re-examine the firm’s marketing problems and its external communications.. In this audit, we are auditing the integrity of our perceptions of the marketplace and how our product offering matches it:

Roger S. Peterson uses this technique to help management uncover hidden disagreements that keep them from operating in unison.

  • What are our assumptions about the market place and are they correct?
  • What is our sustainable competitive advantage (SCA)?
  • What it is that we really sell here?
  • Does our market strategy reflects that SCA?
  • What tactics will work with that SCA and strategy? Test your market strategy -- free
  • Can we all reach CONSENSUS on this audit and allow Marketing to do its job?

To learn more, read the following article Roger S. Peterson wrote for the Sacramento Business Journal.

Communications audits uncover hidden disputes
By Roger S. Peterson, PCM™
© The Sacramento Business Journal, April 13, 2001. Reprinted with permission.

Here are some shockers - of course, none of them applies to you.

While most companies claim to have a market strategy, they rarely do. Also, it’s common for key executives to discover belatedly that they disagree on a core issue without knowing they’ve been disagreeing. And many companies cannot explain from the customers’ perspective what they really sell.

To get to the basics like the puzzling ones just mentioned I start client relationships with a strategy session called a communications audit. Its goal is to precisely define the firm’s added value, identify a market strategy, develop a realistic yet flexible marketing plan and get everyone to sign off on it.

Occasionally, I begin audits by asking executives to write down their market strategy -- in one sentence. After five minutes of lip biting and a cacophony of Mont Blancs scratching out sentences that missed the cut, I read their versions aloud. Without exception, in every audit I have facilitated, each person wrote out a different strategy.

Strategy is typically confused with An objective or vague goal: “Well, we intend to be the biggest widget maker west of the Mississippi!” Not only is this not a strategy, it’s an imprecise and immeasurable objective.

Tactics: “Our strategy is to advertise and attend all the tradeshows.” That’s marketing that begs for focus...and leads.

Mission statements: “Our strategy is to serve our customers, employees and community.” Some executives actually believe such sugar cubes are billboards for their corporate commitment, but most of them read like those signs hanging over cubes in a Dilbert cartoon.

Strategy requires thinking that hurts ...thinking until you are ready to scream. Anybody who jots down their strategy while “doing lunch” should be required to disclose their naiveté to the SEC so stockholders can get the heck out of Dodge.

So what are the essentials of a communications audit?

An objective outside facilitator armed with big picture ‘macro’ questions and precise ‘micro’ questions.

Meet on a Saturday or off-site -- strategic thinking and interruptions don’t mix.

Consensus -- everyone signs-off on the audit’s summary document and marketing plan so your marketing department can implement the identified strategy -- with authority.

Watch for the warning signs of marketing failure that a communications audit can help diagnose and cure:

  • Is there chronic friction between your sales people and your marketing department?
  • Does it take forever to get everyone’s agreement on anything in marketing?
  • Someone you respect looked at your website and still can’t describe how you differ from your competitors.
  • Your ad agency can’t seem to come up with anything that pleases anybody.


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