A communications-based audit assesses the state of your brand and the communications from it. To conduct your audit, you want to look over your target audience selection, competitive landscape, internal brand, internal messages, and external communications.
Mindset for a Brand Audit
To do this audit well, you must let go of what you know and step into this process with an open mind. Don’t be so emotionally attached to what you have in place that you are unwilling to explore the possibilities of optimizing what you are doing or pivoting.
Review Your Target Audience
With this said, I will assume that you have been operating for six months to a year and had an ideal client and subsequent target audience in mind when creating communications for your business. Is your target audience still the same, or has it changed?
If it has evolved, have you conducted new target market research to learn about your new target audience’s wants, needs, attitudes, behaviors, hobbies, and communication preferences? If not, it is time to conduct this research to inform your brand and business direction.
If possible, go beyond just conducting desk research and reach out to past, current, and prospective clients to ask questions you would like answers to about your brand. Ten questions you can ask, preferably over the phone, would be the following:
How old are you?
When considering using a service like mine, what makes you say yes to working together?
When considering using a service like mine, what problem(s) are you looking to solve?
If you wanted to look for a service like mine, what would you do first to find someone like me?
What do you do in your free time?
Before learning about my business, were you going to attempt to handle your issue on your own? If not, who were you thinking of getting help from?
What are your most pressing service needs?
Review Your Competitive Landscape
These questions perfectly lead us into your competitors. Are you clear about who you are competing with these days? You may be competing with other companies, your clients, or partners. It doesn’t make sense to know what all your direct and indirect competitors are doing when conducting market research.
Often, there are too many to keep up with, but looking at 3-10 can help you gain perspective. Every six months, you should see what others are doing in your competitive landscape to see how you can better serve your clients.
Look at areas of similarity to ensure you are offering the basics of your industry. If the majority of those in your industry have a mobile application, you may want to think about creating one as well.
Also, look at areas of your business where you are different and double down on them. This observation will help you to stand out from the competition. Essentially, look at your competition from inspiration. Be inspired, and don’t plagiarize.
Review Your Internal Brand Pillars
With a better understanding of your target market and competitive landscape, it is time for your to look at your internal brand. Your internal brand consists of your brand vision, mission, values, and essence statements.
Your brand vision statement expresses how you want your brand to impact the world. Your mission statement conveys how you plan to achieve your vision using the resources, skills, and tools at your disposal. Values guide your brand behaviors. And your brand essence statement encapsulates the core objective of your business as the North Star for your business.
Without internal brand clarity, you risk building a brand that does not support your business goals and objectives. Reviewing your internal brand ensures that your brand’s direction still makes sense and aligns with what you are still doing and focused on accomplishing.
Then you must ask yourself whether your internal brand statements are meaningful to your ideal client or target audience, especially if any of the above has changed for your business.
Review Your Internal Communications
Another aspect of your internal communications to be reviewed should be your internal communications. If you are working with a team of others, are you reinforcing your internal brand through your messaging?
Does your team know your internal brand pillars and how they should impact the way they operate? If not, think about how you can institutionalize your internal brand internally and even hire based on your brand values.
Review Your Brand Personality
Now that you’ve made it this far into your brand audit, what is your brand’s personality? There are 12 brand archetypes. Is your brand archetype still serving you well? Is it attracting the type of clients you were hoping it would? If not, it may be time to consider another personality type of your business, especially if your target audience has changed.
For example, suppose your demographic target’s income level has changed. In this case, you may want to appeal more to those who have money and power like the Ruler Archetype or shift to a personality that supports price-conscious clients like the Everyman Archetype.
Since the archetype/personality of your brand largely influences your brand’s tone of voice, colors, and typography, be sure to review the alignment of these brand elements with your brand personality as well, even if your brand personality hasn’t changed.
It is easy for any business to start strong with expressing their brand personality through their messaging and then get busy because life happens and not stick with remaining on brand.
Review Your External Communications
But do not stop with the review of your brand personality. Look over past and current content (website, emails, posts, etc.) and visuals through the lens of your brand personality and update your content where needed to ensure consistency. Then, review your content and visuals, thinking about whether the jobs you are doing for others are still the same and if the emotional rewards make sense too.
Consistency builds trust, and trust will result in profits. Given this, try to select and stick with one brand personality unless you must make changes due to a drastic shift in your business model or who you are serving.
Lastly, what is your brand position and story? Both are a culmination of your internal brand pillars, target audience profile, key messages, areas where you stand out from your competition, and the most relevant functional and emotional value you can offer to your target audience.
What To Do After Your Audit
With a full audit of your brand, you can then make a list of things to start, stop, or continue to do, with a timeline for implementing them. Capitalize on your insights, and be sure to audit your brand six months after this one.