A communications-based audit assesses the state of your brand and the messaging from it. To conduct your audit, you want to examine 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 already 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 have now.
Review Your Target Audience
Not to overlook your years of operation, if you have been operating your business or organization for six months to a year and have an ideal consumer and subsequent target audience in mind when creating communications for your business or organization, 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 consumers to ask questions you would like answers to about your brand. For example, 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 independently? If not, who were you thinking of turning to for help?
What are your most pressing service needs?
Review Your Competitive Landscape
These questions perfectly lead us to continue this article with a discussion about your competitors. Are you clear about who you are competing with these days? You could be competing with businesses similar to yours or an indirect competitor, which could even be the same type of person you are trying to help.
However, regarding direct competitors, you may find many. Just look at 3 to 10 for this exercise to understand your competitive landscape. Considering this tidbit, put some time aside to check out your competitive landscape every 3 to 6 months.
Once you’ve identified your initial set of competitors, look at areas of your business and theirs for similarities, given your competitor isn’t your consumer base, to see if you are meeting standard consumer expectations for your industry. For example, 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 to establish your competitive edge. This observation will help you stand out from your 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 you to look at your internal brand. Your internal brand consists of your brand vision, mission, values, and mantra.
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 mantra encapsulates the core objective of 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 accomplishing.
Then you must ask yourself whether your internal brand statements are meaningful to your stakeholders and target audience, especially if any of the above has changed for your business.
Review Your Internal Communications
Another aspect of your brand to be reviewed should be your internal communications. For example, if you are working with a team, 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 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 consumers you were hoping it would? If not, it may be time to consider another personality type for 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 consumers 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 fail to be vigilant about sticking to the strategy over time to remain on-brand.
Review Your External Communications
But do not stop with the review of your brand personality. Instead, 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 too. 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.
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.
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.