Taking an objective look at your communications programs and the impact they have on your constituents is a crucial part of your marketing plan. The best way to achieve that is to audit your communications.
Benefits of Auditing Your Communications
Why go through the effort to review your pieces, analyze results, make comparisons, and benchmark against other schools?
Consistency and quality: On a basic level, you’ll ensure that your website, ads, and documents, especially those you use as templates, are well-written, error-free, and up-to-date. On a more strategic level, you can determine if your messaging, brand, voice, and positioning are consistent across various media and also across departments (see “campaign integration” below).
Performance improvement: You put a lot of effort into your emails, newsletters, and ads. Presumably you want to know how they help your team meet your school’s larger strategic and specific communications objectives. Does your enrollment marketing drive more leads and applications? Does your parent and student communication help retention efforts? Do your development campaigns draw interest from alumni and other groups, and help you exceed your fundraising goals? Does your marketing achieve a strong ROI and assist with employee retention? There are two main ways to answer these questions: comparing your current marketing programs to those of previous years, and to those of your peers and top schools.
Best Practices: Are you taking advantage of advances in web management, video, and social media?
Is your website responsive, i.e., does it know what device the reader is using and adapt the presentation?
Are you harnessing the power of video to communicate your message, and if so, are videos placed on
your website, YouTube or Vimeo, and/or social media? Are you testing across various media to assess
the effectiveness of your campaigns? You can find best practices used by leading organizations in and
outside of education that offer guidance on “how to” analyze and maximize the influence of your
Constituent Interests: As you analyze your email clicks, social media engagement, and web page visits,
you can gain valuable knowledge on what’s important to your parents, alumni and prospective families.
Though many topics must be covered in each specific campaign, insights from your audit can give you new ideas on not only the focus of your communications but also on new activities and possibly even new or updated arts or academic offerings.
Campaign integration: Stepping back to review your communications holistically offers a terrific opportunity to confirm your pieces are not only consistent and error-free but also strategically aligned. Do you describe your school’s core values and emphasize its key attributes fairly uniformly to your diverse constituents? While it is fine, in fact desirable, to target a specific message to a potential student in a follow-up to a visit, or celebrate a retired faculty member in an alumni fund appeal, most school-driven communications should focus on core messages about shared goals, priorities, successes, and challenges.
Innovation and efficiency: Many breakthroughs in thought, design and implementation have come from looking at practices with fresh eyes, a major reason that an audit is best conducted by an “outsider” (see part II for details). Breaking old habits is hard, whether in look and feel or in following a process. After reviewing and benchmarking, while you may have renewed confidence in your approach, you may also make creative or operational advances.
What Communications Should You Audit?
Most schools have a standard array of communications and marketing materials, though they may differ in which group manages them, e.g., in some schools, enrollment campaigns may be run by Admissions and alumni programs by Development, versus all moving through the Communications group. In these cases, your audit is more critical than ever to ensure the common language and strategic alignment noted above. Here are the primary communications channels to analyze, at a high level:
Enrollment marketing programs
Fundraising marketing programs
PR and general media