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The Communications Audit Process and Its Significance to a Public Relations Firm

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Summary: For a small PR firm or an experienced counselor who operates as a single-person consultancy, the communications audit process mirrors the transformation that is taking place among large PR and advertising agencies alike.

Does your firm need a communications audit process?
The potential to expand a public relations firm's or consultant's role beyond its basic corporate and/or marketing public relations charter is one that every practitioner ought to pursue as a priority new business development strategy.
Consider that virtually all corporate and marketing communications activities stem from the same wellspring: outstanding copy writing coupled with a "nose for news" to divine what's most marketable about a company. That's clearly the public relations professional's forte as well as the likely foundation for the existing client relationship. Thus it is not much of a stretch to apply that underlying expertise and client knowledge to other services under the communications or marketing umbrella.

Don't let your unfamiliarity with graphics and design or with advertising production and media buying inhibit this potential to grow an existing client relationship into new areas. If necessary, form a strategic alliance with a small graphic-design firm or advertising agency to cooperatively reinforce the ability to offer an expanded menu of services.
Conducting a "communications audit" as a special assignment is highly recommended to support the effort to build an expanded relationship. The objective of the audit is to identify a client's corporate and marketing communications opportunities and needs. This process not only serves the public relations counselor's business-development objectives, but it also becomes a strategic consulting platform on which to advise a client.
The audit should seek to detail and establish a time line for a company's full calendar of corporate, financial, sales, marketing, and promotional milestones. The resulting report itemizes timing and functional responsibility for everything from annual shareholder meetings and quarterly financial reports to trade show activities, customer/dealer relations programs, sales meetings, new product introductions, packaging and collateral materials development, and other activities. The ensuing discussion can lead to the realization that there's an economic as well as a productivity benefit from consolidating many of these not-so-disparate corporate and marketing communications activities with one resource.
For the small public relations firm or the experienced counselor who operates as a single-person consultancy, this process mirrors the transformation that is taking place among large public relations and advertising agencies alike. The lines of specialization are blurring as these firms recast themselves as corporate and marketing communications generalists able to handle everything from the most basic public relations or media relations activities to the whole array of advertising and marketing communications activities.
On a smaller scale, this diversification should be a key opportunity for growth for the smaller public relations organization. Expanding existing client relationships should always be among any public relations firm's highest business development priorities, and the communications audit process presents a strong case for this growth.
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