Always a good place to start. Looking in detail at your existing communication activity – everything from your website to team briefings and written instructions to one-off campaigns – will help you decide what is working well and what is not. A thorough audit involves talking to people who receive communication as well as those who develop and deliver it. It also means asking lots of questions to really dig down into underlying issues around what resources are available, who has specific responsibility for communication and the purpose of different activities and whether you’re getting the outcomes you want.
This communication audit factsheet will give you an idea of what to cover. It can help to bring in external support like WriteCare to look at your communication activity with fresh eyes and challenge assumptions.
You may think you already have more than enough organisational policies, but communication really deserves its own – not least because it sends out the message that you’re taking it seriously. If you have one already, does it mainly focus on external communication like media relations, corporate materials (such as your annual report), crisis communication and legal and ethical issues like data protection and confidentiality? Going further than that, setting out clear standards, behaviours and commitments relating to internal communication and information for people who use your services as well, will make it a policy everyone can sign up to. It also acts as a basis for more detailed planning and strategic thinking.
You’ll find some ideas for what to include in your policy in this factsheet on planning effective communication.
You don’t want to waste time, effort and resources on communication that has no impact. Every communication activity you plan should have definite outcomes in mind, and set out ways to measure whether these are being achieved. You might want people to take a certain action as a result, or behave or think differently. The purpose may be pretty obvious – for example, if instructions are proving hard to understand and follow, producing clearer ones should speed up tasks and reduce errors, inconsistencies or requests for help.
You may find this measuring communication factsheet useful in thinking about outcomes and indicators.