Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
February 23, 2009

How A Culture Audit Can Help You Position Your Organization For Success

Before we can build an effective communication system inside our organization, we have to start with research to identify the communication problems and potential opportunities for improvement.  This requires a thorough look at the history, the leadership, the politics, the personality and the communication channels of an organization.  We need to truly understand our audience(s) – and what they see as the real or perceived barriers to One Clear Voice communication. 

What Methodology Is Best For Your Audience?
The methodology is critical, and often a variety of evaluation tools is needed to reach different audience.  For example:

  • Are you sending email surveys that don’t reach 30% of your employee audience, because they’re out in the field and not able to get to a kiosk?  
  • Have you gone beyond asking about intranet visits to probe likely behaviors around the use of podcasts, blogs and other emerging social media? 

The key is in asking the right questions through the right channels … and then acting on what is learned.
Is Your Organization “Walking The Talk?”
We begin with a hard look at the organization’s mission, vision & values.

  • Do employees know them?  
  • Do employees believe them?  
  • Are the key messages reflected in communication tools like newsletters, brochures and the intranet?  

A look at an organization’s policy and benefits statements, employee orientation program and turnover statistics will often speak volumes about the degree to which an organization is “walking the talk”.�

When analyzing the data, it’s often helpful to identify 3 categories of solutions: 

  1. “Low hanging fruit” for immediate impact
  2. “Short-term fixes” (6 months – 1 year) 
  3. “Long term projects”

Ultimately, a fourth category will emerge:  “Simply not going to happen”.  Saying so is fine – as long as you have a clear explanation why that’s the case.

Role Model From The Top
It’s very important to have the support of the CEO and/or senior leadership team as cheerleaders for the culture audit.  Their willingness to participate in the audit sends the symbolic message that they are ready to make and support changes.  It is important that the audit examine three – way communication – top-down, bottom-up and lateral.  Everyone, at all levels, has to be willing to be candid about what needs to change – and to provide ideas for solutions.

Add The Perspective of External Audiences
Although most culture audits focus on the internal audience, it’s sometimes helpful to add the perceptions of those working closely with the organization – from Board members to community opinion leaders.  This input can help the organization focus external messages as it is building a communication system inside that allows the organization to speak with one voice.

Working Smarter, Not Harder
A third-party expert review of materials, done in a scientific way, can help you better focus existing communication tools, and eliminate those that aren’t useful.  For example, ask these questions:

  1. Do our materials reflect the “family look” of the organization?  
  2. Are branding messages consistent from brochure to intranet to town hall meetings?  
  3. Do we know how our audiences prefer to receive their information?

For more information on how a culture audit can help your organization, contact:  Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA; Senior Counsel & Partner; Jackson Jackson & Wagner.

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSABy Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA, senior counsel at Jackson Jackson & Wagner. Robin Schell  has 20 years of consulting experience and specializes in strategic planning, effective internal and external communication systems, constituency relations programs and behavioral research.

Join Schell for her two-day seminar, “PR Boot Camp: Key Concepts and Techniques of Effective Public Relations,” Tuesday, February 2–Wednesday, February 3 in San Fransisco, CA!

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