An effective communication review process can make the difference between delivering a clear, consistent company brand message or a mush of mixed messages that are neither cohesive nor convincing. Your brand message should be the center of your communication and an effective review requires mission focus, a rational process and willingness to question accepted communication mediums and messages.
Ten Steps to an Effective Brand Communication Review Process.
Establish a review time frame. To make sure that what you are communicating about your company remains consistent with company mission and plans, plan to do a review at least annually, or risk not achieving fiscal goals.
Develop a list of review process participants. Communication is not just marketing's job, it is everyone's job; so include some of your company's key stakeholders, especially if they have direct contact with customers. These may include your CEO, and representatives of marketing, sales and customer service. Don't forget to include people from manufacturing, inventory/warehouse or distribution, if you make a point of including their contributions in your communication.
Assemble an inventory of company communication items that customers see or hear. This includes, but is not limited to, print collateral materials, print, radio or television advertising, social media pages, product manuals, service order forms, call center scripts, product hang tags, product guarantees, packaging; anything that expresses what your company offers, how it does it and what it promises its customers. Prepare one set for use in the review and if the capability exists, scan the materials and route them ahead of time to review participants.
Prepare copies of your corporate mission statement, marketing plan, your brand platform summary, advertising and social media tracking studies and any other documents as background for the communication materials being reviewed. Either route them to review session participants ahead of time, or have them available in the meeting. The use of logical business documents shifts the review process from a simple “I don't like that color or photo” to a framework of questions like “Do these messages match our goals?” or "Does this stance resonate with the audience we wish to reach?"
Develop an agenda to keep the review process on course and establish meeting goals. It could be a singular goal: “By the end of this review we need to agree on which message will be the core of our communication promise.” Or it could be directional: “This is the first of three meetings to confirm that all messages are in line with the brand strategy document we created last year.”
Provide review direction to attendees, including specific assessment points allowing you to analyze the feedback. Strong brands like NASA set review expectations and goals and a specific review sequence to assess communication continuity. Prepare an assessment check list ranking how well each piece communicates your mission, which might include items like: “message clarity,” “matches our corporate personality,” “emotional appeal,”or “industry leadership potential.” Such a list allows for group feedback, easy tabulation, and removes judgment-clouding emotion.
Ask the tough questions. Refer to the brand document upon which you based your communications work and ask things like; “Is our communication on strategy?" "What is the status of our brand - is it old and established, new and spunky?" and "What does our brand stand for?" This may be where the real communication breakthrough lies.
Make sure that all review participants are heard. Listen carefully to what all stakeholders in the review say about how well the materials represent what they do, and what customers say. Stay objective, even if you are the one who created the communication materials.
Maintain your agenda and if you have not accomplished what you planned in the designated time frame, set a follow-up meeting before you adjourn. If decisions are made during the review, publish follow-up notes to all attendees and, before proceeding with any adjustments to advertising or collateral communications, allow feedback to make sure you have represented decisions correctly.
Refine brand platform, communications materials, processes, media mix and even communication teams based upon the review outcome. When rolling out changes, tell the review stakeholders first and share the credit for changes with them when announcing the news. This sets the stage for your next communication review and announces that company communications programs are a team effort and not just the duty of marketing.
Jan Wondra began writing in 1979 for the "Milwaukee Journal," "Minneapolis & St. Paul Skyway News," Sauk County Media and "Adoptive Family" magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism and design from the University of Wisconsin.