January 25, 2023 |

16 minutes |

How to make a bulletproof PR Audit Step by Step

PR auditing is a process of evaluating your PR strategy. It aims to determine whether it's achieving its objectives, such as increasing brand recognition and sales and also to gain insight into how the public perceives your messaging. An external PR firm will usually carry out a PR audit. Here we look at a public relations audit definition, purpose, and example.

What is a PR audit?

A public relations audit involves evaluating the perception of an organization by critical stakeholders, such as customers, employees, investors, and the media.

It includes examining the company's messaging strategy and determining if it accurately conveys the desired image and direction of the organization. The audit aims to identify opportunities for repositioning the brand based on this perception by analyzing the brand's tone and personality in its owned media, such as the company website and social media, and how it presents itself to an external and internal audience.

Why do you need a PR audit?

There are multiple benefits to hiring PR auditors. Below we will explore some of these.

Reaffirming your business purpose

By doing an audit like this, you will be able to see where you stand now and where you need to go from here. When scaling up, you can navigate your way if you know where your point of departure is (this refers to your organization's starting point and purpose).

You can redefine your goals and objectives. By auditing your strategy and vehicles, you can determine if you are on the right path to reach your goals. An audit will give you a clear picture of what worked and what did not.

Staying one step ahead

A comprehensive public relations audit should include a competitor analysis to help determine stakeholders' attitudes toward the organization and its competitors. By benchmarking the organization's strategy and assets against direct competitors, it can gain a deeper understanding of the market and its strengths. This can also be used to differentiate the organization from its competitors.

Examining your strategy

An audit can be used to assess an organization's strategy and identify opportunities for improvement. A vital aspect of this process is identifying the organization's strengths and areas where it can be promoted more effectively. When examining the brand's media strategy, it is important to consider if it is still aligned with the organization's business goals and if key messages are being communicated correctly and in the best format. Additionally, it is essential to analyze all materials and elements that represent the brand to ensure that they accurately convey the desired image and are consistent across all channels. Updating foundational messaging is crucial for returning to the basics and should be considered when examining new strategies.

Proactive, not Reactive PR

Determining methods to combat negative events, such as press conferences or press releases, is also important. A planned, systematic approach over an unprepared, impulsive one more positively impacts unexpected events.

Proactive public relations involves conducting an internal audit, identifying positive brand and product messages, and then communicating them through various PR tools. While successful companies often plan how to react before negative events happen, reactive PR is an approach to responding to them after they occur. Proactive PR allows organizations to plan and create a positive relationship with their key stakeholders before potential problems arise. When implemented correctly, proactive PR can provide numerous advantages.

By having a strategy, companies can anticipate issues and be better prepared to deal with them quickly and effectively. This helps organizations stay ahead of the curve and mitigate potential damage to their reputation. Moreover, proactive PR helps organizations save time and money by avoiding situations where they must scramble to manage a problem after it has already occurred.

Thought leadership

To become an industry leader, you must plan and map your way forward. Executive visibility is key to this. And this is why an audit can help achieve your goals.

Assessing stakeholder engagement

This refers to any persons with an interest or concern in your organization. They fall into two categories:

Internal stakeholders

Employees

In the workplace, positive and motivated employees contribute to the organization's growth. PR audits are performed for the benefit of employees. They carry a firm's reputation outside the organization. See their thoughts and how well-trained they are to deliver your brand message.

External stakeholders

Customers

The opinion of the customer is of prime importance to the business. Auditors examine consumer behavior, attitudes, and outside influences influencing customers to purchase the products. The feedback helps the firm improve the product if any negatives are found.

Investors

Your business could rely heavily on investors. Investors must be confident that the firm can return its investment with a profit or interest. Try and audit their current position.

Suppliers

Suppliers are another key external stakeholder that supports business activities continuously. When you audit them, you can see how confident they are in your business and how committed they are.

Internals and externals of a PR audit

As a PR audit is a chance to survey external opportunities on top of the company itself, it must encompass internal and external factors.

Internal opportunities

Creating a consistent, unified brand image is key. The company's image and potential opportunities are examined during a PR audit. A proactive strategy is developed by analyzing internal opportunities and identifying strengths and opportunities for promotion.

Internal strengths and weaknesses

Understanding the company's weaknesses is another crucial reason for your audit. There may be issues that may be controversial or deficiencies in your company. An audit helps you respond quickly when your competitors, media, or the public point out your vulnerabilities.

Also, understanding your strengths can reinforce that you should keep doing something.

Examining external threats

Predicting and planning for unexpected events is difficult. Examples of these events include economic downturns, natural disasters, and unanticipated public reactions. Part of a public relations audit involves preparing for these events as best as possible. A well-prepared response can help mitigate the impact of an adverse event, while an unprepared reaction can leave a less favorable impression. Therefore, an audit can increase the chances of handling these events well. The audit process also includes identifying methods and strategies to respond to unexpected adverse events and determining the best course of action before responding.

How to make a PR audit, step by step

When conducting an audit, regardless of your industry, ensure that your report includes in-depth information, analysis, and actionable recommendations for the next steps. Consider the following steps for your audit:

How to make a PR audit, step by step

1. Evaluate your direction

It is crucial to clearly understand the overall direction of your PR efforts and how you want your brand to be perceived by consumers. Having a united message and clear objectives will enhance brand identity and prevent the spread of misleading information.

2. Evaluate your target audience

To ensure your PR messaging resonates with the appropriate audience, regularly evaluate and segment your target audience using web analytics platforms, surveys, and sales data. If your messaging does not align with your audience, it may be necessary to reevaluate your strategy.

3. Channel and PR tools evaluation

When conducting a PR audit, it's important to critically evaluate your communication channels and ensure they are relevant to your target audience. Consider various forms of media, such as television, print, social media, and corporate sponsorship. Evaluate the effectiveness of your current PR tools, such as newsletters, press releases, company brochures, and your website.

Utilize analytic tools to analyze your brand sentiment and coverage, including the depth and nature of sentiment (positive, neutral, or negative), the size and quality of coverage, and your brand's visibility in different media. Use this information to make informed decisions about future branding and messaging and to set future benchmarks and goals.

4. Get feedback

Gather customer feedback on campaigns through surveys and website analytics to gauge the brand's unprompted brand recall. The data you collect will be the most valuable for the brand. Another reason to consider hiring an external company is that when auditing your own company, some people may feel uncomfortable participating if they have to answer to someone in your organization and may be too kind to you, resulting in flawed data.

The audit should also include monitoring what is said about you by users, industry bloggers, and influencers. Utilize this information to develop a PR plan, create timely campaigns, and target journalists at the right time. Use it also to set a strategic, planned approach to seasonal news calendars and identify the best contacts for reactive, topical news as your business grows.

5. Check Media

You need to keep tabs on any publicity your brand is receiving. Analyze media outlets and contributors that regularly provide good coverage for your brand and identify ways to improve coverage from outlets that rarely mention your brand. You may need to provide more information or work on building relationships with these outlets.

In addition to coverage volume, you should also break down what was mentioned in each of those “mentions” in the media. Using these "mentions" along with other points, can help paint a picture of your overall media coverage and determine future goals.

6. Examine social media and professional networks

Digital is a crucial component of a PR audit. Evaluate how the customer service team interacts with customers on social media and consider whether they use the right tone of voice and appropriate greetings. Look at LinkedIn, also. Does the tone convey what you want? Is it engaging? Or is it too "corporate?"

Side note; on social media, avoid using negative phrases and focus on solving customer complaints. Additionally, strive for a balance between professionalism and personalization on social media and track the type and number of shares your content receives.

7. Competitor analysis

Include a comprehensive analysis of your competition as part of your PR audit to compare your brand's efforts and identify opportunities for differentiation. Examine 3-4 competitors and consider factors such as the effectiveness of their messaging, promotion strategies, and timing. This will provide valuable insight and help solidify your brand's position in the market.

8. Executive visibility

Analyze the visibility of your company's leadership in the media and identify opportunities to increase their visibility to strengthen your brand's position. To analyze the visibility of your company's leadership in the media, you should start by looking at any existing coverage of your leadership team. You should also look at any competitor's media coverage and compare the visibility of their leadership to your own. This will give you an idea of what visibility you aim to achieve. Once you have looked at the existing media coverage, you can identify potential opportunities to increase the visibility of your leadership team. Perhaps you can set up interviews and guest appearances on high-profile broadcasts. You could also look into sponsoring events or participating in industry panels.

9. Industry analysts

Consider the opinions and feedback of industry and financial analysts when conducting a PR audit. These perspectives can provide valuable insight into potential improvements to your product or customer experience, comparisons to competitors, and evaluations of your marketing and financial strengths. Compare these industry perspectives to general media coverage to identify discrepancies or disconnects. Incorporating industry analysis into your PR audit can help expand your audience to include investors and customers.

Critical components of a PR audit

Owned media

Conduct a thorough audit of your brand's owned assets (such as social media pages and website) and earned or paid media to ensure they accurately represent your brand and its message. Also, be sure this is shared across all relevant social and industry platforms.

The firm's annual report, press releases, newsletters, brochures, and website are examined. These tools will be evaluated for effectiveness. This should give insight as to what can improve.

Coverage metrics

You can only take action if you know what you are acting on. Thus, you should always keep an eye on any publicity the company receives. Coverage metrics are important for a Public Relations audit because they provide key insights into how successful your PR efforts have been. Metrics can determine whether a particular PR campaign or initiative was successful and how much attention your message receives with a quantitative measure of the impact your PR efforts have had and can be used to inform future campaigns. They can also help you show the return on investment of your PR efforts and the impact of changes to your strategy.

Coverage sentiment

Analyzing the sentiment of media coverage is an essential step for businesses and brands to understand how the public perceives them. Analytic tools can be used to break down the depth and nature of the sentiment, whether positive, neutral, or negative, and to measure the quality and quantity of coverage. Knowing the sentiment of your media coverage helps you determine whether your messaging needs to be changed or any concerns need to be addressed. Additionally, it is a basis for setting future benchmarks and goals.

Share of Voice (SOV) against competitors

Share of Voice (SOV) is a metric used to measure the market share and visibility relative to its competitors. It helps gauge a brand's presence and dominance in its industry.

By assessing the SOV of a brand across various media outlets, including newspapers, general interest websites, business media outlets, industry-specific websites and magazines, and social media, a business can gain a clear idea of its market share and visibility. This helps inform marketing and advertising decisions, allowing businesses to decide which sources to invest in and which to avoid. Additionally, SOV can compare a brand to its competitors, giving insight into its strengths and weaknesses.

By monitoring SOV, businesses can get a better picture of their brand's performance and take the necessary steps to increase visibility and market share. For example, a business may focus its advertising efforts on a particular platform or media type or embark on a campaign to drive more organic reach. Ultimately, SOV is an essential metric for any business looking to increase its presence in the market.

Competitor analysis

Knowing who your competitors are and how they perform is essential to developing and executing successful public relations strategies. Doing a competitor analysis is an important part of any public relations audit because it allows you to identify opportunities and weaknesses in your competitors’ approaches. By doing research on the strategies other companies are using, you can gain insights into the effectiveness of their tactics and the target audiences they are trying to reach and understand any potential areas of differentiation you may be able to capitalize on. Furthermore, looking at competitors' success can give you ideas and inspiration for your public relations campaigns.

Executive visibility

Executive visibility and messaging are important parts of personal branding for company executives and leadership. It involves understanding how often the company's representatives are mentioned in the media and the messages being relayed about them. This information helps to craft additional talking points and key phrases that will help to build the company's brand further.

Executive visibility measures how often the company's leadership and representatives are featured in the media. It is closely related to coverage volume and share of voice, as it looks specifically at the company's visibility in the media. It helps to ensure that the company's brand is associated with the right messages in the media and provides a platform for the company's representatives to showcase their expertise and build their brand.

A good understanding of executive visibility and messaging helps the company to ensure its brand remains in the public eye positively. This can help the company to reach new customers and build a strong reputation. It also provides a platform for the company's leadership and representatives to gain recognition for their expertise, allowing them to build their brand. With the right messaging and visibility, the company can establish itself as an industry leader and attract new customers.

SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis is an integral part of the audit because it helps identify an organization's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It is important to assess these areas to develop an effective public relations strategy. Strengths and weaknesses focus on internal factors, while opportunities and threats are from external sources. By understanding the four categories of a SWOT analysis, an organization can better understand its current position and plan for the future. This information can create goals and strategies to enhance its public relations presence and identify potential risks and opportunities.

A plan of action

After your analysis, you must document your recommendations for your organization’s communications meaningfully. To do this, you should categorize your suggestions into two distinct sections:

  1. Those that can be implemented relatively quickly with minimal impact on resources and budget; and
  2. Those requiring effort over time may involve additional resources and funding.

It is essential to be realistic with your recommendations and build a plan of action that is achievable. You should set out milestone goals over a set time, such as 6, 12, or 18 months. Each milestone should have achievable goals aligned with the overall plan of action and your organization’s communications. By breaking down your plan into achievable milestones, you can ensure that your organization’s communications are taken care of without putting too much strain on resources and budget. Furthermore, you will be able to track your progress along the way and make any necessary adjustments to ensure all goals are met.

Case Study

We helped a media monitoring company conduct a PR audit. With our help, they decided how they wanted to be perceived by consumers. Through carefully tailored PR efforts, they hoped to distance themselves from the perception of being a big corporation which we helped them do. We also helped them work out their target audience. We decided to target national publications concerning business, tech, marketing, and social media. After analysis, the company used its owned media more to its advantage. They also took on board customer feedback to change their messaging regarding certain product elements.

We used a more tailored message that had proved successful in one market to another less successful market to increase media mentions. These gained mentions were presented on a professional network, to great effect. Through competitor analysis, we noted that competitors mainly were publishing content related to their services — not ideal for turning into media stories. One country's market favors opinion pieces and data about societal events and news. This was capitalized on as we sought to differentiate them from competitors by contributing to high-level discussions. Expert opinions of the company's leadership were shared to build on their place in the market as thought leaders. A plan was set out to set out goals over set times of 6, 12, and 18 months

Conclusion

A PR audit is a crucial step for any business running campaigns. It allows for the examination, recording, and analysis of key opportunities and threats to understand better the company's PR strategies and potential areas of improvement. A PR audit is an excellent opportunity for a company to get its bearings and redirect or realign itself with its goals and mission. Here we looked at the essential components of an audit and provided a step-by-step guide on how to conduct one. As a PR firm with extensive experience in the tech and startup industries, we are well-equipped to provide valuable knowledge and expertise in PR auditing services.

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