The vast majority of communications professionals fail to measure the effectiveness of messages they have sent or intend to send.
DevCom CEO Mari Lee says communicators, including marketers and publicists, who neglect to conduct a thorough communications audit face the danger of alienating audiences and wasting money on useless campaigns.
“Very few brands in SA measure their communications,” she says. “In my assessment less than 20% of brands do a thorough communication audit. It may be expensive but it’s money you have to invest so you don’t miss the mark.” A thorough communication audit can cost a major brand as much as R800000.
“The Swiss SA Co-operation Initiative (SSACI) recently came to us saying they wanted to rebrand,” she says. “A typical agency would have immediately gone into the design phase.
“But I found out that SSACI wanted to work with certain government departments who, at the time, were not talking to them. I suggested an audit before any campaign was rolled out and eventually found that they didn’t have a branding problem; they had an awareness problem,” she says.
Communications specialists have increasingly come to rely on digital media to make contact with their audiences. This, she says, is a big mistake.
“As communicators we have fallen into this trap where we think that e-mail and social media will replace traditional channels,” she says. “Audiences are still much more receptive to traditional channels such as meetings and face-to-face surveys.”
According to a 2011 USC Annenburg survey, large global brands spend between 8,5% and 10% on full communications audits, whereas most brands in SA spend nothing at all.
A recent DevCom survey found that of the SA brands that conduct audits only 35% do so annually while the vast majority do audits every second year.
The most popular methods for auditing in SA are surveys (90%), media tracking (36%), observations (21%) and focus groups (21%).
“The danger of a poor testing is that you create a perception in the audience that you may have not intended,” she says. “But this is changing and more communicators are starting to learn about their audiences.
“I refuse to take on a client if they don’t agree to a communications audit,” she says.