I’ve been blogging about brand audits lately, and the question has come up about whether an audit should be done internally or by an external group. You can certainly perform your own audit, but there is real value in having an objective brand consultancy work with you. A company would never do their own financial audit to overcome bias and self-interest, so you should consider the same issues when deciding who should do your brand audit.
If you are going to use external help, here are five (5) important tips:
- Make sure the firm has solid experience in research, both in internal staff and external customer and stakeholder research. Depending on your organization, you should also look for depth in auditing complex, multi-stakeholder environments. Look as well for a good mix of quantitative and qualitative research that brings customers – even lost customers – into the process. If you want to understand more about research’s role, check out my blog about Why Research Matters to Your Brand, especially as part of an audit.
- Ask for case studies and references, and make sure that the type and size of the reference are representative of your organization and its needs. If they’ve done brand audits only for small businesses, then they might struggle with your 1,500 employees and national audience. Likewise, if they’ve focused on large organizations, then they might not understand the special situation of smaller scrappy ones.
- Establish a brand audit steering committee with representatives from your core internal groups and make your brand consultants part of that committee. First, a collaborative working relationship will bring much better results than an adversarial one. Second, every part of the business participates in delivering the promised value, so they need to be part of the review and recommendations.
- Open the kimono. You’ll get no benefit from hiding things, being defensive, fiddling with data or research results or directing away from certain people. Let your consultants poke where they need to. That could include talking to unhappy customers, difficult Board members and lapsed partners. And let your consultants tell you what they actually found and think. Candy-wrapping problems and challenges serves no one.
- Be cautious about creative agencies. They will do a great job of assessing your brand identity and expression, and how and where you use it. But a brand is the core definition of your business, and your reputation in delivering on your brand is one of your business’s most valuable assets. Consider using a consultancy that has experience in how a brand defines a business and its role as a tool for business transformation.
In addition to thinking about who should perform your brand audit, you might be asking yourself how you know when you need one. Here are 9 warning signs that may indicate it’s time for a brand audit.
A brand audit, like a financial audit, is both an important investment and a powerful tool in maintaining a healthy business. Every brand should stop and examine itself to see how its performing and how it can be better. The experience is always illuminating and energizing.