Working with a client to review his current corporate communication practices, I conducted a corporate communication inventory. This issue actually is not very much covered in the textbook (only mentioned as a side issue) and so I thought I’d devote a blog post to this issue and mark it for inclusion into the book in a future update.
So a corporate communication audit (or as designers usually call it design audit or graphics audit) looks at all the communication activities that an organization has created recently in order to get a 360° view and assess consistency and logic across all the different channels. For me it is usually the first step when working with a new client, because it gives me an overview of how the organization communicates and it also helps the client to critically reflect on established practices.
So what is a corporate communication inventory?
When an organization is successful, it grows and expands. This means that new products or projects are added to the portfolio, the number of locations increases and the scope of the organization broadens. As the quantity of staff and activities increase, the organization’s visual armaments grow as well. Every expansion brings with it more of everything – more logos, more signs, more stationary, more forms etc. If no one keeps an eye on uniformity and consistency this can easily avalanche out of control. Negative effects could be a lack of identification of employees (they don’t feel part of the same organization), a lack of intelligibility for customers and other outside stakeholders (they don’t understand how it all fits together) and a hard time for communicators (as there are no standards or even different standards throughout the organization).
One step to gain back control over communication and strengthen corporate identity, thereby ensuring that the organization communicates with a single “face”, is the communication inventory. It aims at getting a comprehensive overview of all communication material recently produced and currently used by the organization. Its goal is to enable a simplification and standardization of communication elements.
In a first step all material (print, broadcast, online, merchandise is collected) is collected that was either produced in the previous year or was produced earlier but is still actively used in communication. In a second step it is all presented together to the communications team as well as other involved parties (consultants, department heads etc.) briefing them to get an overall impression and to think about several detailed aspects (see below). Eventually the findings are discussed and collected during a small workshop or meeting.
Below you can find a briefing sheet and questionnaire reflection sheet template that you can use when conducting a corporate communication inventory: