Communications audit: Step three—your digital identity



In the past two weeks I’ve taken you through the major steps in conducting a communications audit, but we’re not quite done. Do keep in mind—this entire audit is set against the backdrop of your current strategic communications plan to help you assess how effectively you’re reaching your goals.

This week I’ll cover the final two steps of an audit—your digital identity and a competition analysis.

As part of your review of the communications you produce (part one of the audit), you’ve already analyzed your current social media platforms, including ROI. Now, you’re going to take a little different approach to how your organization is represented online: piecing together your digital identity.

Your Digital Identity

Whether you know it (or like it), your organization is being talked about and judged all the time. Word-of-mouth can be the most powerful form of communication going today, so you need to know what’s being said and thought about your nonprofit and its work.

The good news is, Web 2.0 has made it much easier and cheaper to track that kind of information. Many of you already have organizational listening strategies that continuously monitor online conversations. That’s important. But for this audit exercise, inspired by Nancy White’s in-depth work with digital identities, you’re going to do online searches while pretending to be these three people:

  • a potential donor
  • a potential employee
  • a member of the media

1) Do a Google search for for your organization, including any possible abbreviations or acronyms. Read every search result-–first from the viewpoint of a donor, second from the viewpoint of a potential employee, and third from the viewpoint of a media representative. For each persona, make note of anything good about your organization that’s highlighted (and where) and more importantly, anything negative or that might raise confusing or troubling questions. Also, generally, make note of opportunities. For instance, if you run across a listing that includes your organization that you didn’t know about, don’t waste any chance you have to submit better profile information.

2) Do this same search exercise for your executive director and board chair. Does your executive director and/or board chair have a Google profile? If not, create one.

3) Do a Google image search for your organization, executive director, and board chair. Know what images are out there possibly representing you.

3) Do searches for your organization, executive director, and board chair on: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,, flickr, and YouTube. Pay attention to what messages your avatars, photos, and videos send to these three personae, as well as what content, links, comments, and rankings convey. Note anything that could be harmful to your nonprofit’s reputation. You don’t control online conversation, but you need to know what’s being said so you can consider what kind of action might be taken to help correct misperceptions or end dissatisfactions. Be prepared—some problems may go deeper than communications to involve aspects of your programs. If there is nothing or very little being said about you on these platforms, you need to think about that, too. Is that a good thing or a bad thing vis a vis your communications plan?

4) Do searches for your organization on popular charity Web sites and directories: what information is being shared? Are you being rated? If so, what are the results? Are you missing from sites where you should be included? Here are a few sites to get you started: CharityNavigator, Guidestar, CharityGuide, InsideGood, GreatNonprofits,and Idealist.

When you’ve finished these inquires, you’ll have a better sense of what potential donors and employees, as well as reporters can (and will) find out about you online. If  you discover significant problems with your current digital identity—especially inaccuracies—address them right away. Also make note of opportunities to better represent your organization online. Those should be woven into your new strategic plan.

Competition Analysis

There’s one more piece to a communication audit that I highly recommend for nonprofits and foundations–a competition (or peer) analysis. Find out how to do one in my post from a few months ago. Be sure to include social media platforms in your review—not just websites and publications.

In coming weeks, I’ll talk about the nuts and bolts of crafting a new strategic communications plan for your organization. But rest assured, if you’ve done the audit—you’re miles ahead in understanding which of your communications need to be changed or discontinued.

CC photo credit: krazydad/jbum