A shelf in April's pantry

Any cook needs a well-stocked pantry. From a few basic staples added to fresh ingredients, an imaginative cook can create dozens of dishes, using a variety of techniques and spices.

If you’re constantly struggling to find content to feed your various outlets–and who isn’t?–try looking in your pantry, your “shelf” of long-lasting content. The best way to do this is a communications audit.

A basic communications audit is an inventory of all your communication vehicles–print, web, social, intranets, email–anything you use to communicate with your various publics. It doesn’t have to be fancy; a simple spreadsheet works fine for small organizations.

An audit will help you identify that ancient can of sardines that needs to be tossed, and perhaps produce some unexpected treasures.

Some questions to ask once you have your list:

  1. Are these communications still reaching your audience? Or has the audience moved to another preferred method of communication? Look at open rates, page views, followers, likes, even how many people pick up that print brochure at a trade show. (For the latter, it’s not nearly as many as it was a few years ago. How else can you reach them?)
  2. What’s past the expiration date? You’ll probably find some content that’s a bit stale, or you might be spending time and resources supporting an effort that just isn’t getting eyeballs. Be honest with yourself, even if it’s your pet project. Know when to move on.
  3. What can be re-used? Often, you can repurpose content, even if it isn’t new. They key here is it isn’t new to you. For example, you might include a “featured question” in your newsletter, with a link to frequently asked questions on your website. If people are still asking the question, they aren’t looking on your website. Help them find the answer. Have great content people just aren’t seeing? Try cross-posting it.
  4. Are we consistent? Do your communications reflect the same voice, tone and messages? Are they the right ones? This is one area where small and one-person shops have an advantage. If only one person is writing most of your content, chances are it’s more consistent.
  5. What is my audience looking for? Look at your most popular web pages and most-liked content over time. Use the numbers to guide new content development. For example, if 25% of your website visitors consistently look at the Careers page, beef up that section, and publish your job openings in other communications as well.
Sometimes just making a list helps you view things differently. If you’re stuck for content, take the time to do a communications audit. You’ll probably find enough “new” content (or things you can stop doing) to more than make up the time, and spice up your communications.
p.s. For more on social media audits, check out Marketing Roadhouse.
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