Interview: Der Kommunikationsaudit als Controllinginstrument für die Unternehmenskommunikation

By: Simon Plate / 06.01.11

David Dozier und Lou Williams

Der Kommunikationsaudit ist eines der wenigen Controllinginstrumente für die Unternehmenskommunikation, das in der Wissenschaft bislang noch nicht breit untersucht wurde. Der US-amerikanische Professor David Dozier allerdings gehört zu den Wissenschaftlern, die sich eingehender mit dem Thema Audits auseinander gesetzt haben. Zusammen mit dem Praktiker Louis C. Williams hat Dozier mehrere lesenswerte Paper zu Kommunikationsaudits veröffentlicht (Weblinks zu online verfügbaren Texten finden Sie unten). hat mit den beiden über Audits und ihr Modell der „Triangular Communication“ gesprochen. Das Interview lesen Sie hier (in Englisch): Mr. Dozier, Mr. Williams, what is a communication audit and what are its general functions in the process of communication research and measurement in an organization?

David Dozier und Lou Williams: A communication audit is designed to accomplish several objectives:

  • Assess effectiveness of overall communication process
  • Determine how to leverage communication in multiple locations/divisions of an organization
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of communication channels
  • Assess whether audiences have received/understood messages
  • Develop an ongoing measurement process
  • Build a strategic communication plan

The typical audit uses several components to ensure legitimacy/credibility. They include:

  • Formal discussions with the communication staff
  • Thorough analysis and understanding of existing media/channels
  • Qualitative research, including interviews with senior management, focus groups with key audiences, and observation techniques
  • Quantitative research, typically administered, in person, online, emailed or mailed to the key audiences
  • Report and action planning
  • Formalized follow-up What is “Triangular Communication” and how important is this theory to the process?

David Dozier und Lou Williams: There are three distinct audiences that must be considered in order to develop an excellent communication program: stakeholders, communicators and management. Each must be studied and understood. Each has its own needs, expectations and moderating forces.  Each affects the other through biases, experience, power, ambition and resources. Traditional programmatic communication research would study an audience, make adjustments, study again, and make yet more adjustments. However, under the theory of triangular communication, a communicator must take into consideration not only the end audience, but must ensure that management is understood (and understands and supports). There are two aspects of this that are unique to communication audits: One is the traditional process of understanding expectations of management, but the second, equally important point is to answer the following questions: What is motivating management in its decision making process: Emotions (e.g., anger, fear of failure)? Intellectual needs (the need to be “right”)? Biases about an audience that often come from life experiences? Forces beyond management’s control? Organizational culture? Expectations of other stakeholders (e.g., shareholders)? Lack of knowledge about communication theory?

On the other hand, target audiences have their own set of needs, expectations, hopes and fears. These are all powerful forces that must be understood, not just that they exist but, ultimately, how they influence each other, thus a triangle of thinking. Management hears and influences both communicator and audience. The communicator is influenced by management and audience data. And, finally, the audience is influenced by its own interpretations of how a communicator communicates, as well as their feelings about management intentions (see Tony Hayward of BP as the perfect example of this).

Thus, to leave out of a study this important theory is to lose valuable insights that could heavily influence the results…and the potential of success. Are there common advantages and disadvantages of an instrument like a communication audit? Is it useful for every organization?

David Dozier und Lou Williams: The major advantage of an audit is that it ensures an organization is communicating in an organized, efficient and effective manner that supports the major objectives of the organization.

There are no true disadvantages of a well-performed audit. However, there are some dangers, the two most important being that expectation levels get set with an audience being studied, and if those expectations are not met, then a true disconnect will occur. The second is that an audit does indeed evaluate an organization’s effectiveness at communication…and if the staff is not up to it, or unable to defend itself, then their jobs (and careers) are at peril.

The second part of this question, as to whether an audit is useful to every organization brings a hearty yes from us. The exception to that is, once again, that an organization must be ready to act on gathered knowledge in an open and candid manner. If not, then an audit should not be done. In your opinion, what are the most important future challenges for the PR evaluation and measurement practice?

David Dozier und Lou Williams: There are two major roadblocks to the practice of research: The first is to ensure that research being conducted is tied to organizational objectives. That is, management must be convinced that their goals for the organization will be enhanced, made more possible. There is no “nice to know” research. The second issue is attracting not just the best and brightest to the research field, but ensuring that they have a thorough understanding of not just research, but the behavioral sciences and the art of communication…particularly what works (or doesn’t work) in communicating to various important stakeholders. Thank you for the interview!

Über David Dozier

Co-author of four books and numerous articles, Dozier was a co-investigator on the Excellence Study. Along with James and Larissa Grunig, Dozier is one of the most cited scholars in public relations research. He is recipient of the PRSA educator of the year award, the Pathfinder Award, and the Jackson Jackson & Wagner Behavior Science Prize. He teaches in the School of Journalism & Media Studies, San Diego State University.

Über Lou Williams

Lou Williams has been performing Communication Audits for more than 30 years, much of that time based in Chicago as chairman, L.C. Williams & Associates, Inc. As an instructor on the subject, he has reached thousands of students in Europe, the Pacific Rim and the United States. He has won many awards for his work including, just a year ago, the Public Relations Society of America Foundation's Jackson, Jackson and Wagner award for his work in bringing research into the mainstream of public relations.

Download von Texten von David Dozier und Lou Williams zum Thema Audits

Williams, Lou C./Dozier, David M. (2010): Framing Communication Audits to Create Positive Outcomes for Organizations. Refereed paper presented at the meeting of the 13th International Public Relations Research Conference, March 10-13, 2010, Miami, Florida. [Download DOC, 112 KB]

Williams, Lou C./Dozier, David M. (2009): Comparing Winners and Losers. [Download PDF, 56,0 KB]

Williams, Lou C./Dozier, David M. (2008): Triangular Communications: The Who, Why and How. In: Public Relations Journal, Vol. 2, No. 3. [Download PDF, 68,0 KB]

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