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Unlocking the Mysteries of an Internal Brand Audit

January 2007

Question: I've heard of financial and communications audits, but what exactly is an internal brand audit?

Answer: Like a financial or communications audit, an internal brand audit is an independent review of an organization's brand, which, if done properly, provides the organization with a baseline for how clearly its brand is defined, how well it is promoted, and what policies or systems are in place to protect it. For the sake of objectivity, the audit is best performed by an outside professional who has a clear understanding of what good branding is all about.

If yours is a small- or medium-size organization that thinks it doesn't have a brand, think again.

Anyone who has ever come into contact with your organization—its programs, products, services, or staff—or has heard of you through other sources already has a "brand" impression of who you are and what you do. But is that impression accurate and complete? And is it the impression you want them to have? Although the answers to these questions are determined by an external brand audit, your first objective should be to obtain an accurate snapshot of where you currently are internally with your brand.

Below are sample questions for what a good internal audit should probe for with respect to:

Defining Your Brand

  • To ensure everyone affiliated with your organization stays "on message," have you created a brand positioning statement (sometimes referred to as an "elevator speech") that clearly defines who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why anyone should care enough to support you?
  • Are your brand messages and logo used consistently and uniformly in all your internal and external communications?
  • Do you know if your brand messages resonate positively and clearly with audiences you are trying to reach?

Promoting Your Brand

  • Does everyone affiliated with your organization—from board members to support staff and volunteers—know what your brand messages are, and do they understand what it means to be a good Brand Ambassador for the organization?
  • Do your leaders and staff actively promote your organization in the community?
  • How effectively do your Web site and signage reflect your brand?

Protecting the Brand

  • Does everyone in your organization know what it means to protect your brand—and what's at stake it they don't?
  • Are you transparent with your finances, and do you have systems in place to protect the financial integrity of your organization?
  • Have you established ethical standards through which all of your policies and decision making are filtered?
The above are only sample brand audit questions. A thorough audit is designed to delve deeply into your organization's core values to ensure that your brand accurately—and honestly—reflects who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why anyone should care enough to support you. Keep in mind that a brand is not a cosmetic you apply to make your organization look pretty.  Your brand is nothing less than your organization's DNA!

Larry Checco, Checco Communications
© 2006, Larry Checco. Reprinted from Branding Bytes, vol. 1, no. 5 (winter 2006). Reprinted with permission.

Larry Checco is president of Checco Communications, www.Checcocomm.net, and author of Branding for Success: A Roadmap for Raising the Visibility and Value of Your Nonprofit Organization. In more than 25 years of nonprofit communications experience, he has helped raise the brand visibility, fundraising capabilities, membership levels, and impact of some of the nation's most respected nonprofit organizations and government agencies.