Terri-Jane Yuzda


Consultant Calls for
Communications Improvements



APEGGA should take a more modern, consistent and integrated approach to its communications roles within and outside the Association, says APEGGA's first-ever independent communications audit. The Downey Norris & Associates Inc. report covered all communications roles and products, among them The PEGG, the website, advertising, special member events, branding and imaging, Outreach and student liaison, member information publications, sponsorships and media relations.

"It's always a good thing and a good time to do something like this. But it's a particularly good time because we're just developing our Three-Year Strategic Communications Plan. With the 2002 opinion survey and the communications audit, we have two very important documents to help us craft the plan," says Sherrell Steele, APEGGA's manager of public relations.

In February of this year, APEGGA requested proposals for the internal planning document. Based on the successful Downey Norris proposal, the objectives were:

· to identify and confirm the primary corporate communications needs and priorities of the Association, members and key target audiences

· to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of current communications plans, products, messages, image and activities in meeting those needs and priorities

· to make recommendations for enhancement and additions to Association communications activities to better address those needs and priorities in the future.

The consultant reviewed communications materials, and interviewed 28 of APEGGA's senior management team, including a number of branch chairs and councillors, the president and the executive director. Among the other research sources were a focus group with Communications Department staff, and reviews of best practices, and the communications roles and products of other associations.
Downey Norris concluded that:

· APEGGA conducts a broad range of very good communications activities and products that can and should be effective in reaching target audiences. What is required for the most part are significant updating and improvements in what is currently done, how it is done and how it is targeted.

· APEGGA's communications initiatives and products are generally consistent with the overall mission and goals of the organization as a whole, and targeted to appropriate audiences. However, there needs to be more and better priority setting in the development of plans and activities, and better linkage of communications priorities and resources to the overall priorities of the Association.

· Content of products and publications is generally consistent with Association goals and communications objectives. However, frequently the material is not conducive to easy readability, accessibility or understanding, and design and style are not appropriate for target audiences.

· APEGGA's communications focus should be on modernizing, increasing use of technology in communicating with members, stakeholders and the public, and on emphasizing earned news media coverage over paid advertising.

Says Ms. Steele: "I think the audit was really important for APEGGA to conduct. This was an opportunity to step back and clearly evaluate what we do."

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