According to the Institute of Internal Auditors’ definition of Internal Auditing, there are two types of services that are provided by the Internal Audit function, namely, Assurance and Consulting services. The definition also set out its scope of work to include evaluating and improving the effectiveness of Governance, Risk Management and Control processes. Consequently, there are a number of stakeholders of internal audit inside and outside the organization, each of whom with different expectations from internal audit. Internal auditors need to have marketing skills in order to allow stakeholders to understand the internal audit team’s role and the diversity of services that the team can provide to the organization
Why there is a need for Marketing?
Every year, organizations spend billions of dollars marketing their services to customers. Each of these organizations is promoting its image and the way customers perceive that image. Internal audit is similar in that you may not really know how your customers (stakeholders) perceive you and your teammates. Chief Audit Executives may think that they are the best and have superior capabilities but does really reflect in the perception key stakeholders such as senior management and the audit committee? This is where the need for marketing internal audit services arises. Such marketing needs to challenge stereotypes about internal audit services and promote a positive image for the Chief Audit Executive and his team.
The very word “Service” implies a more personal interaction between internal auditors and their stakeholders. Internal audit services are directly tied to the auditors themselves, their professionalism, objectivity and proficiency.
In my opinion, marketing skill is one of the most important non-technical or soft skills that internal auditors must possess as it will help them explore stakeholders’ expectations, create, and deliver value to satisfy their needs, and manage audit relationships in ways that also benefit the organization. Marketing skills also help internal audit establish and maintain a strong position within the organization, optimize outcomes, provide viable recommendations, promote awareness by various business units of internal audit’s consultative role, and encourage audit clients to bring problems to the audit’s attention. Audit clients with positive audit experience would be more likely to ask for more services.
According to Joel Kramer from MIS Training Institute 1, marketing internal audit involves “educating stakeholders on the services we can provide, giving them examples of how these services recently have helped the organization, and then persuading, encouraging or inducing them to use our services”.
Marketing help in enhancing not only professional relationships but also most importantly the personal ties with stakeholders and hence replacing the image of the policeman with the image of the business partner who is there to add value.
How to Market Internal Auditing?
In his blog 2, Richard Chambers, CIA, QIAL (President and CEO of The Institute of Internal Auditors) encouraged internal auditors to develop a marketing strategy to improve awareness of their capabilities. He wrote: “we needed to develop a deliberate strategy for improving awareness of our capabilities – and the value we would deliver – because changing perceptions isn’t always easy. In other words, we came to understand that we needed to do some good old-fashioned marketing so that clients would know when to call us in and what to expect ”.
Audit stakeholders do not think only about technical quality (how good the audit work is) but also about the quality of the service (their overall experience with the auditor).
“At the end of the day, we’re not paid by the audit report or by the audit finding. We’re paid by how we can make the company better”. Larry Harrington, Chief Audit Executive at Raytheon Co. 3
In order to deliver a high quality service that adds value to our audit stakeholders, we first need to understand the business “what the organization actually does”, current and emerging risks, strategy, objectives, and how the management is planning to achieve those objectives. Once the business needs are understood it is then important to understand stakeholders’ needs. In other words, should the internal audit department focus more on consultancy work or internal audit? To this end, we need to develop healthy and long term relationship with all levels of the business. In addition, we need to understand their perceptions about the Internal Audit function and rectify such perceptions whenever possible or needed.
The internal audit website may be used to manage expectations of those who may have distorted perception of the audit role (frequently asked questions could be considered).
Audit Feedback Questionnaire is also a good tool to obtain the client’s view on the benefits secured from the audit, identify any communication problems that may have been experienced by the client, assess whether the client’s expectations have been met, and recommend appropriate adjustments to the marketing strategy and audit methodologies.
Developing a formal escalation process to address disagreements with senior management is another recommended marketing strategy. Though it rarely will be used, having such strategy in place would reinforce internal audit’s desire to listen and be fair.
Auditors need always to tell their internal audit story as part of new employee orientation program, all-hands meetings, and initial meetings of all audit engagements. They can showcase their role, standing, independence, and contributions in the organization’s published annual report.
Making an active effort to promote the services of the internal audit department is an important priority for the Chief Audit Executive and the internal audit team. The authority given to internal audit by the audit committee is not enough to have a lasting and fruitful relationship with all stakeholders. Marketing internal audit services will allow the internal audit department to better influence the organization and be a positive agent for change and add more value to governance, risk management, and control. However, caution must be exercised when marketing internal audit services because if you over promise and don’t deliver, the credibility of the Chief Audit Executive and his team will be hurt.
Ala’ Abu Naba’a, MACC, CIA, CRMA is Chief Audit Executive at the Arab Open University in Kuwait.