Once a now, long-long time ago, communications directors would occasionally conduct a “communications audit” to better understand how their organization was presenting itself to its various publics. They would ask their colleagues to submit samples of their outbound communications, identify the intended audience and how often they sent out their particular communications vehicle. The communications director would then gather every sample from every part of the organization to understand how the organization presented itself; whether there communications gaps or redundancies; whether the brand had cohesion and was consistently presented; and whether the organization’s overall public face was clearly delivered or was a total tidal wave of mixed, incoherent messages.

Ah, those were the good old days. With everyone tweeting, texting, blogging, uploading videos on YouTube, and pushing their own personalized organizational pages on MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn, it is almost impossible to manage an organization’s public persona. How can you audit your organization’s communications impact when every one has the ability to talk about you, use your logo and create their personal “take” on your message?

Coca Cola doesn’t give up on its brand image simply because the rules changed. It advertises (largely online these days, where its audience is); it hosts high profile events; it produces point-of-sale promotional materials. It also keeps a careful eye on what people are saying about it, monitoring blogs, websites, and more looking for copyright infringements or simply damaging viral messaging about Coke that they then respond to.

Nonprofit organizations, whether they are large or small, cannot afford to behave like Coca Cola with multi-million dollar ad campaign or to hire people to police the viral universe. Yet, nonprofits can keep a watchful eye on a targeted set of online voices and respond when it makes sense. But in the end, the best a nonprofit can do is quite simple – control and audit what you can and try to maintain a strong, ethical, authentic presence that people will trust and support and tweet about.

Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional, with deep experience in both the public and private sectors. She currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.