What is ‘Strategic Communications’? And Why Do You Need a Plan for It?

Often when I tell people I work in communications, their response is along the lines of “OK, so … what does that mean?” I get it. “Communications” is a broad term, and we all spend our days communicating with numerous people in a variety of ways. So what does it actually mean to specialize in communications work? 

For me, it means I’m paying careful attention to messaging — word choice, framing, and calls to action. I’m thinking about the intended audience of the messaging: what is important to them, and where do they turn for trusted information? I draw from research on the types of messaging that are most persuasive and “sticky,” and I follow best practices for the most effective ways to deliver a message. Good communication is about ensuring impact matches intent and conveying information in a way that is useful to your audience. 

“Strategic communications” is the big picture version of this work. It refers to how your organization communicates its mission and positions itself as an actor in society. This high-level strategy brings alignment to your other communications activities — like internal communications, public relations, media relations, marketing, and social media — to ensure your efforts send a cohesive message that advances your organization’s mission. 

This saves you time, money, and effort, because you only invest in communications projects that help you meet your goals.

Strategic communications plan tips and examples

A strategic communication plan includes an in-depth analysis of your target audiences, using market research to understand their existing attitudes about your work and what motivates them. These insights inform messaging that clearly conveys the value of your work to each group and motivates them to take action to support your cause. 

If you’ve ever struggled to come up with content to fill your website and social media pages and wondered how to tell the story of the work you do, a strategic communication plan can be the roadmap that gives you direction. 

Or maybe you’re sharing plenty of content, but you’re not sure if the pieces add up to a cohesive message or if your output is reaching the people you want and having the impact you intend. A strategic communication plan can help align your communication efforts, and the plan establishes clear communication objectives and identifies metrics to gauge whether your messaging is reaching the right people at the right time.

If you’re curious about what all goes into a communication plan, I can send you a template to get started.

I specialize in communicating about poverty issues, especially related to education and housing, and I’m interested in working with organizations that serve marginalized groups to help center their clients’ perspectives in their communication efforts. If you’re ready to talk about how a strategic communication plan can elevate your organization’s mission, advocacy campaign, research findings, or upcoming event, I’m here to help