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Projecting and Reflecting: Strategic Communications and the Healthy Organization

Many business leaders think of their organizational communications as a discipline that engages and informs their key audiences, builds important relationships with customers and constituents, and raises awareness of their products and services that is critical to success.

A Definition of Strategic Communication

Strategic communication is an evidence-based, results-oriented process, undertaken in consultation with the participant group(s). It is intrinsically linked to other programme elements, cognisant of the local context and favouring a multiplicity of communication approaches, to stimulate positive and measurable behaviour and social change.


And they’re right. Good communications does all that. Whether it’s accomplished through clear and accurate writing, well-designed user-friendly websites, news distribution, the right number of ads and placements, or well-organized issue campaigns, these projective practices are key tools necessary for positive business outcomes.

But strategic communication produces more, and many business leaders are surprised how far it can help them reach, and how far it reaches into their organizations.

Strategic communications involves the perspectives, objectives and concerns of the entire organization. Done well, it involves a team of organizational stakeholders and leaders and the community in which the organization operates. Because it is by nature planned and coordinated business- and community wide, it has the potential to produce more than any single marketing or communications component.

Consider the following quote from Shayna Englin, who teaches public relations and corporate communications at Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, and George Washington Universities:

Being strategic means communicating the best message, through the right channels, measured against well-considered organizational and communications-specific goals. It’s the difference between doing communications stuff, and doing the right communications stuff.

-Shayna Englin

Two of Englin’s mentions catch our attention.

First is her recognition that strategic communication is measured not only against communication-specific goals, but also is exercised in the context of organizational goals. Being strategic involves research before communicating and processing information that comes back in. The more global perspective offered by a strategic approach allows the organization to respond effectively, using what it learns from the practice of communicating.

That two-way flow of information, coupled with the involvement of various organizational stakeholders, has real positive consequences. When your organization assigns one office or individual responsibility for sending out press releases, you may be “talking the talk” just fine. But what happens when the message, timing, and targets of those releases are considered by a team charged with its planning, handling it as part of a comprehensive service, marketing and communications strategy? Our experience is that effort, and any other chosen components of the organization’s communications, are more “walking the walk,” as well.

In this way, the process of strategic planning helps create a shared and connected sense of accountability and purpose. You’re not simply reacting, but building the organization and its projected image from the inside out. These questions arise frequently: “Is what we are saying in line with our overall goals and objectives?” Does it accurately represent what we are really doing?” “With what we’re learning, are our objectives still relevant?” “Is it time to adjust them?” Goals and objectives are necessary, but made fluid and responsive to real world issues and audience concerns, they can be even more effective. Strategic planning provides a framework for the discussion of topics and issues important to the organization, but also provides information and opportunities to reflect on what you’re doing, and how well you’re doing it.

Improving an organization’s accountability and sense of purpose has other benefits, too; and this leads us to Englin’s second notable idea:

“Doing communications stuff” is not enough. Being accountable to a shared and global strategic plan, the organization has the ability to prioritize and sequence its communication activities, helping ensure that it “does the right communications stuff.” This global approach to opportunities and challenges, and the coordinated development of responses will better ensure success, and can also make it easier to do the right “thing.” With everyone on the same page, their eyes on planned goals and priorities, and building and sharing faith in their efforts, the organization and its people are usually more healthy, too.

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