Photo: Strategic Communications

The Framework of Strategic Communications

Posted on December 06, 2021 by Michael Zimmerman, TPF Fellow 2021/22
At the Patterson Foundation (TPF), strategic communications are paramount. Every initiative is driven by the power of intentionality in communication to achieve collective goals through community-wide collaboration with excellence. I've heard the term "strategic communications" used in various instances over the years. It was not until I arrived at TPF that I understood how this works—it starts with a framework.

What is a framework? A framework is a document that outlines a new project or initiative and illustrates every aspect of the work. It outlines the project's name, time frame, and the initiative under which it will operate. These critical pieces of information establish the foundation for the project and the key points that will follow. Frameworks include the project's purpose, team members working on the project, their roles and responsibilities, and where they cross paths for collaboration. It also consists of the target audience, populations, or beneficiaries. The framework then touches upon the description of the need for the project and its significance, the project's background, how it works, and what data will be collected. It encompasses a project timeline (the timeline is a descriptive chronology of the events that will occur during the project), any participating organizations or partners, a communications strategy and plan, suggested handles and hashtags, and—most importantly—what success looks like. Among the other pieces of information shared, explaining what success will look like is crucial to demonstrating TPF's vision specific to the work to establish clear goals and expectations for all roles.

Why does TPF create frameworks? The why and how are of tremendous importance in aligning staff, partners, organizations, and others involved. Especially for projects with 100+ collaborators, the framework lives as the central address for keeping everyone on track and moving the work forward according to plan. It's easier to align when we can see the bigger picture. The framework can also be used as a map for those who are not ready to partner but may decide to engage at another point. It is always available to reference, and this is how frameworks inform TPF's work for dynamic collaboration.

How does TPF embrace communication? Communication at TPF starts at the top and weaves its way through the organization. And while a framework is a prime example of how communications are embraced, there are plenty of other ways TPF embodies communication. From virtual, daily staff check-ins and weekly 1:1 meetings with colleagues to a wealth of Zoom meetings with partners, organizations, leaders, and community members, communication is TPF's most utilized tool in a sector where collaboration is imminent to mission thrivability and success.

From internal communications to external communications, TPF's culture of "you can never communicate too much" is unique. TPF believes that communication with purpose and intentionality builds trust—and change happens at the speed of trust.

Upon reflecting, communications drive a positive work culture at TPF and throughout TPF's communities. And a team that communicates strategically can create positive outcomes that permeate other people, organizations, and communities. Strategic communications lead to strategic partnerships. Through intentional and purposeful communication, TPF finds new and potential partners to build alliances and break new ground, moving further in its mission, growing constantly.

With communication at TPF's core, it's easy to see how this is not just a skill set or checkboxes. Rather, it's a way of living and being, transcending personal and professional boundaries in which people, places, and communities are strengthened and woven into the framework of TPF (no pun intended).

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