Posted by: Hanna Neuschwander | October 15, 2019

How does a change mission affect the way we view strategic communications?

Whether we are talking about the companies we work for or the governments we are citizens of, organizations channel a significant portion of human activity. Collectively, organizations are responsible for some of the most egregious harms we face (climate change, mass extinction, rape used as a weapon of war, etc.); but they are also at the nexus of efforts of redress. By their nature, organizations organize and in so doing, channel effort, intelligence, and shared values toward their aims.

For a modern organization seeking to instigate changes at levels ranging from individual behavior to how an entire sector (public or private) functions, strategic communication is non-optional. It is “an essential lever for changing the way people think, feel, act and behave” (Omidyar Group, 2018).

Traditional definitions of “strategic communication” are informative, but given the stakes, change-oriented communications must be more than just “narrowly defined around specific managerial problems, such as improving organizational performance [or] selling more products” (García, 2012). Nor is it enough for them to simply “maintain a healthy reputation for the communication entity in the public sphere” (Holtzhausen and Zerfass, 2015), or to be merely successful (e.g., generate buzz).

Omidyar (2018) draws on recent shifts in the development/philanthropic sectors toward the rigorous use of theory of change and logic models to add the requirement that change-oriented strategic communications be “performed with an end output and outcome that tangibly connects to the mission, program goals and objectives” (2018).

When the goal is change, “good intentions are not enough” (Ferris, 2016).



Ferris, J. M. 2016. “Is This a New Golden Age of Philanthropy? An Assessment of the Changing Landscape.” Voluntary Sector Review 7 (3): 315–24.

García, C. 2012. “Using Strategic Communication for Nation-Building in Contemporary Spain: The Basque Case.” International Journal of Strategic Communication 6 (3): 212–31. doi:10.1080/1553118x.2012.678523.

Holtzhausen, D. R., & Zerfass, A. (2015a). Strategic communication: Opportunities and challenges of the research area. In D. R. Holtzhausen & A. Zerfass (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of strategic communication (pp. 3–17). New York, NY: Routledge.

Omidyar Group. 2018. Fine Tuning: The Art and Science of Integrating Strategic Communications [white paper]. Washington, DC: Author.

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