A client asked me the other day why I called my work, strategic communications?

“What makes it strategic?” he asked. “Aren’t all communications strategic?”

My answer?

“Well communications should be strategic, but that isn’t always the case.”

In fact, many organizations launch communications ideas with no strategy behind the effort whatsoever.  And that’s a problem because this type of communications is often a waste of time and money.

Have you ever been to a seminar and a well meaning expert told you that you need a responsive website NOW? I bet you have. And have you ever been told that you “must be on Facebook?” I’m sure!

In fact, as a nonprofit leader, you probably hear this sort of advice all the time.

Truth be told, you might not need a responsive website or Facebook at all to be an effective communicator at your particular organization. Every channel you launch and every piece of communications you create must serve a greater organizational need or purpose—it must be.. strategic.

Below are the essential parts of a communications plan. Following this path will ensure that your communications are strategic every time.

The essential parts of a strategic communications plan.


EVERYTHING you do in communications should tie to a goal. A goal is something big like “Be thought leaders in early childhood development” or “Affect policy change on a national level for xyz cause.”

Insider Tip: You will probably have 2-4 goals per strategic plan.


Each objective ties back to a goal and must be quantifiable, measurable and tied to a timeline.

If your goal is to be a thought leader then you probably want to write an objective that says, “Grow our blog and online audience by 50% in the next year.” If your goal is to affect policy change, then one objective might be “to set five meetings with national government officials in the next two years.”

Insider Tip: You will probably have multiple objectives for each goal.


A strategy is how you plan on achieving your objective. You can have multiple strategies per objective.

How are you going to grow your online audience? One strategy might be to solicit guest contributors for your blog who will share their posts with their followers. How do you plan on getting meetings with national government officials? You might start out by using your network to see who you know that might make an introduction for you.

Insider Tip: Don’t confuse a strategy with a tactic – it’s easy to do. For example, publishing a weekly newsletter is a strategy, not a tactic.


Tactics are small, bite-size pieces that tie back to your strategy. Sending a tweet, making a phone call, scheduling a meeting, and writing an email are all examples of tactics. Other tactics might include: publishing a Facebook post every day, re-tweeting tweets from peer organizations twice a week, or always using a certain hashtag on Instagram.

Insider Tip: You will probably have as many as five to 10 tactics for one strategy.

Communications should always be strategic.

Ask yourself what purpose a communications channel will serve before you make it a part of your plan.  Does it serve your highest needs?

And finally, don’t forget to measure the outcomes to see if your strategies and tactics helped you achieve your goals and objectives!