Strategic Communication

Communication with stakeholders – both within and outside of the collaboration – is a crucial part of planning and taking action for community change. Through thoughtful and deliberate engagement, a collaboration can better understand the perspective of diverse partners, lessen the potential for misunderstanding, and harness collective motivation for change. Strategic communication can be broken down into two parts: knowing your audience and developing a message.

Know Your Audience

Early childhood collaborations often struggle  to communicate their work in a way that resonates with diverse partners. It is vitally important to connecting the state’s vision for children to the shared interests and values of stakeholder.

We know that a preschool teacher must communicate differently with students, colleagues, and parents. Early childhood collaborations should also think about the different audiences in their community and how each needs to be communicated with. Community-based audiences may include faith-based leaders, local business owners, parents, elected officials, and leaders in childcare, as well as members of the medical community and other human services partners.

Some stakeholders are already on board with your message, but others may require more information and persuasion. It is important to be aware of a specific stakeholder group’s knowledge level at the outset of your outreach to them.

  • Does the stakeholder group understand the value of early childhood education?
  • Do they understand the menu of options available to at-risk children through public programs?

You must understand exactly what you’ll be asking each stakeholder to do and how their work intersects with yours and with each other.

Teacher Showing young student an item on an Ipad

Ongoing Communication

Continuous communication within the collaboration is critical to help gain information about what’s working and what’s not.

Productive collaboration isn’t just about meetings, newsletters, and emails—it’s about communication and creating a feedback loop that spurs adaptive action.

Develop Messages 

At the heart of strategic communication is matching your message with the stakeholder’s interests. In other words: What you say is as important as who you are saying it to.

When you are developing messages, consider the language, the target audience, and what the collaboration hopes to achieve through the messages it delivers.

Some questions to consider:
  • How much does your audience already know?
  • What motivates your audience?
  • What resistance will you face?
  • What are you asking your audience to do?
  • What’s their length of attention?