The Model

The Communication Matters model for effective communication is based on attitudes, beliefs, and practices reported by hundreds of professionals across the social sector.

The model is designed to help communication practitioners and their colleagues working in other disciplines (program, evaluation, and executive leaders) build a common language and shared understanding for the role that strategic communication plays in advancing lasting social change.

The model was created as a framework and a resource for everyone – private foundations, community foundations, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs everywhere. It matters not where you work or what title you hold. We all share the desire to change the world, and we all need tools to help us do that.

The Pillars

The model is built around four central pillars: brand, culture, strategy, and action.

  • Brand - Every social change organization, no matter its size or purpose, has three key assets that shape its identity: resources, reputation and relationships.
  • Culture - Communicating organizations cultivate certain qualities that make their work compelling to others. You may not have all in equal measure, but you need a minimum supply of each to succeed.
  • Strategy – Successful organizations are consistently strategic (deliberate and intentional) about their communication choices, weighing several distinct, yet related, variables before they act.
  • Action – Communicating should never be a one way activity. Success demands a continuous, virtuous, self-correcting cycle of sending and receiving, plus the ability to cede control.

The Attributes

Each pillar contains a related set of attributes.

Attributes are assets and behaviors that your organization should consider when making communication decisions. They illustrate how communication decisions should not happen in a vacuum. Communication choices are programmatic choices. They should complement one another and be considered concurrently.

While all of the attributes are interrelated, each has been designed to let you extract whatever type of information you most need. Each attribute is explained, and supported with quotations, exemplars, reference tools, and research data – context to help you think about how each can be applied to your work.

A note about the model:

As our research revealed, there are lots of great communication models out there. Hopefully much of ours will look familiar. What was lacking, we concluded, were simple clear frameworks that tie intuitively to program goals, that show how communication and programs together drive mission and lead to social change.

We also believe our model is a work in progress. It is a starting point, not a finish line. With your help and continued thinking, we expect to refine and improve it in the year to come. We want you to push on it, challenge it, and help make it better over time.