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Strategic Communications

This KnowledgeBase archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.

The Strategic Communications KnowledgeBase is an online resource to aid those leading or supporting communications in education in understanding the history, value, framework, planning, and execution of effective Strategic Communications to nurture and build strong relationships in education. Strategic Communications is essential to engage stakeholders and achieve goals at the state level. The elements, activities, and tasks in this KnowledgeBase are designed to better prepare communications professionals within state education agencies (SEAs) to plan for and respond to communication challenges and support implementation of education policy. 

Task 2: Understand the organizational culture of the SEA

Guideline: Like organizational structures, the organizational culture of an SEA impacts the processes of communication, both internally and externally. Organizational culture includes history; leadership; relationships between and among individuals, units, and divisions; norms or rules of engagement; shared experiences and values; and the degree of engagement with the strategic direction via vision, mission, values, goals, and strategic plans.

For example, an SEA with a history of formalizing the path of communications between divisions based on “chain of command” has different expectations for Strategic Communications strategies than an agency that typically functions without regard for hierarchical structures. Similarly, an organization that has long-engrained vision, mission, values, and goals is likely to communicate about new initiatives very differently than an SEA that has a newly-adopted or informal direction for the future.

Typically, organizational culture is thought of internally, but outside forces and outside culture influences the organization.  An SEA situated in the South likely functions and communicates differently than an SEA situated in the Northwest. Additionally, as beliefs about education change within a community, those beliefs are likely brought into the organization through the individuals who work there. Those beliefs influence norms of the SEA.

Although these cultural norms are likely to have the most impact on internal communication strategies, they also affect external communication processes in at least two ways: (1) Whether each individual in the agency or only official spokespeople are viewed as ambassadors of the SEA’s priorities impacts Strategic Communication decisions about who should carry messages to external audiences; and (2) How internal messages get translated often affects the degree of reliability of the message as it gets translated externally. Therefore, Strategic Communications plans should consider the degree of uniformity needed for messaging both internally and externally and how the organizational culture influences the messages delivered.

The way individuals and teams within an organization view the organization and its “way of doing business” influences the likelihood of success for promising practices. Having a deep understanding of the current organizational culture provides insight regarding which Strategic Communications processes are likely to be most successful.


PRSA: Establishing Effective Internal Communications Counseling: A Practical Approach to Building Trust and Delivering Results

Tips from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) show how to use a communications unit for building a culture of internal communications consultants.

Diane DeBacker - Around the World in 365 Days: Lessons Learned from Communicating about Rigorous Academic Standards - In the Lands of Oz and Aladdin

Diane DeBacker sets SEA Strategic Communications within the context of the organizational culture and external community culture, as she shares her experiences of leading policy change in Kansas and Dubai. This 2015 presentation was made to SEA chiefs and communications teams during a Strategic Communications convening hosted by SC3, C3, and the Building State Capacity and Productivity Center.

Terry Holliday - And Today's Challenge Is...The Critical Role of Leadership in Strategic Communication

Terry Holliday explains the critical role of leadership in setting the strategic direction and connecting it to the state education agency’s Strategic Communications plan. This 2015 presentation was made to SEA chiefs and communications teams during a Strategic Communications convening hosted by SC3, C3, and Building State Capacity and Productivity Center.

State Education Agencies’ Acquisition and Use of Research Knowledge in School Improvement Strategies

This September 2013 White Paper from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education provides examples of how SEAs structure their work flow and information sharing across divisions, engage audiences, and use social networks to the benefit of school improvement practices.