Interview by Madisyn Fairchild, Client Service Associate (4 minute read)
Jessica Paulsen from Distinctive Schools sits down with Client Service Associate Madisyn Fairchild to share the behind-the-scenes of how the organization communicated their new strategic plan with the community they serve.
Congratulations! You and your team completed the strategic planning process.
Your organization spent the last six to nine months in exciting visioning sessions and holding important, sometimes challenging, conversations with your staff, board and stakeholders. You are so proud of the work you have done – and you should be! Now what?
How do you convey hours of work and pages of content in a digestible manner to those who were not involved in the process?
At Alford Group, we know that each client has a specific way of communicating with their stakeholders. That is why we recommend creating diverse communication vehicles when publicly sharing a new strategic plan.
One client who we think serves as a model in this area is Distinctive Schools. Distinctive Schools operates high-performing public charter schools in Chicago and Detroit. They partnered with Alford Group to complete their strategic planning process. To launch the final plan and its strategic pillars, Distinctive Schools took the content and designed icons for each pillar, created a video announcement, dedicated a page on their website to the plan, and utilized email blasts, social media posts and internal communication tools to share the news.
Watch the DS Video Announcement.
To learn more about Distinctive Schools’ approach to sharing their strategic plan, we spoke with the organization’s Strategy Officer, Jessica Paulsen.
Madisyn Fairchild, Alford Group: For those who may not be familiar with this campaign, can you describe what it is and what the objective was?
Jessica Paulsen, Distinctive Schools: Distinctive Schools built and launched a new strategic plan with significant input from our stakeholders – staff, families, partners and other leaders. It was important to us to share our updated vision and plans with these stakeholders and the larger community. The campaign was designed to engage and educate our community about our strategic plan goals, how we developed them, and what our vision is for the future of our schools and communities. We used email blasts, a video announcement and created internal communications tools to keep these goals visible among our leaders and team members.
Madisyn: What does Distinctive Schools’ creative team look like? How many people did it take to complete this campaign?
Jessica: Our Marketing and Communications team includes two staff members. Our Managing Director of Marketing and Communications, Molly Quinn took the lead on this project and all elements of the campaign.
Madisyn: Why was it important to the DS team to share the strategic plan through these formats? What was the reaction from stakeholders?
Jessica: It was important to us to make our plan accessible and bring it to life. We wanted to build excitement and make sure our community knew how we were evolving and growing based on what we learned from their feedback, and from our pandemic experience. We recognized the need to provide our students, families and communities with more and the response was encouraging! We hear the language of the plan in our schools, and it shows us we’ve been successful in communicating about the plan on a regular basis and reaching folks across the organization. The updates we shared helped reignite conversations and connections with stakeholders and have presented new opportunities for us.
Madisyn: When did the marketing planning process begin for the strategic plan? For example, there are icons to represent each pillar, so did the ideas for those come along when the pillars were solidified?
Jessica: We developed the marketing plan near the end of the planning process, as it was helpful to have more concrete details, themes and feedback from stakeholders gathered during the plan. Once the plan was finalized, we wanted our community to be able to see themselves within the plan – to see their input. Community involvement was such a key element in the process, the icons and graphics developed for the plan were designed to showcase the inclusive process, and how the strategic plan is the guiding vision for our Distinctive communities – we are all in this together.
Madisyn: What will communication with the community look like over the next three years of the plan?
Jessica: We are still looking for creative and engaging ways to continue communicating about our plan and its impact as we continue our work. We are considering video updates, newsletters, blog articles and more. We have integrated updates across teams and meetings, and have been intentional about bringing leaders together for updates.
We were very happy with the outcome of the marketing of our strategic plan, especially when leading this work with a small team. Looking ahead, we’re continuing to plan future communications and engagement and will gather more feedback on how to stay in touch about the plan.
Keep your community close.
When consultants at Alford Group join your team to create a strategic plan, we emphasize the importance of including voices from every aspect of your community: from your staff, to your board and volunteers, to the people you serve and your community partners.
During our engagement with Distinctive Schools, we facilitated over 700 touchpoints with various stakeholders, including families and students. This is just one example of our commitment to creating community-centered change.
Give the members of your community a voice in the future of your organization. Partner with us for strategic planning services to engage your community as you envision your organization’s future. Click here to get in touch.
Are you at the beginning of your strategic planning journey? Head over to this blog post and Follow the Yellow Brick Road to begin.