The Communications Matrix Reloaded

Some years ago I worked as a communications officer at Acción Contra el Hambre, an international NGO in Spain. I was responsible for developing internal communications tools. Unfortunately I didn’t follow my own recommendations from part one of this trilogy, – as I simply ignored them and aimed for quick visible results.

Having said this, during my time in Madrid, not only did I learn more about internal communications, but I also had the opportunity to delve into the Logical Framework Approach (LFA), as well.

Source: IFAD

The LFA is a systematic planning procedure for complete project cycle management. It was developed in 1969 for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is widely used today by bilateral and multilateral donor organizations like GTZ, DFID, UNDP or the EC.

Logical Framework meets communications

The OECD defines the Logical Frameworks as a management tool to improve the design of interventions, most often at the project level. It involves identifying strategic elements and their causal relationships, indicators, and the assumptions and risks that may influence success and failure. It thus facilitates planning, execution and evaluation of a development intervention.

Since the 1970s it has been widely used to describe major elements of a project and even adapted or simplified by management schools for the profit sector. So, why should you be interested in the concept ‘The Communications Matrix’?

First of all, the LFA description is of a 4×4 set of building blocks:

Source: MDF – Training & Consultancy. The columns represent the levels of project objectives and the means to achieve them (the vertical logic); the rows indicate how the achievement of objectives can be verified (the horizontal logic). The log frame has a hierarchy of project objectives – there are four levels in the log frame and each lower level of activity must contribute to the achievement of a higher level activity. Assumptions must be systematically recorded.

Second, ‘The Communications Matrix’ sounds better than “just another communications strategy blog post.”

Finally, if applied to the main role of a decision-maker in the communications department, and assuming a communications consultant has a role of an analytical, strategic and operational consultant to the decision-maker, ‘The Communications Matrix’ (LFA applied to communications strategy) is a very valuable tool to both.

There’s no need for everybody to be a great strategist or even to be directly involved. This might come as a surprise. Most know the situation when you realize that nine out of ten people consider themselves to be strategically-minded and delegate the ‘minor’ task, such as the implementation of an employee engagement program to a tiny minority. Vice versa would be a healthier approach in this case, and no, writing ten times ‘Strategy’ or ‘Vision’ in your PowerPoint does not make you a strategy genius.

How can The Matrix change my life?

As Morpheus said: “Great consultancy starts with understanding you, your business and your people. And that means listening carefully to what’s being said – or not said.”

Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly what he said and this is not exactly the point. Although ‘The Communications Matrix’ may not change your life dramatically, as ‘The Matrix’ did change Neo’s. At the very least, it could make your life easier.

Why not take the Logical Framework and adapt it to your communication strategy needs? The main idea is the same. ‘The Communications Matrix’ specifies what the project is attempting to achieve and indicates the means by which the achievement may be measured, it makes the project logic explicit. In comparison to the LFA its terminology needs to be slightly adapted. For example:

  1. Communications goal: The ultimate, long-term result that your communications strategy contributes to.
  2. Specific communications objective: Description of a measurable achievement involving a process of change and aimed at meeting specific needs of an identified audience within a given period of time. Meeting this objective makes reaching the communications goal easier.
  3. Communications results: The measurable outcome of a communications programme or project. This ultimately allows you to accomplish a specific communications objective.
  4. Activity: Action taken or work performed to achieve the desired communications results.

The next part of this trilogy will not only add the means and costs, assumptions and indicators, but will show why establishing a Communications Matrix is only possible after a thorough analysis of problems and objectives.

Can I get you even more excited about the final chapter, ‘The Communications Matrix Revolutions?

Yes, I can! I think the 4×4 matrix in the graph above could be reduced for internal communications purposes to 4×3, by deleting the sources of verification column. What do you think?

Sources: DFID, UN, Wikipedia, UK National Archives
Thanks to Jeremy Gray for editing my text. Jeremy is a journalist, photographer and ‚Berliner‘

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