Using Theory of Change to write communications strategies

We are big fans of writing communications strategies using a Theory of Change model. It also works for marketing and fundraising strategies as well as whole organisational strategy development!

Theory of Change was first incubated in the international development world where funders like DFID needed charities to demonstrate clearly and tangibly how their programmes changed lives. There are some great examples of organisations using it very effectively like this one from Sightsavers.

What is a Theory of Change?

A Theory of Change is essentially a diagram that sets out a logical relationship between the inputs (time, money and people available), activities, and impact. Impact is tracked through outputs (the things you can measure) and outcomes (the changes that result). It is also known as a logic model.


For us, there are clear advantages to this approach. It is a great tool for checking whether there is a logical link between resources and impact. Many narrative strategies hide multiple ‘equally important’ outcomes and targets within one document. They do not give teams a clear steer on strategic priorities, nor their responsibilities for delivering those priorities.

Poorly defined strategies are particularly difficult for communications teams. Communications is both a ‘catch all’ and a ‘difficult to measure’ function. So showing how planned activities should lead to changes in people’s attitudes and behaviours is critically important. There are many extremely busy communications teams who struggle to understand and describe the purpose of the communications they produce. Whereas a Theory of Change approach lines up communications activities with the intended changes in an easy-to-understand diagram.

To learn more about writing a communications strategy using this approach, please download the free Writing a Communications Strategy slide deck. It is the presentation our director gave at a Directory of Social Change training day. We’d love to hear what you think of it and if you find it helpful.

You may also be interesting in reading our guide to evaluating communications strategies written using a Theory of Change – see Measuring the things that count

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