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Strategic Communications

Strategic communications help increase understanding of—and support for—the anchor mission, organizational commitments, and impacts of the anchor collaborative. Anchor collaboratives have organized around a shared goal of addressing racial and economic inequities through equitable economic development and community wealth building. As with any organization or business, educating stakeholders on why (the problem you are trying to address) and how (your goals and strategies) is key to getting their informed support in the short and long term.

An internal communication strategy helps keep collaborative members informed, motivated, and organized. In turn, each member can more effectively communicate the goals and progress of the anchor collaborative with their internal staff, key leaders, and executive champions. An external communications strategy prepares the anchor collaborative for effective messaging and engagement with the general public, and with key stakeholders such as elected officials or community members and leaders.

Strategic communications focus on the rationale, goals, and strategies behind the anchor collaborative’s work, providing timely updates that are salient to its key audiences while elevating specific initiatives that have been successful. Furthermore, achieving community buy-in and accountability requires transparency in communication about these areas and the decision-making processes. The hope is that as members of the anchor collaborative and other key audiences learn about the “why” and “how” of the work and become involved, they will internalize these ideas and become more active champions and more effective and reliable community partners.

This section offers guidance on how anchor collaboratives can effectively connect with their key audiences and tell their story. We discuss the anchor collaborative’s core audiences, emphasize storytelling as essential to an effective communications plan, and describe goals, strategies and tactics for internal and external communications. The HAN Anchor Mission Communications Toolkit, developed in collaboration with Rush University System for Health (a member of West Side United anchor collaborative), provides more in-depth information, examples, and resources.

If everyone in the institution clearly understands the anchor mission, the mission becomes part of the institution’s culture and can then be supported and upheld throughout all levels of the institution. Communications can help to establish, maintain, and build the anchor-mission understanding needed to support the culture change and obtain widespread buy-in.


Strategic communications happen internally and externally. Internal communications are two fold: 1) how the backbone communicates with anchor collaborative members, and 2) how anchor collaborative members in turn communicate with their internal staff, key leaders, and executive leaders. External communications refers to how the collaborative communicates with stakeholders who are not directly involved in the collaborative’s work, including the general public and any key stakeholders, such as elected officials or community members and leaders. Below are examples of an anchor collaborative’s internal and external audiences.

Internal Audiences

External Audiences

  • Patients, students, alumni, other key stakeholders of anchor institutions

  • Community members

  • Donors

  • Elected officials

  • Policymakers

  • Civic and business leaders

  • News media


Storytelling is essential for communicating impact. Stories showcase the members of the collaborative, community partners, and the people benefitting from anchor mission initiatives. Get started on storytelling by growing a library of stories that can be shared across a variety of communications channels and vehicles. These can be individual stories from workers, business owners, or residents who have engaged in the anchor mission initiatives. These can also be stories of anchor institution champions who have successfully advocated for change within their organizations. In the early stages, individual stories can help communicate why the collaborative is focused on community wealth building: to create stronger, more sustainable local communities where all residents benefit from growth and opportunity. Stories can also highlight key activities and events such as a local business, a job fair, a community event, or a celebration. Keep content flowing by consistently asking for quotes and photos, keeping track of happenings, and sharing stories. In turn, audiences will begin to develop a clear understanding of why the collaborative exists and the anchor mission initiatives it is working on.

The anchor mission framework is a multifaceted approach leading to the goals of improved community health, racial equity, and building community wealth. But fundamentally, this work is about people. Find ways to highlight members of the community and how they benefit from anchor mission strategies—as well as to show the strength and resources of the community.

Anchor collaborative communications: Strategies and tactics

By developing goals, strategies, and tactics for internal and external audiences, the collaborative will create a communications strategy that considers the unique tone, framing, and level of detail necessary for compelling and salient messaging.

Internal communications: common goals of internal communications are to build anchor mission champions, accelerate organizational commitments, and foster a spirit of learning and shared ownership among members. Below, we share several strategies and tactics that backbones and conveners can use to support effective communications to members of the anchor collaborative, and from members to their broader staff and stakeholders.

  • Establish shared language, a collective narrative, and a consistent voice across members of the collaborative by developing collateral such as talking points, presentations, infographics, or other template resources that can be frequently referenced and used by members of the collaborative. As a starting point, reference Healthcare Anchor Network’s Tools for Defining the Organizational Imperative.

  • Help institutionalize each organization's sense of identity as anchors and strong community partners through consistent messaging and reach to all internal stakeholders within the institution, beyond those directly involved in the collaborative. Partner with the anchor institution’s communications team to embed anchor mission talking points into the organization’s internal materials, such as onboarding documents, presentations, and website.

  • Create a culture of learning by creating a safe space for members of the collaborative to share honestly, discuss opportunities for peer coaching and connection, and present to one another on challenges, progress, and lessons learned.

  • Keep the collaborative moving by standardizing meeting agendas, discussing standing agenda items, sharing meeting summaries with action steps, and providing regular updates to the collaborative about progress.

  • Instill in collaborative members a sense of ownership and pride by celebrating both small wins and major milestones, and having the collaborative members share those wins with their staff and networks.

  • Affirm and reaffirm the anchor collaborative’s value by drawing connections between members’ engagement in the collaborative and the progress they are making (e.g., peer coaching helped stand up an Impact Purchasing strategy at an anchor institution; a presentation by a workforce intermediary led to a joint workforce-training program between two members of the collaborative).

External communications: common goals of external communications are to increase engagement, support, and awareness of anchor mission initiatives, and to develop or maintain a positive reputation of the anchor institutions and the collaborative as strong, reliable, and trusted community partners. Below, we share strategies and tactics for effective communication from the anchor collaborative (including the backbone) to the general public and key stakeholders, such as elected officials or community members and leaders.

  • Reach many audiences by building an integrated content pipeline to share content with purpose. Examples of content include websites, email, blogs, social media, video, and newsletters. Think about which channels are most important for reaching your core audiences, and which audiences can be reached through existing channels managed by anchor institutions and community partners (e.g., does the collaborative need its own social handles?).

  • Increase awareness, support, and trust for the collaborative by publishing progress toward stated goals and sharing impact in the community, in addition to lessons learned and work still to come. Publish on a publicly accessible platform and share through several channels and formats listed above.

  • Elevate the work of the collaborative to a broad audience and key stakeholders by developing thought leadership pieces (articles, op-eds, etc.) co-authored by anchor collaborative members. Work with media teams at anchor institutions to get such pieces published in local or national publications.

  • Integrate anchor mission messages into anchor institutions’ broader communications channels (website, socials, etc.) and leverage the media relations staff at anchor institutions to help craft and share key messages and stories.

External Communication Channels, Southwest Partnership (SWP)

Southwest Partnership is a coalition of seven neighborhood associations and seven anchor institutions in Southwest Baltimore. SWP leverages an array of communication tools to share progress transparently and proactively, including a website, a monthly newsletter, mid-year and annual reports, and social media (e.g., Instagram, Facebook). These tools enable the SWP team to proactively share updates and opportunities for engagement with the community, with a recent example being a Housing Action Plan.

Strategies that support internal and external communications: there are several ways to build champions at anchor institutions while also building public support for the anchor collaborative’s efforts. Below we provide strategies and tactics that allow anchor collaborative members to build their confidence, increase their visibility, and show up as advocates for the anchor mission through public forums designed to increase understanding and awareness of the collaborative’s purpose and impact.

  • Identify high-impact forums such as conferences, events, or roundtables as opportunities for executive leaders and key champions to speak about the collaborative in community and amongst key stakeholder groups. Develop a speakers bureau or list of champions who commit to socializing anchor mission principles and goals of the anchor collaborative throughout the community.

  • Create high-impact forums by hosting a public event for staff and leaders from key stakeholder groups. Give anchor institutions and community leaders visibility in such forums. Bring in experts, thought leaders, or peers in other cities to tie the collaborative’s work back to the national movement.

  • Expand the influence of anchor institutions and inspire others to join or support the effort by positioning anchor collaborative members as united and informed advocates for local policies and investments that improve communities.

  • Create a more widespread connection to the mission by ensuring that stakeholders see themselves in the anchor collaborative’s efforts (e.g., hospital staff and community members are impacted by workforce shortages, so make sure they see the connection with the impact workforce goals).

  • Build engagement and momentum that reaches beyond the collaborative by providing tactical ways for employees of the anchor institutions and community members to support the mission. For example, curate and widely share a list of local businesses to buy from as an individual, as well as for anchor institution activities such as catered lunches.

Steps for getting started on strategic communications:

  • Develop a set of key messages that are communicated in a way that all stakeholder groups can understand. Define core concepts, strategies, history, and timelines, plus who is involved in the collaborative and why.

  • Identify key community groups’ newsletters and other frequent communications channels, and initiate information exchanges with those groups.

  • Bring together communications professionals at anchor institutions early in the collaborative’s process, and seek their input on key messages and channels for reaching core audiences.

Continuum of Progress: Strategic Communications 

When fully sustaining, members of the anchor collaborative and the backbone are consistent and proactive in their communication with one another and with their internal staff, and the collaborative as a whole is regularly engaging and sharing key messages with external audiences. With the support of the backbone, collaboratives can start by defining core audiences, establishing internal communication channels, and developing key messages together. They can then begin to determine communication channels, collect stories, and expand their reach, engagement and influence.
The collaborative and backbone are working to determine and distinguish between key audiences.
The collaborative and backbone have identified the best channels (web, blog, socials, email, etc) for reaching each key audience internally and externally.
The collaborative and backbone are consistently communicating with key audiences through specific channels.
The collaborative is working to standardize the cadence of communication and meeting structure.

Members agree to a regular cadence of communication, meeting structure, and commit to sharing consistent updates on action items.

Backbone and members are consistent in their communication to one another, and members of the collaborative are proactive in sharing updates on progress.
The collaborative is working to develop key messages that define the collaborative’s purpose, activities, goals, and impact.
Members endorse key messages and shared language to describe the collaborative’s mission, activities, and impact. Members begin to embed anchor mission talking points into their own organization’s communications materials (e.g. website, socials, presentations).
Members of the collaborative consistently and confidently share the collaborative’s key messages through several communications channels within and outside their organization.
The collaborative understands the value of storytelling and is interested in a standardized process for collecting stories and quotes from people directly engaged in the collaborative’s efforts.
The collaborative is proactive in collecting stories and quotes from individuals and organizations directly engaged in the collaborative’s efforts.
The collaborative has curated a robust catalog of stories and communications pieces about the individuals and organizations impacted by the work of the collaborative.
The collaborative is developing a strategy and tactics for effective communication with key external audiences.
The collaborative is expanding its reach, and influence through external communications strategies and increasing engagement and awareness among key stakeholders.
All key stakeholders understand the role of anchor institutions and the collaborative in building equitable local economies and are consistent in their involvement and engagement with the partnership.
Member Mindset
I am still learning how to effectively communicate the purpose and mission of the anchor collaborative.
I leverage key messages and other communications resources and guidance of staff to effectively tell the collaborative’s story.
I am confident in my ability to speak on the collaborative's purpose and impact and seek out opportunities to share with my colleagues and stakeholders.
Backbone Mindset
I am working to document key messages and a communications strategy with members of the anchor collaborative.
I actively seek opportunities to collect and share stories that help communicate the purpose and impact of the anchor collaborative.
I am consistent in my communications with all relevant stakeholders regarding the progress and goals of the collaborative.
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