Ruminations on ComNet15:
Closing the Gap Between Promise Makers and Promise Keepers

I recently attended ComNet15 in San Diego, CA, the marquis event of the Communications Network, an association of social sector leaders from foundations, nonprofits and consulting firms across the globe. Attendees included The Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, The New York Times and The Walton Family Foundation, among others. Featured guest speakers and panels spanned topics as varied as race in America to the making of movements.

In reflecting on the discussions, both formal and informal, a key observation emerged: while the perceived value of communications is growing in the social sector, there remains a structural gap between those making the promises (i.e., the communicators) and those responsible for keeping them (e.g., the programming staff). When these groups are not actively collaborating or strategically aligned, we see a fundamental schism in the expressions and experiences delivered by organizations.

The exciting news, in listening to conversations throughout the conference, is the growing awareness of—and commitment to closing—this gap. For example, in a panel discussion focused on turning ideas into action, the Case Foundation shared how their infrastructure and incentives fosters collaboration between communicators, technical experts and innovation specialists. They cited these cross-functional teams as a critical success factor in realizing the potential of strategic communications to strengthen the organization’s relevance, reach and impact.

As brand consultants committed to elevating storytelling in the social sector, we’re excited to see more purpose-driven organizations realizing the power of brand as a strategic lever for business—and impact.