Communication Canvas - the tool for strategic communication

Communication Canvas

The Communication Canvas is a practical tool for developing, implementing, and optimizing strategic communication.

With the Communication Canvas, you can simplify complex issues so that the interrelationships between the individual aspects become visible.

This streamlines collaboration within the team and with customers – and takes your strategy development to a whole new level.

Vier Mitarbeiterinnen entwickeln eine Kommunikationsstrategie mit dem Communication Canvas

The 12 success factors in the Communication Canvas


The 12 success factors in the Communication Canvas

Organization strategy

A vision is a desired target state of the world or even of a specific target group or region, etc. For non-profit organizations, the vision is relatively easy to define. However, companies also have some kind of meaning, a purpose that goes beyond generating revenue.

The reason a company’s vision is important for its strategic communication is almost self-explanatory. Credibly conveying the company’s purpose means creating identity. If you can highlight what makes the organization unique, you can build long-term relationships with customers and partners who share a similar set of values or mindset.

When developing the communication strategy, a clear definition of objectives always helps to question the purposes of all communication measures. In other words, does the reason we communicate contribute directly to achieving the vision?

The mission of a company or organization is expressed primarily in the business model or the social mandate. Consequently, products and services are also part of the mission, as are (internal) mission statements and the corporate culture.

In other words, the mission encompasses everything an organization does to get from the current state (see: market) to the target state (see: vision).

Of course, for strategic communication, it is important to be able to explain exactly what the company or NGO does – and how it is done. From a pragmatic point of view, it is usually the case that (potential) customers have the greatest need for information about the mission.

The market analysis in the context of the organizational strategy reveals which needs or social inequities the company or NGO wants to address. In other words, it is about a specific challenge people want to overcome or an already identified demand for a solution, product, or service.

The market is important for strategic communication because it clarifies who the company or organization is targeting. Specific target groups can then be derived from this when developing the communication strategy. Therefore, a good link to the company’s market makes it possible to target communication measures more precisely.

Communication strategy

In the context of communication strategy, the sender is all about who communicates. This can vary for different target groups or in various circumstances.

For example, internal communication may require the management to act personally as the sender. At the same time, the PR or press department and customer service department may communicate externally.

However, being a sender also involves creating a consistent, authentic, and identifiable brand. Many aspects of this can already be found in the organizational strategy and only need to be transformed into a communicable construct.

The question of the purpose of communication seems easy to answer. But it is actually the core question of a communication strategy and should not be treated too superficially. Because just as a company does not only exist to generate sales (see: Vision), it also does not usually only communicate so that more people learn about the company.

The purposes of communication are usually very diverse and interrelated. They also require different storytelling on a strategic level and in diverse formats at a tactical level.

In the Communication Canvas, purpose forms the direct translation of corporate goals into communication goals. Conversely, achieving a purpose should directly contribute to the organization coming one step closer to its vision.

In a communication strategy, storytelling forms the bridge between the sender and the target groups. This central success factor is about developing the leitmotif or the type of staging.

In storytelling, the specific topics and formats (in terms of blog articles vs. press releases, etc.) should not yet be determined. This task belongs to the area of communication tactics (see: selection and production).

Rather, the point is to record in the abstract what will later be expressed concretely by employing different topics and formats.

Who do you want to reach (target groups)? And who are you already reaching (reference groups)? These are the two core questions in this success factor of the communication strategy.

There are two basic approaches to defining target groups. The old method looks at a person’s characteristics, especially socioeconomic ones such as age, gender, marital status, occupation, income, place of residence, etc. On the other hand, more modern methods look at specific preferences and people’s behaviors. For this purpose, so-called personas are formed, i.e., archetypal images of people who correspond 100% to the target group.

In contrast, validatable knowledge can be acquired about reference groups (e.g., newsletter recipients or customers) through interaction. Therefore, they can provide much higher-quality feedback for strategic communication and even organizational strategy.

Why should someone invest their precious time in receiving a communication measure? Your communication will only differ from simple advertising if you can answer this question convincingly. After all, strategic communication claims to create added value for the recipient, even before a product or service from the sender is used.

Considering the relevance in detail as part of the communication strategy is valuable. After all, the experience that target and reference groups have with a company’s communications most directly shapes their perception of the organization.

In addition, it is always important to check whether the relevance of the communication for the recipient also fits the communication’s purpose (determined by the sender).

Communication tactics

The success factor of topic selection can be roughly divided into the areas of agenda setting and agenda surfing. So, on the one hand, you can make a subject a topic, i.e., you have to create the attention for it yourself. On the other hand, you can focus on current topics (e.g., seasons and major events).

Agenda setting and agenda surfing both have advantages and disadvantages. For example, the former helps to make the sender more recognizable but also involves a larger attention threshold. With the latter, attention is easier to achieve. However, there is a higher risk of being lost in the noise of similar communication from other senders.

In essence, it is a matter of finding topics for communication that fit the purpose of the communication strategy. If you bend too much, you will lose credibility. On the other hand, if you always communicate the same thing, you are boring and will be punished with disinterest.

Once communication topics have been selected, suitable formats must be determined, an editorial plan with timelines and responsibilities drawn up, and finally, the content must be produced.

The great art of production is to devote only as much effort as necessary to managing or organizing the content. The focus should be on the actual production. Smaller organizations with only one or a few content producers can reduce the organizational effort to a minimum. However, the larger the organization and the more content producers involved, the more important it becomes to plan production workflows and coordinate responsibilities.

In terms of content, many indications for content production can already be found in the communication strategy, especially in the success factor storytelling. These need to be developed into suitable communication formats.

How communication measures are distributed depends heavily on their format (see: Production). In terms of distribution, the classic division into owned media (e.g., the company’s own website or social media profile), paid media (advertising), and earned media (reporting in third-party media) can be used.

Which channels are used to interest which target groups in which topic varies greatly. In addition, a wide variety of combinations are possible when content is used multiple times in different formats or when the same content is distributed multiple times via different channels.

Especially in the area of earned media, interaction with multipliers (e.g., journalists and bloggers) continues to be crucial. Who lends themselves to this and what a trust-building approach to multipliers looks like is, in turn, highly dependent on the location, the industry, and the organization’s target groups.

Measuring the success or effects of communication is not always easy. But it is impossible to work strategically without defining indicators for measuring success. There has to be some feedback on how well the communication measures implemented contribute to achieving the communication’s strategic purposes and the organization’s strategic goals. The Communication Canvas thus completes a full circle between the success factors of monitoring and vision.

Suitable indicators for measuring success primarily depend on the size of the company and the frequency of interactions with target and reference groups. Brand awareness or corporate image, for example, can only be measured at great expense and only makes sense for larger organizations. However, search engine rankings, website visitors, inquiries received, newsletter openings, or press releases published are factors that anyone can measure.

What remains important is that it is not simply about “more of everything” (what good are 1,000 website visitors who are not interested in the actual product?) but about successes that ultimately help to achieve the company’s vision.

Everything you need to know about the Communication Canvas

Mitarbeiter diskutieren anhand des Communication Canvas über die strategische Kommunikation in ihrem Unternehmen
What is the Communication Canvas?2023-03-16T15:03:42+01:00

The Communication Canvas is a tool that allows you to develop strategic communication for your organization on one sheet.

You can use the Communication Canvas to work on a wide variety of topics in corporate communications. For example, the Canvas is suitable for developing a complete communication strategy depending on the company’s organizational strategy. The practical implementation of the strategy can also be planned and controlled with the Canvas.

What can I use the Communication Canvas for?2023-03-16T15:04:04+01:00

Typical use cases for the Communication Canvas include:

  • Communication strategy or strategic communication manual
  • A concept for internal communication or employee communication
  • Content management for website or online magazine
  • A social media concept
  • Employer branding and HR communication
For whom is the Communication Canvas suitable?2023-03-16T15:04:41+01:00

The Communication Canvas is explicitly structured in such a way that the size or industry of a company or organization is irrelevant. In this respect, the strategy tool can be used by freelancers, startups, companies, or corporations. Budget and personnel resources are not important.

However, the larger or longer an organization has existed, the more complex the processes of strategic communication that need to be mapped. Therefore, more tools will be necessary within the Communication Canvas, for example, to determine target groups, etc.

Why does the Communication Canvas have three levels?2023-03-16T15:06:32+01:00

In the Communication Canvas, there are the levels of organizational strategy, communication strategy, and communication tactics.

In the case of organizational strategy, the most important thing is to develop an understanding of “how the business works.” It is only with this knowledge that you can explain, on the one hand, the company’s unique selling points and, on the other hand, align the purposes of communication with the organizational goals.

The communication strategy is the heart and answers all the “why” questions. Read more in the guide on the five topics of a good communication strategy.

Finally, the communication tactics define how the strategy is to be implemented on a day-to-day basis (by departments or external parties).

Is or does the Communication Canvas require software?2023-03-16T15:04:22+01:00

I have deliberately chosen not to implement the Communication Canvas as software. Instead, you can fill out the PDF digitally – or quite analogously as a printout in the team (e.g., as a workshop). After all, hardly any communication department or agency starts “from scratch.” Instead, many processes and tools are already established.

The big advantage of the Communication Canvas is that you can continue to use and integrate any of these existing methods and tools.

Is the Communication Canvas really free of charge?2023-03-16T15:05:02+01:00

The central concern of Stratēgicum is to make the company communication more strategic – and thus more targeted, transparent, and effective (so that advertising becomes superfluous). The Communication Canvas is an optimal tool for this.

Therefore, the strategy tool is available free of charge as a PDF in Din A4 to everyone (download at the bottom of the page).

There is even more for those who subscribe to the Stratēgicum newsletter because they will receive the Communication Canvas in Din A0 so that they can print it out very large for teamwork. Unsubscribing from the newsletter is, of course, possible at any time.

The Communication Canvas in practice


The Communication Canvas provides the framework for your strategy development. It is best to print it out very large and work with sticky notes to collect and structure your ideas.


The Canvas’s three levels build on each other. Ideally, start with the organizational strategy, then work out the communication strategy, and finally derive the aspects of the communication tactics from this.


Answer the questions for each of the twelve success factors of strategic communication. Use different colored slips of paper or pens to mark different areas within a success factor.


To address the respective issues of a success factor, you should apply or integrate additional strategy tools and methods. The Communication Canvas provides you with a meaningful hierarchy or order for this.


Then check coherence and stringency. Have you considered all the interdependencies? Can the practical implementation of communication be justified by the strategic goals of the organization?


If necessary, put your work into writing in the form of a manual for your corporate communications. In addition, or alternatively, you can derive guides for individual areas such as the press department or your agency.

Download Communication Canvas free of charge

You can download the Communication Canvas here free of charge as a PDF in Din A4.

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