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3 frameworks to boost your IC strategies

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3 frameworks to boost your IC strategies

We all understand the value of a solid and well-considered strategy.

We know the benefits of research and data.
And we get the need for clarity around what needs to be achieved.

But sometimes it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to planning for a change programme, an upcoming campaign or a new project, particularly at times like these when brains feel overburdened and workloads are even more weighty than usual.

This is where frameworks can help.

And there are three super useful structures that we employ at Alive.

The ARROW framework, the narrative framework and the message palette are all described in the brilliant book, Successful Employee Communications, written by Sue Dewhurst and Liam Fitzpatrick. And this is how they work…


The ARROW framework

 The ARROW framework offers a series of questions to guide you and your stakeholders along a conversation route to explore the problem to be solved.

Aim. It begins by guiding you to ask about the destination to be reached, in business terms. What should be different, and how does this translate into behaviours and targets?

What do you need to be different? What business targets should be achieved?

Reality. Next, it prompts you to explore the current state. What is happening now, and how is this problematic? What are the current behaviours, and what’s driving them? How do we know – is research needed?

What do people know at this point? Where do we stand against targets?

Roadblocks. The framework then examines the journey between the current state and the destination. What might stand in the way? Have changes like this been made before? What happened? Are there lessons to be learned?

What could stop the project being successful? What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Opportunities. This section invites you to explore where time is best invested. Of everything that needs to be achieved, what matters most of all?

What’s the one thing that matters most over the next six months? What’s the easiest step we can help people take first?

Who and when. Finally, it prompts you to ask who is affected or needs to make changes; when targets should be achieved, or changes need to be made.

Who is directly affected by this? When does this project need to be completed?

The book offers plenty more questions to explore the problems and the challenges being faced. They don’t necessarily need to be asked in this order. They are simply prompts to make sure each area is covered.


The narrative framework

 A narrative is simply a great story, told well and truthfully, about your organisation. It’s the wider context into which your messages fit, it helps people to understand what you stand for, where you’re heading and how you’ll get there. Narratives need to make sense about what is happening, reflect what people believe and be true. The narrative framework is a structured way to lay out the stages of your story and the key features to be included.

It explores the situation, the destination to be reached, the journey to get there and a prize at the end that is recognisable and compelling:

  • Our challenge: The current and future environment, and what stakeholders such as customers or regulators expect now and tomorrow. It can include a significant danger or an opportunity to be grasped.
  • Our destination: The end state to which the organisation is headed and a sense of the commitment of leaders or decision-makers to that goal.
  • The journey: The steps and milestones towards the destination. It should refer to the resources (material and emotional) that will be needed and where they will come from.
  • The prize: A statement of what reaching the destination will bring.

The message palette

 So, you’ve run through your ARROW framework to understand what people think, and your narrative framework helps provide a platform upon which to explain how things are happening. You now need to focus on the central idea that you need to get over in order to get results. And this is where your message palette fits in.

Typically, you will want to spell out:

The overall communications objective you have set yourself, possibly broken down according to what you want people to:

Do – the actions you need taken;

Feel or believe – the emotional impetus that will motivate people;

Know – the facts and logical reasoning;

  • A simple, memorable statement of the idea you want to get over;
  • Why the audience should care;
  • A maximum of three or four supporting ideas;
  • Proof points or ‘killer facts’ that support the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of your message.

Bringing it all together

When we’re presented with a new project, these three frameworks form part of our go-to toolkit that helps us to set the scene, understand the story, dissect the challenges and help to define the necessary outcomes. They form a logical process that can bring a stack of information together, define the questions that need to be asked and find a way forward. They bring clarity to our thinking and a structure to the work, the timescales and the tactics which follow.


And they can help you too.


“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Our mission was to update the DASA brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team who provided expert guidance and injected some much needed creativity into the project; resulting in an accessible and engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.

Thank you again for all the work you have done with us!”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead - Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA)

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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