Strategic Communications

Exploring The Value of Strategic Communications

This module will explore the value of strategic communications and the different contexts where those skills can be effectively applied. You’ll have the opportunity to create your own elevator pitches for research and non-research audiences using a theater-based approach.

Course Module Introduction

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the value of strategic communications and the different contexts where it can be effectively applied;
  • Describe the And, But, Therefore approach to personal narrative and communication;
  • Identify characteristics of a theater-based approach to developing strategic communication skills;
  • Apply their assets and strengths in a variety of contexts to create practice responses to common interview questions;
  • Describe how to review, critique and iteratively improve communicating your experiences, knowledge and narratives.


  • Communication Contexts

    open activity

    We initially called this module the “elevator pitch” module, as indeed, developing a short pitch or narrative is the central activity throughout. However, we wanted to emphasize the strategy behind constructing successful pitches or short answers that showcase your skills – a lot of thought and practice can go into one minute of narrative!

    Strategic communications like the pitches you will practice in this module can happen in a variety of contexts – at a conference or networking event, during job interviews – really in any semi-structured or semi-formal space where you are asked to talk about yourself or your work.

    In this module you will be developing and practicing two elevator pitches, one that describes your research and a second highlighting a non-research professional interest, accomplishment or project. Our goal is that you will develop something that is flexible enough that you can strategically tweak it to fit distinct contexts in which you might be talking to someone else.

    We have developed a worksheet that can help walk you through this process. Please fill out Part 1 as you consider what pitches you want to create and the context in which you might use each one. 

  • Introducing Strategic Communication Skills and Pitch Preparation

    open activity

    Applied theatre involves the use of theatre and drama in a wide variety of nontraditional contexts and venues, such as in teaching, the justice system, health care, the political arena, community development, and museums. Applied theatre is also often used to intentionally provoke or shape social change.

    Here we are using applied theatre to present strategic communications in the form of narratives used to express one’s research ideas or other experiences to various audiences. We don’t expect you to become expert in practices of theatre – we aren’t training you to be an actor – but we do intend for you to adopt and adapt a few basic and simple elements that help you connect to your audience, maintain an expressive and engaging presence and learn to reflect on those ‘theatrical’ elements of your narratives, pitches, and presentations to improve them.

    Introduction to Strategic Communication Skills


    After watching this video, refer back to your worksheet from the last section and review your response to Part 1: Develop a Scenario. You’ll now be able to complete Part 2: list 3-5 major talking points for each pitch.

    Read Houston, We Have a Narrative by Randy Olson. After you’ve read this text, watch the following video.

    ABT: The DNA of Story

    Summary of Effective Narrative Structures (ABT)


    After watching this video, revisit your worksheet to review Part 2: Major Talking Points, then in Part 3 develop an outline for each of your pitches using the ABT structure. Refer to Randy Olson’s examples here.

  • Example Postdocs Go Through Coaching Process

    open activity

    Postdocs Build Pitches and Receive Coaching

    Before you develop your own pitches using some of the theater-based frameworks we have discussed, we will show you the journeys of three postdocs that went through the same activity – Olivia Chesniak, Kalisha Bonds-Johnson, and Aditya Raghunandran.

    In the next set of videos, Byron Stewart will coach our three postdoc colleagues as they develop, practice, refine, and finalize non-research and research-related pitches. We hope their reflections will serve as initial peer feedback to help you practice and pitch at home.

    You can view or download the rubric here.

    Postdocs Reflect on Constructing and Delivering Pitches

    Strategic Communications: Postdoc One Minute Talks

    PRES Model

    Postdoc Pitches

    Below are examples of postdocs creating and revising non-research and research related pitches. In each video you will see a first draft and final draft of the pitch. We recommend participants watch one or two of the videos below.

    Research Pitches




    Non-Research Pitches




    Self-Reflection Prompts

    After watching these videos of postdocs, reflect back on your worksheet and draft your two pitches, adapting your pitch based on audience, personality, scenario, and context, with words that work for you. A 60-90 second pitch should be approximately 200 words long.

  • Practicing Strategic Communication

    open activity


    Using the same worksheet for reference, record both of your elevator pitches.

    Watch your recording, while examining the rubric for presentations found here. You can also use the complete communications rubric, which includes sections on content, etc. found here.

    Self-Reflection Prompts on Your Pitches

    • How do you assess yourself based on the delivery rubric?
    • What else do you notice and reflect on? Consider positive reactions as well as things you might change.
    • What is one action item for you after watching your video?


Course Module References

Additional Resources