Perimeter Institute needed a roadmap that the entire senior team could own.
The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics had emerged from the brainchild of Mike Lazaridis and a handful of Canadian scientists to a plucky upstart in a somewhat stodgy global community and then to a well-respected institution in Canada, a jewel in the nation’s crown.
What wasn’t clear was how to take the next step, both in terms of growth and global relevance and in terms of telling its own story to ensure the continuation of funding and protect its unique PPP model.
The Director and senior administrative team were seeking to put together a strategy to advance the Institute’s interests long-term, and to then articulate that strategy carefully and deliberately to a series of stakeholders and audiences in terms of branding, reputation management and professional communications.
Get the facts, tell the truth, make a plan – is always a good place to start. We started with a few weeks of secondary research, looking at both global physics institutes and at Canadian think tanks/ specialist institutes, noting funding models, best practices and how they went to market with their value proposition and brand. I also carried out a series of 1-1 senior leader interviews, conversations with researchers and academics in the building, and small workshops with staff – trying to understand the essence of the place, the ambitions of the people, and the universe of possibilities for future growth.
The outputs from all of this work was synthesized and shared back, and then used as the basis for a senior team facilitated offsite retreat – where we made some decisions about near-term and long-term goals, and ruled in and out language we would use for branding and in communications. A big focus in this phase was on truth telling – can we credibly make these claims, to ourselves and to the world, and do we have the wherewithal to follow through?
Planning – both strategy and communications – was then completed iteratively, with phases of solo development and writing, followed by report-backs and collaborative refinement.
In the end we developed a strategy grounded in our reality – scale, location, reputation, funding – which was ambitious but also credible with the board, and with philanthropic and government funders. We built a brand framework, and put inspiring, human language around subject matter that can be extremely technical and abstract. And we built a two-sided audience messaging and engagement map, to help efficiently deploy communications resources and create audience-specific messages/ vehicles/ timing.
Both the strategy and the brand/ communications plan have been instrumental in recruiting new physicists, securing new and recurring rounds of funding, garnering media attention and playing leadership roles in national initiatives such as Innovation 150.
- Senior Team 1:1s
- Workshop Facilitation
- Stakeholder Engagement
- Brand and Messaging Map
- New Long-Run Initiatives
”Mark has a rare ability to see and frame out the big picture, while also being able to dive deep into the details and nuances of how we operate. Perimeter is a unique and complicated place. He got us quickly, put together a strategy we still use today, and has helped us execute over the past few years.Colin HunterDirector of Communications, Perimeter Institute