The Adaptive Digital Strategy Framework

Special thanks to Brian Solis.
Brian SolisBrian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research firm focused on disruptive technology. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business, marketing, and culture. This post was cross-published on Brian’s blog. I want to thank him for the support, the inspiration and for the motivation he gave me. Brian is not just a great communicator, he is a wonderful person and a dear friend of mine. I encourage you to find out more about him and his work at

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Today we still see a large number of organizations that keep struggling to align social media and new emerging communication technologies with the overall firm strategy.

Organizations should adapt, look in the mirror and recognize that they need to change because the world has changed. They should embrace new strategic frameworks to avoid getting caught up in the digital hype that hit them every day with new solutions and focus on what can actually help them achieve their business and communication objectives.

Having worked in communications for a while now, I spent a lot of time studying, piloting and learning from many different communication plans. I understood what works, what doesn’t, where digital fits into the current mix and I understood which are the elements of a plan that are, almost constantly, overlooked by organizations.

Eventually over the years I developed, and kept improving, an adaptive framework that would help me planning, executing and managing digital communication plans more effectively and efficiently. I called this framework the “Adaptive Digital Strategy Framework”.

This is the first in a series of posts that I will release over the next weeks exploring each element of this “Adaptive Digital Strategy Framework”. In each post I will share my point of view and I will be willing to hear what you think, what you agree or disagree with, what’s missing or what can be changed. It’s going to be a good opportunity to learn from each other and to grow together.

Together with each post of the series I will release also a podcast episode in which you will find the audio version of the post with additional audio commentary about the discussed topics. The name of the podcast is “FIR On Strategy with Andrea Vascellari”, a new podcast under the For Immediate Release (FIR) brand, that offers you guidelines and tips to help you plan, execute and manage your strategic communication plans.

In this post we will explore the overall structure and process of the framework. We will understand how it functions and, indeed, why it’s called “adaptive”. Imagine this first post as the roadmap that will guide us on this journey.

Let’s get started!

Structure and Process

In this ever-changing environment characterized by the disruptive effects of the social web, I learned that there’s no “one best way” to organize and lead an organization. Instead, the optimal performance and results depend on the process adopted by the organization to plan and execute its initiatives, and by the multitude of factors that influence it.

This is why I divide the framework in two parts. The first one defines, at a macro level, where the process lies within the overall ecosystem structure. The second describes, at a micro level, how the process actually functions.

Macro Level

Often people make a mistake when they think exclusively about the process used to plan, execute and manage a communications plan without contextualizing it. This macro bird’s-eye view helps us understand where the process is, what is connected to, what factors it is influenced by and what outcomes it generates.

Adaptive Digital Strategy Framework - Structure


  • Organizational factors: Conditions of the external environment/climate and leadership style.
  • Human factors: Skills, knowledge and character of who works for the organization.
  • Social factors: Values, inspiration, behaviors of the groups of people that work for the organization.


  • Organizational structure: This is about how the different activities, tasks and responsibilities are distributed within the organization.
  • Process: The brain and heart of our strategic planning & execution. Here we set the objectives, the strategies, the tactics, we verify the results and determine the necessary corrective actions.
  • Financial structure: It defines how the financial resources are allocated according to the defined objectives.


  • Management efficiency: Quality of the management. Is the management capable of achieving a good and tangible output?
  • Motivation: This is what drives a person to perform a certain action or to pursue a certain objective.
  • Morale: Do people feel under pressure when they work or do they feel satisfied? You can think it as the “organizational climate” and it has to do with how the work environment is perceived, directly or indirectly, by the employees.

Micro Level

Adaptive Digital Strategy Framework - ProcessNow that we have a clear view of where the process fits into the equation, let’s zoom in and understand how it actually works.

It’s not easy to plan and coordinate a digital project, there’s so much to consider. The online world has brought new opportunities but also a whole new set of factors that must be taken into account. So, how should we look at these new variables? And, most importantly, which are the elements that we don’t have to forget when crafting our digital strategy plans?

Adaptive Digital Strategy Framework - Process

  • Integration: The focus is on how the organization is structured around social efforts and on how social technologies are integrated with communication channels across the organization.
  • Planning: Goals are impossible to achieve without a plan. Whether you are working on a PR or a marketing initiative, a good plan is meant to serve as a roadmap. It’s essential for aligning the resources and prioritizing the actions of the organization as it strives to achieve its goals.
  • Execution: Execution is what actually brings the strategic plan to fruition. This is the result of the planning decisions made by the organization and its team.
  • Evaluation: The overall process, the financial and the human resources must be evaluated to ensure that the communications function is successful. Accurate measurement is vital for the deployment, maintenance and refinement of ongoing and future projects.
  • Internal & External: This model includes what needs to be identified, deployed or reviewed at each stage of the development process internally and externally – external communication is as important as internal communication, they are both vital for an organization’s identity and goals achievement.

Adaptiveness of the model

Needs change depending on the nature of the projects (marketing or PR, public or private etc.) so not all the elements I listed are always necessary. For the same reason, keep in mind that you can include additional elements that may have to be taken into account in different/specific contexts.

This is why this framework is defined as “adaptive”. It’s a solid digital strategy framework that keeps transforming in synergy with the present and future evolution of business.

As you can see, in addition to the classic components that characterize traditional communication plans, I included also elements that are starting to play a relevant role in strategic digital communications. Over time these elements will keep changing and evolving, but again, here our aim is not to have a myopic tactical view of a process. Instead what we want to focus on, it’s a methodology that can help us understand how to better craft and manage our communications plans.

Over to you

This framework is based on my experience, what would you adjust based on yours? What do you think about it? Is there something irrelevant? Is something missing? Looking at the sector you are working in, would you approach this differently? Let me know in the comments.

Andrea @vascellari
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12 thoughts on “The Adaptive Digital Strategy Framework”

  1. Hi Andrea, great article and thanks for the images.

    I know it’s a bit offtopic, but this podcast reminded me of what should be one of the most important roles of Social Media… capturing the sentiment , the will and real-world insights of their consumers and stop being “defensive” brands. I guess we never reached that “eldorado”… the fear of the Pandora’s Box effect has won over the oportunity of learning from the best: the consumers.
    Honestly, is there an Organization who has consistently used learnings from their online communities and mixed it with their R&D?


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