Director, Strategic Communications
About Ford Foundation
The foundation is an independent organization, led by a distinguished board of trustees whose 16 members hail from four continents and bring leadership and expertise in a wide range of disciplines. Today we are stewards of a $12 billion endowment, making $500 million in grants around the world every year. Led by Darren Walker, our 10th president, we remain committed to our enduring mission—and to our legacy of bold, creative support for social change.
Across eight decades, the Ford Foundation has invested in innovative ideas, visionary individuals, and frontline institutions advancing human dignity around the world. The foundation works across several areas’ civil rights, education, arts and culture, human rights, poverty reduction and urban development.
Director of Strategic Communications
The Director of Strategic Communications is a senior leadership role with primary responsibility for guiding and strengthening both institutional and programmatic communications for the foundation. Based in the foundation’s New York City headquarters, the Director serves as expert and thought leader in the design and execution of a robust communications strategy that builds the foundation’s brand and advances the work of its programs in the U.S. and in 10 regions around the world.
The Director reports to the Vice President for Global Communications. The Director will lead a team of six direct reports specializing in strategic communications in support of Ford’s grantmaking teams, as well as media relations, executive positioning, and crisis communications. A key partner is the Director of Audience Engagement and Outreach, who is co-lead in guiding a strong 20-member communications team to fulfil overall communication and brand goals. The Director will also work closely with the President and senior leadership team, including a close partnership with the Executive Vice President for Programs.
An essential and visible role across the foundation, the Director has two primary accountabilities: Guiding strategic communications support for the foundation’s program teams and directing overall media relations and executive positioning.
The first accountability involves working closely with the VP of Global Communications and leadership in Program to ensure that the foundation’s grantmaking teams (also known as program teams) communicate their work clearly and effectively; that Ford’s overarching communications are infused with powerful stories of impact from within the grantmaking; and that program teams are supported in integrating smart communications into their grant strategies in ways that advance the work itself. In meeting this accountability, the Director oversees a group of five communications strategy officers who work closely with program teams and are the foundation’s frontline team in identifying communications opportunities and challenges and managing them to advance mission, build brand, and fulfil the foundation’s overarching communication priorities.
The second accountability builds on the first, and involves working closely with the VP and senior leadership team to drive a media relations and executive positioning strategy that lifts the foundation’s voice in the conversations that influence social justice; protects and builds the brand in moments of opportunity and crisis; and supports the foundation’s work. In meeting this accountability, the Director oversees a lead for Media Relations and Executive Positioning.
Duties and Responsibilities:
The Director must be a seasoned communications leader with both U.S. and international experience attained in both the private sector as well as the social or public sectors. A proven thought leader and an inspiring manager of people and process, the broad scope of this role includes organizational leadership as well as functional and strategic expertise.
Truly superior writing, command of best practices in a rapidly evolving comms world; meaningful experience with the issues the foundation works on; and an ability to engage and collaborate successfully with a visionary president and leadership team are essential. The ability to create trust and confidence with diverse colleagues across cultures around the world is also critical.
- In partnership with the VP and co-Director, provide leadership and strategic guidance to the 20-member comms team and the foundation overall.
- Lead and mentor a capable team of communications officers responsible for program communications, institutional messaging, and global media relations.
- Coach, mentor and develop team members to become “their highest and best selves.”
- Develop and implement a plan for successfully and continuously engaging program colleagues worldwide, meeting their communications needs and building the foundation’s capacity for carrying out communications efforts that advance social change.
- Build relationships and partner with staff across the foundation to create a healthy culture that enables colleagues to build confidence and skills as communicators.
- Serve as a trusted partner to Program Directors and Regional Directors in dealing with critical strategic issues as they emerge.
- Assist in developing and guiding the implementation of a comprehensive communications plan for an organization energetically transforming itself to meet new challenges.
- Work with the VP to develop and implement an executive comms strategy that leverages the unique voices and a vision of the foundation’s president and programmatic leaders.
- Grasp the language and substance of the foundation’s programmatic work and become expert in translating it for outside audiences, guiding excellent institutional messaging.
- Anticipate and mitigate adverse or potentially negative issues that may impact the foundation’s reputation and standing.
- Maintain issues management and crisis communications plans and provide counsel to senior leaders in the event of crisis.
- Contribute in significant ways to excellent written products; the practice of strategic thinking; learning and growth in the team and the institution; and esprit de corps.
- Serve as a leader in the social sector, making visible and valuable contributions to the practice of strategic communications for social good.
Required Experience and Qualifications:
- Bachelor’s degree is required; Master’s degree is strongly preferred.
- Communications leadership experience gained in complex, global organizations within a cross-cultural environment, with background and insights gained in both the private and the non-profit sectors (board and volunteer experience with the foundations issue areas a plus)
- A demonstrated track record of successfully managing high performing teams and leading and collaborating with globally-dispersed colleagues and partners
Specific requirements include:
- At least 15 years of progressively responsible professional experience in public relations, public affairs, media or advocacy communications or a related field, including experience working directly with CEO.
- Varied and broad experience is preferred over specialization; experience in both the private and non-profit sectors.
- Minimum of five years of experience managing people. Success in inspiring and developing a flexible and self-directed team of colleagues and an accessible, supportive style or approach to managing others.
- Substantial international experience; an understanding of the nuances to be navigated in varying contexts; dexterity, diplomacy and cross-cultural appreciation.
- Substantial domestic experience; understanding the political environment and the ability to work closely with the US program teams.
- A demonstrated ability to engender trust and confidence in others, leading to productive long-term work relationships.
- Demonstrated ability to work successfully with experts in subject areas; an ability to foster fruitful relationships, lead discussions and workshops, facilitate strategic conversations, and build consensus.
Other key attributes of the Director of Strategic Communications include:
- Clear and powerful instincts for the work; an ability to lead in crisis; grace and polish under pressure; unwavering soundness of judgment – all matched with humility.
- Demonstrated capacity to work collegially and humor.
- Entrepreneurial spirit that can thrive within an institutional setting.
- Commitment to the foundation’s mission and core values of equity and diversity, voice and participation, and honesty and integrity.
- Must be able to model a “can do” attitude and spirit of service and put the team and foundation before ego or self
- Highly flexible, able to read, lead and even diffuse a room, the Director should be adept at dealing with scepticism and comfortable influencing in an intellectually rigorous context
- Able to respond to shifting priorities
- Absolute command of the strategic communications function and be able to apply that command to any subject in a variety of settings
- Executive presence, with the ability to think and contribute insights in real time
- Innately and intellectually curious, with a keen interest in the world around them
Terms of Appointment
This is a full-time position. Salary is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience.
Ford Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes the applications of all qualified candidates, irrespective of their racial or ethnic origin, opinions or beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, health or disabilities. Candidates must be eligible to work in the United States.
Key Steps in the Selection Process
SRI Executive has been retained by the Ford Foundation to conduct a search for a suitably qualified individual to undertake the position of Director of Strategic Communications. If this position is of interest to you, and you meet the requirements, please forward a copy of your Cover Letter and CV in Microsoft Word on or before May 24th, 2019 to: Ms. Sidney Moss at [email protected] Please reference ''8237 – Director of Strategic Communications’' in the subject line. Thank you for your interest and we will reply to you as soon as feasible when we have reviewed your application and it is found to be aligned with the Ford Foundation’s requirements.