14. June 2021 - Tracy Evans

Communicate, Connect, Grow, the OSP Origin Story

We founded OSP to help technology organizations communicate the value of what you do, connect you with the people who need to know about it and grow.

The story of Open Strategy Partners.

We founded OSP to help technology organizations communicate the value of what you do, connect you with the people who need to know about it and grow.

But how did we get here?

How we got here

In 2015, we (Jeffrey A. McGuire—more commonly known as “jam”—and Tracy Evans) found ourselves talking about an online business that Tracy wanted to start. We traveled in similar social circles in Cologne, Germany, where we both lived and began to engage in the tech world equivalent of armchair psychology: barroom business problem analysis. 

Jam had spent the last decade-plus in open source and technology, most of it at the Drupal, then “digital experience platform” company Acquia, where he’d been part of growing it from 18 to 800 employees. Over the years, he’d created hundreds of podcasts, conference presentations, and developer communications. He knew how to “speak tech,” and commiserated with developers over the lack of technical accuracy and detail in most tech marketing—a lot of it was “buzz word bingo,” without much substance to them.

Tracy, meanwhile, could sympathize with the challenges for marketers and the business-minded.  With more than twelve years of experience building digital strategies for enterprises and startups alike, and three business degrees under her belt (including an MBA from Mannheim Business School), Tracy knew how to “speak business.” She was no stranger to CRMs or digital marketing software, but found that technical experts had trouble communicating. They rarely explained how their product differed from similar offerings on the market, or even which problems they solved. 

Tracy knew next-to-nothing about open source, jam had no formal education in business. Ironically, we had no trouble communicating about problems of communication. Comparing notes and trying to figure out how to turn Tracy’s ideas into a website, we started to bridge that gap. Every subsequent discussion, we found ourselves thinking more about how open-source-focused businesses could better communicate the value of their technologies, specific features, and products. We knew businesses should care about open source technology, but they needed to understand it first. Some of those who did understand it were hard-pressed to use that knowledge to help their sales efforts. We also knew that we could help them.

All this seemed to be enough to form a business. As luck would have it, our areas of expertise were complementary. Jam was good at “choosing pretty words and putting them in a good order,” and Tracy was a spreadsheet, sticky notes, and strategies pro (she likes things that come in three—see: number of business degrees). Together, we founded Open Strategy Partners in 2017.

Where Authentic Communication comes from

The reason we communicate with others is to connect. Connections with people, teams, and organizations foster growth. And by “growth,” we mean positive development, based on your goals. It might mean increased adoption of your technical solutions or services, stronger user communities, more contribution to your open source project, broader partner networks, or increased sales. It also might mean personal growth, as you become a better communicator. 

Growth stems from meaningful connections, and meaningful connections develop when we’re authentic.  Among the very first things we did as we were getting started in 2017, was to define what “authentic” meant for us in strategic product communication, philosophically and operationally.

The result was the first buds of our Authentic Communication Framework.

What is Authentic Communication?

It’s hard for companies to produce content that’s both compelling to read and technically accurate— especially when it comes to technical products and services.  The OSP Authentic Communication Framework helps us apply empathy, clarity, and trust in all communication work we do, “philosophically” as in guiding principles, and “operationally” as in practical guidelines we can follow.  

  • We apply empathy to put ourselves in our audience’s shoes, understand their needs, by asking questions, and using language that resonates with them. 
  • We try to be clear by producing technically accurate, logically rigorous, well-structured, and “easy to digest” content.
  • We work to earn readers’ trust by avoiding jargon, being honest about what a given product can or cannot do, showing them we understand their needs, and by being clear and logical. Trust also comes from amplifying and celebrating the voices of our communities and their successes.

“It doesn’t matter how smart your strategy or technology might be if you’re not connecting the right people to it with the right communication. Authentic Communication applies empathy and clarity to build trust and thereby connection.”

Where Authentic Communication goes next

As we close in on four (!) years of operation, Open Strategy Partners wants to help more of our friends and peers in technology succeed, you know: communicate, connect, and grow! Taking a page from the open source playbook, we believe we can help more people than could ever be our clients (though we’d really like to have as many of you as possible be our clients!). 

We’re starting to share how we do what we do, the practical components of the Authentic Communication Framework, and our tools and templates. 

As we share these materials, we hope they’ll help you. If you have questions or see ways to improve them, we’d love to hear from you. Your contributions would be very welcome.

Follow us on Twitter and here on our blog. Subscribe to our podcast “Communicate, Connect, Grow,” wherever you like to listen!

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Image Credits: Snowdrop buds photo by Valentin Salja on Unsplash, "What now?" photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

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