Strategic Communications Director

About the organization 

The Innocence Project is committed to freeing the staggering number of innocent people who remain incarcerated, and to bring reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment. Founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck, it exonerates the wrongly convicted and reforms the criminal legal system to prevent future injustice.

To date, 362 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 20 who served time on death row. The Innocence Project has provided direct representation or critical assistance in the majority of these cases. Using policy reform and strategic litigation, the organization works through the courts, academia, and legal and legislative systems to address and eliminate the leading causes of wrongful conviction, such as flawed forensics, false confessions, eyewitness misidentification, unreliable jailhouse informant testimony, government misconduct, inadequate defense, and implicit and explicit bias throughout the criminal legal system. The Innocence Project also advocates for laws that compensate innocent people for the harm experienced by wrongful conviction and incarceration and works to meet the varied and individualized needs of each of our clients upon their release.

The Innocence Project is the headquarters of the Innocence Network, a group of 68 independent organizations dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted, and working to redress the causes of wrongful convictions. Currently, the Innocence Network consists of 56 U.S. based and 12 non-U.S. based organizations.

Job Summary

The Innocence Project is seeking a Strategic Communications Director to develop, manage, and implement strategic and creative communications, including long-term strategy, annual and project-specific plans, rapid response, press outreach, publications, events, and digital outreach. The Strategic Communications Director is also responsible for all media programs including voice, printed and published material pertaining to the public image and voice of the organization.

As the head of the Communications Department, the Strategic Communications Director is responsible for all organizational communications planning and leads a dedicated communications team of six+ including the Deputy Director of Communications, Assistant Director of Digital Communications, Media Relations Manager, Manager of Engagement and Special Events, a Communications Associate, and Fellow(s). The Strategic Communications Director directly oversees the Deputy Director of Communications, Assistant Director of Digital Communications, and the Media Relations Manager.

The Strategic Communications Director reports to the Executive Director and builds alignment and collaborates with program leaders, attorneys and policy advocates, the development team, and with Board members and the Co-Founders, as appropriate. The Strategic Communications Director is part of the senior leadership team and is involved in the strategic planning process.

This position is full time and is based in New York City.


Essential functions and Responsibilities

  • Develop, manage, and implement effective communications strategies (both responsive and proactive) that expand the brand vision and help achieve organizational goals. This includes communications initiatives driven by the Communications team and collaboration across departments to ensure delivery of cohesive messaging and infusion of communication strategies into their work.
  • Collaborate with legal, science and research and policy teams to generate media attention for Innocence Project priorities. Create attention and media interest in legal victories in a way that supports policy change and create media exposure for legislative campaigns that require action and engagement. Generate media coverage that supports advocacy in many states and at the federal level.
  • Manage complex relationships with civil society organizations, academic institutions, researchers and scholars, social movement leaders, affinity organizations, and justice advocates.
  • Oversee the organization’s print, digital, audio, visual, and brand communications, publications, and other related content and material.
  • Support key partnerships, e.g., NBA Coaches Association, NBA Voices, documentary filmmakers.  Screen requests for participation in film and television projects.
  • Consult with Innocence Network member organizations to maintain consistent voice and coordination of IP and brand messaging and to help strengthen those organizations.
  • Set priorities and budget for the Communications Department, in close coordination with Deputy Director of Communications and other senior leadership and other teams across the organization.
  • Define and oversee activities of outside consultants, as needed.

Qualifications & Experience

  • No fewer than fifteen (15) years of experience in a leadership position in communications, marcomm, or integrated marketing.
  • Sophisticated understanding of the criminal justice system, the legal and political processes that can improve it, complex policy issues, and the ways creative communications strategies can engage various audiences to join the fight for a fairer and more just society. Experience with legislative campaigns preferred.
  • Strategic mindset and experience leveraging both traditional and creative communications tactics across disciplines (digital, media, profile and brand building, partnerships and community engagement) to meet measurable objectives and long-term goals.
  • Extensive experience in earned media relations, with proven success in framing and placing stories that deliver against varying organizational needs and target audiences.
  • Respected ability as a supportive leader with the vision and skills to direct and mentor dedicated, forward-thinking communications staff, coordinate cross-department teams, and manage relationships with executive and Board leadership.
  • Collaborative nature and desire to engage thoughtfully with a team of world-class lawyers, scientists, and advocates passionate about their work.
  • The capacity to understand and in turn distill complex policy issues and technical material. Resourcefulness and initiative; a bias for action and an orientation towards measurable results.
  • Track record of making good judgments about communications priorities and management of resources.

Key competencies (skills, abilities and traits) 

  • A passion for justice.
  • Exceptional writing, editing, presentation, and analytical skills.
  • A lively, creative intellect
  • Strong organizational skills and client-service orientation.
  • A supportive work style that motivates staff to deliver superior work and work well together.
  • A serious reader of newspapers, watcher of TV, surfer of the Internet.


The salary for this position is competitive and the Innocence Project offers an excellent benefits package, including health, dental and vision insurance, Flexible Spending Account, 401k plan with company-match, and paid Transitcheks.

Workforce Diversity and Equal Opportunity

The Innocence Project considers the diversity of its workforce to be vital to our organization’s success in meeting its mission.  We strongly encourage applicants from all cultures, races, educational backgrounds, life experiences, socio-economic classes, sexual orientations, age, gender, and physical abilities to apply.

As an Equal Opportunity Employer, it is our policy not to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, familial status, marital status, predisposing genetic characteristics, actual or perceived domestic violence victim status, unemployment status, caregiver status, or any other category protected by law.

Application Instructions 

Please send a cover letter and resume to Beth Kitzinger at Chaloner: [email protected]. Only applications including a cover letter describing your interest and qualifications will be considered.

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