The way in which a business, nonprofit or governmental agency communicates is a reflection of its brand identity. That brand identity and all organizational communications are carefully curated by corporate communications professionals, such as the corporate communications director, but what is corporate communications and how can you pursue a career in this field?
Corporate communications encompass all of the communications sent to internal and external stakeholders by a company or other organization. Internal stakeholders include employees and executives. External stakeholders include customers, members of the media and the general public.
There are many different types and formats of corporate communications, including the following:
- Public relations – PR refers to the process of curating a public image by conveying messages to the media and the general public.
- Customer communications – The most common way in which companies communicate with their customers is via marketing materials.
- Crisis communications – If something occurs that threatens the positive reputation of an organization, the company’s communications staff is responsible for developing a comprehensive strategy to manage the problem.
- Internal communications – Companies need to advise their employees of various goings-on at the organization. These communications often take the form of emails, company newsletters and employee handbooks.
What Does a Corporate Communications Director Do?
A corporate communications director (or manager) is responsible for developing, curating, promoting and maintaining the organization’s brand voice and image. At larger organizations, the director will typically oversee one or more teams of communications professionals who will do the day-to-day work of creating content. At smaller organizations, the director will likely get to work on creating at least some of the content themselves, with or without the help of a team.
Some of the specific tasks a corporate communications director may do include the following:
- Develop and implement the communications strategy
- Oversee all internal and external corporate communications across all platforms
- Ensure that communications team members have all of the information needed to create messaging
- Nurture professional relationships with members of the media
- Support the executive leadership team, such as by writing speeches and developing presentations
- Give interviews and press conferences as needed to convey the organization’s messages
The director will also hire and train other communications staff members, conduct performance reviews and develop the departmental budget.
How To Become a Corporate Communications Director
If the idea of becoming a corporate communications director appeals to you and you’re still in high school, talk to your guidance counselor about adjusting your schedule to suit your career ambitions. You may be able to take more communications-related courses. It’s also a good idea to join the debate team and any other extracurricular activities that develop leadership skills.
After high school, you’ll need to earn at least an undergraduate degree in communications. Corporate communications directors typically need multiple years of professional work experience and a master’s degree, so you should plan on going to graduate school, as well.
Earn an Undergraduate Degree in Corporate Communications
After high school, your first step toward pursuing a career in corporate communications is to earn a bachelor’s degree. You’ll definitely want to earn a communications degree, rather than another type of humanities and social science degree. Some colleges offer concentrations or specializations for communications students, but you could also opt to earn a general communications degree.
At the undergraduate level, you’ll study a broad range of topics in the communications field. These will typically include interpersonal, small-group and organizational communications. You may also study best practices in intercultural communications, conflict and negotiation, advocacy, and communication ethics.
It can be quite helpful to complete an internship during your time in school. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at communications professionals in action, and you’ll begin adding contacts to your professional network. Some internships may even lead to a job offer following graduation — or at least a letter of recommendation — so give your best effort every day.
Acquire a Few Years of Work Experience in the Field
After you graduate with your corporate communications degree, you’ll be ready to pursue a position in communications. You might start by completing another internship, either paid or unpaid, before landing a full-time job. Look for positions with job titles such as the following:
- Junior communications specialist
- Public relations coordinator
- Marketing coordinator
- Public relations assistant
- Client services representative
- Social media coordinator
After you’ve gained a few years of full-time work experience, you may decide that you’re ready to begin working toward your master’s degree.
Earn a Master’s Degree in Corporate Communications
Although a bachelor’s degree in communications can enable you to pursue work in the field, you should expect to need a graduate degree in order to pursue a high-level position such as that of corporate communications director or manager. A master's degree in communications can often be completed online, depending on the school you choose. It may take you about two years of full-time study to complete, or longer if you choose to continue working while earning your degree on a part-time basis.
You can expect to take a deep dive into communication theories, practices and strategies. Beyond expanding your knowledge base, however, a master’s degree is beneficial for enhancing your leadership skills and strengthening your critical thinking abilities. The specific topics you’ll study depend on the program you choose, but in general, you could study any of the following:
- Interpersonal communication within a professional context, including leadership communication, conflict negotiation and other emotional intelligence competencies
- Concepts and theories in strategic communication, and their applications in the development of ethical organizational messages for both internal and external stakeholders
- Media literacy skills, including the theories, methodologies and effects of media consumption
- Internal and external organizational communication theories and methodologies
After earning your master’s degree, you may be ready to pursue a senior-level role such as that of corporate communications director. Although the experience requirements will vary from one organization to the next, some employers prefer to hire corporate communications directors with at least 10 years of work experience in the field.
Is There a Demand for Corporate Communications Professionals?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is the government agency responsible for tracking and analyzing employment data, doesn’t track statistics for the specific job titles of corporate communications director, manager or specialist. However, it does offer employment statistics for the closely related and overlapping professions of public relations managers and specialists.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for public relations specialists will increase by about 11% from 2020 to 2030 — which is faster than the average for all jobs — accounting for an estimated increase of 31,200 jobs in the field.1
You can turn your passion for communications into purpose when you apply for enrollment at Grand Canyon University. In addition to GCU’s multiple undergraduate degree programs in communications, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences is pleased to offer the Master of Arts in Communication with an Emphasis in Education. Graduates will emerge with core competencies in organizational communication, media literacy and strategic communication theories and practices.
1 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Public Relations Specialists, retrieved on 01/31/2022.
Approved by an Instructor for the College of Humanities of Social Sciences on Sept. 15, 2022
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.