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A communications manager leads the communications department in a business or organisation, overseeing all marketing campaigns, media relations and internal communications and implementing strategies to promote the work of the company.
A communications manager works in a largely supervisory and advisory role, managing all external and internal communications within a company. This includes the overseeing of all electronic and print-based marketing material, planning news agendas, producing press releases and news reports, liaising with media representatives, attending campaign meetings and ensuring company employees are equipped with the necessary information to carry out their jobs effectively. Communication managers are expected to have strong interpersonal skills as they are responsible for maintaining and developing key contacts within the media, for communicating with company directors and external partners and for creating and implementing new marketing strategies. Communication managers work closely with the marketing and public relations departments within a company and are expected to have excellent negotiation skills, team working abilities and a knowledge of journalism and other media related professions.
Typically communications managers are well paid, due to the large amount of responsibility which comes with a job. Most communications managers start on £30,000 – £40,000 with the potential of an increase to £50,000 or more, depending on experience and the nature of the company.
The role of a Communications Manager varies from day to day but typically it includes:
- Listening to media reports and reading news articles relevant to the work of the company
- Planning news agendas
- Developing and maintaining media relations within a company
- Building up contacts with media representatives and partner organisations
- Overseeing the production of publications, both electronic and manual (e.g. websites, leaflets and brochures)
- Managing the media during particularly busy periods e.g. a product launch
- Providing information to company employees
- Developing and implementing marketing strategies
- Planning media campaigns
- Liaising with communications colleagues
- Answering letters, phone calls and emails
- Attending meetings with journalists and other media representatives
- Overseeing market research and analysing market trends
- Editing the company’s website
- Writing and editing news reports, press releases and other forms of internal and external communications
- Advising directors and other members of a company on media relations
- Attending press conferences, product launches and networking events
At the level of communications manager it will be taken as given that prospective employees have a good first degree in a relevant subject (e.g. English, business, media or PR) and relevant on-the-job training. Most communications managers have a professional qualification in marketing or public relations such as a diploma with the Chartered Institute of Marketing or the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. If a company has an international dimension to their work, a qualification in a foreign language may well be required.
A communications manager has a huge amount of responsibility within the company so it is crucial that they are committed to the job and able to deal effectively with high levels of pressure. More specifically they should have:
- An excellent understanding of the media on a regional, national and (depending on the company) an international level
- Expertise on all matters relating to marketing, public relations and communications
- A knowledge of the company and the type of work it does (e.g. finance, business, education)
- A good list of media and PR contacts (many employers require new employees to bring an already established list of contacts to the job)
- The ability to develop relations with partner organisations, media representatives and other external bodies.
- Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal
- Excellent advisory skills and confidence giving advice and information to senior managers
- A good knowledge of web and print-based marketing material
- The ability to manage a team effectively
- Excellent negotiation abilities
- Creative thinking
- Good team working abilities
- Excellent problem solving abilities
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- The ability to motivate other members of the team
- The ability to think spontaneously and respond positively to pressure
- Self confidence and the ability to ‘sell’ ideas
- A knowledge of business and the ability to manage budgets
- A committed and flexible approach to the job
Communications managers are usually employed to work standard office hours (9 – 5.30) but they are often required to work overtime, particularly leading up to the launch of a new product or media campaign when the workload can be extremely demanding and very stressful. The work will also involve attending press conferences, launches or other publicity or networking events which often take place during the evenings or weekends. Whilst, in general, communications managers are office based, they will be required to travel away from the office regularly, in order to meet partners or media contacts and they may also be required to stay away from home for short periods of time. For communications managers working for charities or businesses with an international dimension, the job may well involve regular international trips.
Whilst qualifications are essential to become a communications manager, prospective employers will usually put even more emphasis on relevant experience. It is essential that potential communications managers have worked within a busy communications environment before, in a PR, media relations or journalistic capacity. Candidates should be able to demonstrate experience of developing contacts and generating ideas within a professional arena and, preferably, have some experience of supervising or managing a team. They should also have experience of working within the specific industry of the job they are applying for and have a demonstrable commitment to that industry.
A communications manager is a specialist job and a role that tends to be reserved for larger companies although the industries they work in are diverse. Communications managers could find work in charities, the financial sector, manufacturing companies, universities or local authorities as well as marketing and PR organisations. The role of the job will vary depending on the nature of the industry so it is recommended that potential employees identify the type of company they would like to work for first, before applying for a job.
A communications manager is a highly advanced role so there are fewer opportunities for advancement than in other jobs which require less experience. It is most likely that communication managers will already have the necessary professional qualifications before they begin the job, but they may wish to improve their skills and job prospects by undertaking a higher qualifications such as a Postgraduate Diploma in marketing or communications. With experience, communications managers could progress to a larger department, perhaps within an organisation which has an international dimension, or go on to work at a senior management level within an organisation, a role that may not necessarily be confined to the remit of communications.
Also known as…
- Head of Communications
- Head of Media and Public Affairs
What’s it really like?
Leigh Daynes is 37 and is Head of Media and Public Affairs for the British Red Cross. He gives us the inside story…
I have worked in this job for the last four and a half years; before that I was a communications manager for Refugee Action, a charity that supports refugees to settle in the UK. In a typical day at work I get up very early to listen to the news agenda, read stories about the Red Cross and a look at a summary of the national newspapers. Following that I meet my team to figure out our news agenda for the day. During the day I usually attend campaign meetings, answer a lot of emails and speak with communications colleagues globally from the Red Cross to plan our activities. I also meet journalists and politicians and attend events at which we discuss the reporting of humanitarian emergencies.
The best aspects of my job are my team, the huge variety of the work and the opportunity to work in areas of the world that are dealing with some of the most high-profile and debilitating crises, like Zimbabwe and Darfur. On the downside the workload is huge and when there’s a major disaster it can be come incredibly tiring and very stressful. To anyone thinking of becoming a communications manager I would advise that they take an active interest in current affairs, learn marketable skills, like journalism, get some experience and be prepared to work from the bottom up. I have no plans to change jobs any time soon. I love my role here at the Red Cross; it is a unique organisation and I hope to stay for as long as I can make a useful contribution.