“Communication- the human connection- is the key to personal and career success.”- Paul J. Meyer
The Communications sector now associated with glitz and glamour started off with humbler beginnings. The genesis of ‘mass communication’ can be traced to the 15th century printing presses when newspapers and books were mass produced and mass distributed for the first time. Technological advancements since, especially the invention of the world-wide web, have revolutionized the Communications sector so much so that the focus of communications media has shifted towards creativity and generating a ‘buzz’. In film, social media content, and advertising the Communications industry is driving consumer engagement globally.
If you are intrigued by the fast-paced and creative world of communications, read on to find out a few career options you can explore.
An Associate Degree in Communications
Students today are increasingly opting for associate degree programs due to the shorter time commitment of two years as compared to a four-year bachelor’s’ program. An Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree in Communications, at a school like Ancilla College, for instance, allows students to explore a wide range of subjects like writing, general communication skills, journalism, social sciences, foreign language etc. After two years, students can either transfer to a bachelor’s degree or pursue entry-level positions in a career of their choice. The flexibility and versatility of an associate program enables students to explore subjects, interests and professional paths and make experience-based decisions regarding their future.
Career Path After Graduation
A degree in communications opens up a variety of career avenues and entry-level positions that graduates can explore. Some of which are:
Public relations is one of the most popular careers to pursue after a Communications degree. Graduates usually enter the field as PR assistants who are entrusted with research or writing for marketing collaterals. In time, this leads to roles like that of PR specialists that involve client relations and liaising between the firm, its clients and the public. PR is a communication-heavy role, that involves sustaining a favorable ‘public image’ through correspondence across various channels. PR professionals are thus not only responsible for drafting press releases or launch speeches, they must also coordinate with Marketing professionals to design promotional content and marketing strategies.
As years pass and PR professionals gain experience, they build strong connections with influential media personalities, senior executives in the print and virtual media industries. A strong network enables them to broadcast company press releases and promotional content efficiently. However, since public perception can sometimes swing in unfavorable directions, PR professionals must also be adept at crisis management for handling defamation and public conflicts. The complexity of the PR industry is gradually increasing- The Observer notes in selecting the PR Power 50, that “clients are demanding new levels of intelligence, expertise, and insights from agencies,” making the task of PR professionals more demanding than ever. Top PR firms like Global Strategy Group, are increasingly hiring professionals who are not only experts at strategizing but also bring credibility to the research and are able to support and amplify the clients cause in innovative ways.
Social Media Manager/Media Planner
Social Media changed the online landscape by allowing companies to communicate with users directly and in real- time. Most marketing communication is now propagated through social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, under the supervision of social media planners or managers. The work of a Social Media Manager involves generating brand awareness and increasing consumer reach and engagement. They must also proactively collect and analyze consumer data to analyze trends in consumer interaction patterns to devise positioning strategies. For instance, if an advertisement for a makeup product is promoted to a general audience, it will be an ineffective strategy wasted on consumers who might never use the product as compared to if it was positioned towards women aged 16-40 years. They must also create customized and edgy content that appeals to consumers’ aesthetic sensibilities and generates a ‘buzz’. What’s out there doesn’t stay there permanently, it is buried among the bottomless pit of online content, thus it is important for managers to monitor SEO and web traffic metrics to identify what works for the dynamic user base.
Visuals and graphics aside, a social media strategy should also generate actionable leads. Girl Scouts of America, utilized their Twitter handle @GirlScouts in the most innovative manner by launching a Twitter App Install campaign, allowing users to install and use the Girl Scouts Cookie Finder App from their Twitter accounts. This genius strategy not only resulted in 19500+ app installations but also drove up cookie sales considerably. Girl Scouts’ social media managers were able to identify an opportunity for promoting app downloads in the middle of cookie season and leveraged it to boost company revenues at the same time.
Originally, careers in mass media and communications started off in print media journalism. The variety of channels and the range of content from international and local news to sports and financial news, has made journalism a highly versatile career allowing individuals to pursue a field based on their particular interests and skills. Individuals who wish to pursue journalism need to have an array of skills beyond writing. Collating the required data and facts is a complex task and one must be resourceful and tenacious in pursuit of a story. It’s not enough to have good investigative skills, to get your point across you must also have strong communication skills, assertiveness and the ability to construct valid arguments. One of the most rewarding assets for a journalist is having good interpersonal skills and being able to approach not only different witnesses but also government officials and parties involved to deliver a well-researched story. They must also develop a network of industry informants who could supply the inside scoop on events or incidents well in time. Journalist Mia Freedman rightly observes-”I think that to be involved in media you’ve got to be hungry for information, you’ve got to be very curious. Ultimately, to work in media you’ve got to be a very big consumer of media in all forms.”
Journalism is definitely tough work because it happens out in the field. However, it can also be one of the most rewarding careers in terms of the network of contacts you can foster and the variety of skills you can garner. Your journalism career not only augments your personal skill development but also grants you an opportunity to influence public perception towards just causes bearing large social change.
Exemplary written and communication skills readily prepare you for a career in writing, editing or publishing. According to the Association of American Publishers Inc., much of the preparation for editorial careers comes from apprenticeship or internships at publishing houses. To succeed in a publishing career, be it as an author, an editor or a proofreader, you must focus on creating high-quality content. Proofreaders need to have a great eye for detail and solid grammatical and reading comprehension, to be able to detect errors and ensure that the written output is the absolute best. Editors, on the other hand, are responsible not only for ensuring high standards in writing, but also need to create value for the reader in terms of essence, visual appeal and design.
Marketing and advertising careers are dynamic and creatively challenging paths with fierce competition and keen consumer bases to manage. This calls for innovative promotional material that is not only edgy but also promises value. One of the most successful marketing campaigns, first run by the California Milk Processor Board- “Got Milk?” took California by a storm and dairy sales increased by 7% in just 1 year. The marketers decided to focus on the milk drinking population of California and channeled their milk consumption patterns to raise sales- “The agency fashioned a kind of deprivation strategy, showing complementary food with no milk.” Marketers must understand their target market thoroughly and be involved in every stage of the product lifecycle right from development to packaging to launch and promotions. A Brand Manager is responsible for consumer communications and identifying product gaps via consumer feedback as well as being actively involved in designing the Advertising and Marketing strategy. Marketers also need to be able to create public consciousness and strategically position a product in the target segment to drive sales. This requires intensive market research to understand consumer tastes and creativity to persuade consumers. Applying different strategies that resonate well with consumer perceptions, for instance how Coca-Cola employs taglines like “Open Happiness” and “Taste the Feeling” to spread a message that Coke brings happiness, can drive the success of a product.
Communication is making big strides in the market. According to Burson-Marsteller Fortune Global 100 Social Media Survey, 79% of Fortune 500 companies use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or blogs to communicate with customers. Brands are increasingly finding innovative ways to create more effective and engaging consumer content and thus there is a need for people who can manage those communications. The versatility of brands pursuing specialists to handle such roles has made Communications a highly dynamic industry with innumerable opportunities and career paths. Creative individuals who can analyze and interpret consumer behavior and translate consumer needs into innovative communications strategies can find countless opportunities to explore in the Communications sector.