Many industries in a variety of ways rely on the expertise of consultants. Whether it be in business management, health care administration or education, consulting is a very pragmatic and effective way of employing help outside of your formal workforce. Communications consultants work in a number of capacities. Either independent or with a firm, communications consulting can be a flexible and rewarding career choice.
What Does a Communications Consultant Do?
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Communications consultants may be hired to do a number of different tasks. Consultants may be employed to complete a specific project such as new website or annual report. They may also work on a more comprehensive project, such as branding, medial analysis and communications audits. Branding is a process a company or organization undertakes to define who they are; media analysis is a thorough review of how an organization or company is portrayed in the media; and a communications audit is a complete evaluation of a company's communications materials and their effectiveness.
A consultant contracted to do either of these tasks would be responsible for outlining their particular process, provide a work calendar detailing project deadlines, deliver a complete report of findings and make recommendations.
Who Do You Work For?
Communications consultants are utilized in many industries and in a variety of organizations and businesses large or small. In most cases, consultants will work with marketing or communications departments or with individuals directly responsible for a company's communications efforts. Depending on the size of the company and the scope of the project, a consultant may work with a team that has been designated specifically for the project the consultant was hired for. Or, in the case of a non-profit or a small business, a consultant might work directly for the president or CEO.
What Experience Do You Need?
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Companies are not going to hire a you as a communications consultant unless you have the background and skills needed. Consultants need to have enough related work experience and knowledge of the area they expect to work in. In order to provide accurate analysis on and thoughtful insight into an organization's issues or problems, consultants should be able to draw on personal expertise acquired throughout a professional career. If you are planning to consult, you should have at least 10 years of experience in the communications field.
What's the Going Rate?
Determining the rate of pay will vary depending on the type project (resources and staff needed), the type of organization (profit or non-profit) and the type of consultant you are. If you are a consultant with a large firm, the firm will decide on what the payment will be. If you are an independent consultant, you need to determine what your hourly rate is. In doing so, you need to determine time, resources, travel, etc. This will allow you to accurately estimate the amount you charge. Be aware that communications consulting, particularly if you are an independent contractor, is not going to be a high-paying field. Though communications and the important role it plays in a company's success is becoming more and more respected, it still is has a relatively moderate pay scale. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay scale for a full-time communications consultant is around $47,000.
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The great thing about communications consulting is the flexibility. Even if you are employed by a firm or company, you can always move to an independent consulting role or freelance. Consulting gives you exposure to organizations and companies in a different way than if you were an actual employee. You can build new relationships, meet key decision-makers and explore future opportunities. This can all lead to additional consulting gigs or even permanent employment.
B.J. Huber has worked in the public relations profession for more than 15 years, directing communications efforts in in health care institutions, nonprofit organizations and educational groups. She holds a B.A. in English, as well as an M.A. in mass communication and public relations.