You can have the greatest business in the world, but without promoting your company and the products it offers, nobody will know you exist. That's where a good communications department comes in.
Whether your business is just starting up, an established mid-sized company or a large corporation, having a communications department is vital to getting the word out about your business and what you do.
The communications department may assume your public relations or public affairs department. The department works closely with other departments to ensure it understands the dynamics of your business and the information it needs to communicate. The communications department plays a crucial role in an organization's success.
The Role of Corporate Communication
The role of corporate communication is to establish your brand, promote your products or services and gain new customers. When done well, corporate communication will not only help you get new customers but will encourage your existing customers to stay loyal to your brand. Corporate communications include social media, media relations, client events and advertising.
Corporate communications goals should also include internal company communication. This helps management keep other staff in the know about what’s going on and helps to strengthen the various departments at your company. Internal communications include company newsletters, regular emails and staff team-building events.
In most instances, your communications department is led by a communications director or manager. This is the person who helps you to strategize what methods of external and internal communication will work best for your company. She will also implement the strategies you choose, either on her own or with a communications team.
If you have a very small company, the role of the communications director may be one that's absorbed into another position. For instance, your sales team may be the ones running your social media accounts or your staff may put on client events.
Whatever the communications department looks like at your company, it should exist in some form so that you can meet your corporate communications goals.
Functions of a Communications Department
There are many functions of a communications department. You may find that your company needs some more than others. You may also find that some functions of the communications department work better than others for your particular industry and brand.
Functions of a communications department include:
- Managing your website and social media, including working with website developers, posting regular social media updates and engaging with people on your social media channels.
- Managing blogs, including creating a relevant editorial calendar, writing articles and working with freelancers to create content.
- Running promotions, either on social media or at physical locations.
- Holding events, such as continuing education opportunities, networking mixers or an open house.
- Overseeing media relations, including writing and distributing news releases, responding to media inquiries and maintaining a media kit about your company.
- Public speaking, including representing your company in public settings and preparing executives to speak at events such as news conferences.
- Managing marketing materials, including brochures, newsletters and mailers.
- Finding opportunities for advertising, whether in print, on TV or online.
- Handling crisis communications when an event threatens public safety or your company’s reputation, such as an accidental death, a toxic spill or layoffs.
- Creating and implementing an annual communications plan, often in conjunction with other departments.
- Overseeing internal company communications, including internal announcements and training.
All of these functions of a communications department help to strengthen your company, brand and marketing efforts. They help make sure everyone in your company is on the same page when it comes to how your company is represented and the public image you have. These functions also build the confidence of clients and customers since they'll know what to expect from your company. Through your communications, they’ll have an understanding of your mission statement, values, target audience, personality and the products and services you provide. The more confidence your clients and customers have, the more likely they are to continue using your products or services.
What Does a Communications Manager Do?
The role of corporate communication is an important one. You want to have someone overseeing your corporate communications goals who has the skills and ability to carry out all of the functions of communications that are important for your company.
Finding an experienced communications manager is the first step to establishing your communications department. This person may report to a communications director and will be in charge of a variety of important tasks, so you want to make sure you find someone who's capable and competent. Ideally, this person will have experience in your particular field so the learning curve isn't as steep. While it's helpful to hire someone with a degree in communications, public relations or a similar field, it isn't always necessary if the person has a significant amount of relevant experience.
When it comes to the role of the communications manager, what the person does depends on the role of corporate communication at your company. You may need someone to focus only on internet marketing, such as websites, blogs and social media. You may want someone who can research print advertising in local cities or who can come up with and put on amazing events. You may just want to hire a communications manager to oversee internal communications or build out a company intranet.
What a communications manager does also depends on the size of your communications department. If you have a one-person team, the communications manager is going to handle many more functions than if you have a large communications department. With a smaller team, you'll have to prioritize what you have your communications manager do since he will only have so much time to do his job. If he oversees a communications department, he's likely to be more hands-off when it comes to day-to-day tasks and take a more managerial, bigger-picture role. When you have a communications department, you may have one person managing the internet, one managing advertising, one managing public relations and one managing internal communications.
The role of a communications manager or director also varies depending on if the business is a startup or a more established company. In a startup, the communications director will spend a lot of time creating strategy, developing a brand, researching target markets, testing communication techniques and creating company collateral. These are all things that need to be done before a communications plan is put into place.
In a more seasoned company, the communications director has a base from which to start. A lot of the groundwork and research have already been done. While there may be opportunities to develop a new strategy and branding, a communications director or communications manager at an established company may spend more time expanding on what’s been done before or finding new areas to explore.
When choosing someone to be your company’s communications director, make sure you find someone with strong communication and people skills, who is organized and can handle a lot of projects under deadline pressure. They should be creative, have the ability to write clearly and be a team player.
With the right communications strategy and communications director in place, your communications department is sure to thrive.
Leslie Bloom has worked in upper-level management positions in both publishing and the mental health field. In addition to years of business and management experience, she has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of online and print publications, including Metro Magazine. She holds degrees in both journalism and law.