A communications director speaks with a staff member in a government building.

What Does a Communications Director Do in Government?


As news and information are shared at unprecedented speed and volumes, organizations face new challenges in reputation management. From correcting misinformation to addressing public concerns, diplomacy is growing more important. Closely related to communications and public relations (PR), it can help maintain a positive, respected image amid important constituents and groups.

Professionals in the field of diplomacy play a critical role in protecting and promoting an organization’s public image. For those with a passion for public affairs, a communications director position can provide an exciting career path in the private, nonprofit, or government sector.

Individuals who seek to understand what a communications director does in government, and how to become a communications director, can consider earning an online Master of Arts in Diplomacy degree.

What Is a Communication Director’s Role in Diplomacy?

Maintaining strong relationships built on transparency and cultural sensitivity are a foundational aspect of diplomacy. A communications director’s strategic use of information helps ensure relations do not break down due to misinformation or potential conflict. The strategy used by a communications director also may help an organization or agency achieve a specific objective, such as building a fledgling relationship between two nations that have little prior positive history between them.

In the case of a nonprofit organization, a communications director can cultivate an interest in the organization’s cause as well as help build public trust. For example, a nonprofit communications director may implement public education campaigns to mitigate conflicts and cultural challenges while developing a new international office.

What Does a Communications Director Do?

An important aspect of what a communications director does involves upholding the image and reputation of an organization through many tasks. Some responsibilities include the following.

  • External communications and media relations: Media relations may involve preparing messaging for use during interviews with reporters, holding press conferences, and distributing press releases. During a media interview, the communications director may serve as an organization’s official spokesperson.
  • Crisis communications: Crisis communications planning ensures an organization’s preparedness for emergencies and negative public crises. For example, the communications director may create a plan for responding to a proposed piece of legislation that might garner negative public attention.
  • Marketing and social media campaigns: A communications director may participate in developing marketing and social media strategies to maintain a strong public image and steer away from potential controversies.
  • Internal communications: Although PR primarily targets external audiences, a communications director may manage communications with employees of their organization or agency.

To execute these and other responsibilities, a communications director may often meet with senior officials to review current strategies and develop future campaigns.

Skills of a Communications Director        

Successful communications directors should be able to demonstrate the following skills.

  • Advanced writing and editing skills are essential for a successful communications director, since they often write content for newsletters, magazines, and advertising materials.
  • Strategic thinking is an important component of a communications director’s job when it comes to communicating policies and standards in the most effective ways.
  • Problem solving is another important skill for communications directors, as they may face numerous challenges in stewarding a positive public image for their organization.
  • Relationship building is necessary, as a communications director must know how to build cooperation, reach consensus, and defuse tension when introducing controversial projects or initiatives to the public.

Steps to Becoming a Communications Director

Becoming a professional communications director requires both education and experience. For  individuals who are wondering “what does a communications director do and how can I become one?” the following steps can help. 

Step #1: Pursue Education   

A bachelor’s degree is a great starting point to pursue a career in the communications field. However, for director positions, many organizations prefer candidates who hold a master’s degree. An advanced degree, such as the one earned through Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in Diplomacy program, can give students a competitive edge.

Norwich University’s program teaches effective skills and other specialized knowledge to manage conflict and build diplomacy. Cross-cultural communication skills are taught for communications professionals who want to pursue senior positions in international and private organizations, government agencies, and nonprofits with global operations.

Step #2: Gain Experience           

Following post-secondary education, communications professionals must have several years of relevant on-the-job experience before qualifying for a communications director role. Gaining this experience can optimize the skills to effectively handle crucial situations in a real-world setting.

Examples might include clearly communicating mission objectives to the public on behalf of a nonprofit organization; advising on cultural customs and sensitivities to a government agency; or handling a controversy surrounding an insensitive comment or an interaction that circumvents a national or government protocol. Deftly handling these types of situations helps maintain an organization’s positive reputation, diffuse conflicts, manage controversies, and stabilize relations.

Communications Director Salary

The compensation website PayScale reports the median annual salary for directors of communications across all industries is around $82,800. Those in the bottom 10% earn a median annual salary of around $48,000, while those in the top 10% earn over $146,000 per year.

Several factors contribute to the $100,000 difference between the top and bottom percentiles, including the experience, education, and skills of a candidate. Additional compensation could include an average of around $9,700 in bonuses and close to $5,000 in profit sharing, according to PayScale.

Future Opportunities for Communications Directors

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of media and communications occupations are expected to grow by 4% from 2019 to 2029. While the BLS does not provide specific job growth statistics for the communications director position, it does predict the demand for communications professionals will rise across all industries. Candidates who seek a competitive edge for these types of positions should consider pursuing advanced education and attaining diverse on-the-job experience. 

Earn Your Master’s Degree in Diplomacy

Individuals who are interested in the diplomatic aspects of working in a government or nonprofit organization can consider the career of a communication director. Essential aspects of what  communications directors do revolve around their education and experience. From communicating an organization’s vision to the public to discussing policies with shareholders, communications directors have multiple responsibilities that rely on their professional competencies.

If you’re interested in a future as a communications director, learn more about Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in Diplomacy program. The robust curriculum builds on students’ political, government, or business expertise while providing advanced knowledge of global communications protocols.


Recommended Readings

Effective Communication in International Diplomacy
4 Important Components of Global Corporate Reputation
The Increasing Need for Cyber Diplomacy


Communications Professionals: Four Lessons In Leadership, Forbes
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description of a Communications Director, Houston Chronicle
Average Corporate Communications Director Salary, PayScale
Occupational Outlook Handbook, Media and Communications Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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