Communications director speaks to his colleague

Fostering Peace Through Diplomacy: What Does a Communications Director Do?


As news and information are shared online at unprecedented speed, organizations face new challenges in reputation management. From correcting misinformation to addressing public concerns, diplomacy, which is closely related to communications and public relations (PR), 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 individuals with a passion for public affairs, a communications director position can provide an exciting career path in the private, non-profit, or government sector.

What Is a Communications 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 to 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 with little prior positive history between them.

In the case of a non-profit organization, a communications director can cultivate an interest in the organization’s cause as well as a public trust.  For example, a communications director may promote an energy company’s environmental efforts to generate public support for new projects. Or a non-profit communications director may implement public education campaigns to address conflicts and cultural challenges in developing a new international office.

What Does a Communications Director Do? 

A communications director fosters the image and reputation of an organization through many tasks: 

  • External communications and media relations. Media relations prepares messaging for use during interviews with reporters, holds press conferences and distributes 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 creates a plan on how to respond 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 within their organization or agency.

In execution of this work, a communications director may often meet with senior officials to review current strategies and to develop future campaigns.   

Skills of a Communications Director

Advanced writing and editing skills are essential skills of a successful communications director. Strategic thinking, problem-solving, and relationship building also are important skills important talents of communications directors as they work to create a positive public image locally and abroad. A communications director also must know how to build cooperation and defuse tension when introducing controversial projects or initiatives with the public.

Becoming a Communications Director

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 with a master’s degree. An advanced degree such as the one earned through Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in Diplomacy (MDY) program can give students a competitive edge.

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

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 needed to effectively handle crucial situations in a real-world setting. Examples might include clearly communicating mission objectives to the public on behalf of a non-profit organization; advising on cultural customs and sensitivities to a government agency; or handling a controversy surrounding an insensitive comment or an interaction that circumvents protocol. Deftly handling these types of situations maintains an organization’s positive reputation, diffuses conflicts, manages controversies, and stabilizes relations.

Compensation for a Communications Director

According to PayScale, the median annual compensation provided to a corporate communications director is approximately $118,553. Those in the bottom 10 percentile earned about $70,000 while those in the top 10 percentile earned about $170,000. PayScale also reports that additional compensation could include an average of $15,278 in bonuses and $10,174 in profit sharing.

Several factors contribute to the $100,000 difference between the top and bottom percentiles including the experience, education and skills of a candidate.

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 6% from 2016 to 2026. 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. Professionals who want a competitive edge for these types of positions should consider pursuing advanced education and attaining diverse on-the-job experience.  

Learn More

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

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