The communications director oversees internal and external communications in the public and private sectors. To become a communications director, extensive previous communications or public relations experience is usually necessary. A college education is also expected in most cases. A bachelor's or higher degree in mass communications, public relations, journalism, or a related area is commonly required when wanting to become a communications director.
A communications director position is a leadership role, so people who achieve the position get there by moving up the career ladder. They often begin their careers working as college interns in the communications field. After gaining internship experience, they get hired into an organization in an entry-level communications or public relations specialist position. Through demonstrating increased knowledge and expertise in the field, prospective communications directors progressively move up into more senior positions.
Stepping stones to becoming a communications director include managerial roles in specific communications areas, such as media relations or employee communications. Other areas include government relations, community relations, and marketing communications. In a large organization, each communications area will often have its own manager and staff, and they will report to the communications director. A person wishing to become a communications director should have experience in many, if not all, of the specific communications areas.
Leadership and management ability are necessary to become a communications director. Strong writing skills are expected. Good people and teamwork skills are important, as is an outgoing and enthusiastic personality. Communications directors advise top organizational leaders on communications strategy, so self-confidence is necessary. Good public speaking skills are essential to coordinate press conferences, field media calls, and lead communications planning teams.
People wishing to strengthen their managerial skills may be able to take advantage of classes and seminars offered through their place of employment or local colleges. Public speaking skills can be honed through international organizations such as Toastmasters and others. High school and college newspapers can provide students with the opportunities to gain writing experience. Professional associations for the communications field, such as the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), also offer educational opportunities and often have student chapters.
Communications directors are also called director of communications in some organizations. Other titles for the role include press secretary, public relations director, and public affairs director. The specific title used is dependent upon the organization.