Corporate Communications Executive
Job Title: VP Corporate Communications
Type of Company: My company makes large manufacturing systems for IC manufacturers.
Education: BS, Mass Communications, Boston University MBA, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Babson College
Previous Experience: In college, I participated in internships at advertising agencies and small businesses. This was strongly encouraged by BU's program. Also, I was VP of Adlab, a student run ad agency that served the non-profit sector. My first job out of college was as a marketing assistant at a software company. After one year, I was promoted to Advertising Manager. After three years, I left for an opportunity as a Marketing Manager for a high tech company in semiconductor space. This job provided opportunities for international work and travel. I was promoted at this company several times, ultimately to Director of Marketing Communications. My division was eventually spun off in an IPO as a separate company, and I was given the opportunity to go with it and take the role of Director of Corporate Communications. I was responsible for creating the new company's brand identity and driving all internal and external communications programs. After 3 years, I was promoted to V.P. of Communications.
Job Tasks: A job in marketing communications can be very exciting for someone interested in creating messages, writing, and using his creative talents. My job has included a wide range of responsibilities, including developing brand identities and message platforms for the company and its products. This includes designing the look and feel of everything the company touches, from its logos, packaging, trade show displays, product literature, website, and even company uniforms. All aspects of the brand are designed to reinforce the overall brand promise, and are consistent across the world. I have also been able to be involved in major press launches to launch new products and open new facilities around the world. This poses unique challenges: understanding the local culture and local languages and developing relationships with regional management and government. I have been able to travel to many countries, and each presents a unique creative challenge and opportunity. It is never dull.
Often we are also challenged with managing bad news or crisis. For example, poor operating results, hostile takeovers, or poor product performance situations require us to work with customers and shareholders to help them understand the situation, and our plan to move beyond the problem and succeed. These situations are very time-sensitive and require swift and immediate attention.
One of the reasons I feel I have been successful is my understanding of communications, as well my business degree. I am able to communicate, but I also have an understanding of manufacturing processes, financial statements, and overall business management issues. This makes me much better equipped to discuss and interpret the wide variety of issues and opportunities that a company faces from day to day.
This position requires interaction with the senior management team, and ideally the CEO or president of the company. In order to be successful, they must understand how marketing communications can add value to the organizations.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is that it is never boring. You are always working on solving a new communications problem, whether it is a product launch, a new logo design, a customer event, or an issue with a shareholder. You exercise many parts of your brain with creative problem solving. Also, you interact with a wide variety of people. You may work with the CEO on a speech or shareholder meeting. But, you also work with engineers on new product communications and the manufacturing organization on writing an article on advanced manufacturing capabilities. You are always learning something new about the business. Usually people with high energy and creativity are drawn to this function, and you will find other people like this in the department.
The worst part of the job is trying to get support from engineers or technical types who don't understand how marketing communications can help add value to the business. I have had people ask me "Why are we doing a press release on this product? I will just to talk to customers and tell then about it." Many people have the mentality that you just have to "build it and they will come." We have a large planet, with many potential customers, and we need to use a variety of media to reach them with the message.
Job Tips: While in college, look for opportunities for internships in advertising/PR/Communications agencies. They will give you a wide array of experience with different customers and characters. This will also help you understand what area of communications might be your favorite. Don't be turned off if they are unpaid. Most are; they pay you instead in experience.
Find a mentor, whether it is a professor or someone you have met in the field you want to go into. Develop a relationship with them, and seek their advice in making your way into the field. They have probably walked in your shoes and can be great source of advice as you move through your career. Make every attempt to keep in touch with them over time. Many colleges have formal programs like this, but if yours doesn't, find your own. My boss from my first job 20+ years ago is still a close colleague and mentor to me. We are now in very different positions: he is approaching retirement and I am in the middle of my career. But he has helped me with everything from job searches, advice on problems to handling the work/family balance.
Be a leader. If you want to lead in your field, be a leader. Step up and take a leading role in an organization like the Public Relations Society of America, regional clubs, or even an industry organization your company participates in. Volunteer to lead or be on a committee. Get involved and meet other people who share the same interests, and can teach you new things.
Additional Thoughts: If you feel you are stuck in a dead-end job where your boss or your company doesn't value your skills, do something about it. You can try and change their minds through hard work and good communications. However, if these are not working, it may not be the right place for you. Don't sit around and whine about it, start looking for a better opportunity!