What Is the Role of a Communications Officer?

Many businesses treat the communications officer as a “nice-to-have,” not a “need-to-have.” But if the current political, news and social media climates have taught us anything, it’s that one false move communication-wise can end careers or deep-six companies virtually overnight.

Old-school communications directors were generally reactive. That is, they only issued a comment or press release when prompted to do so by their superiors, outside forces, or a combination of the two (think crisis mode). You need a communications officer who is proactive on your payroll for a few reasons.

To Establish Your Brand

Establishing a brand takes time, effort, and money. Fortunately, there are ways to do it affordably through social media and press releases. But you need a communications officer active on these networks each day. And they need to be someone with media contacts relevant to your industry.

If they don’t come to you with those media contacts built-in, they should be proficient at making them. And yes, there’s an art to it that experienced communications directors know how to manage even if they come to you from other industries.

Additionally, your communications director should use writing in a conversational manner. That means he should be a good conversationalist himself. You’ll need that when it’s time to create blog posts, answer comments and criticisms on social media and review sites in a tactful manner, and go on-camera for the press when necessary.

A lack of these skills can damage your brand severely. But their presence sets the tone for your organization.

To Keep the Message Straight

Let’s say you run a company that employs 200. What would happen if you gave all of those individuals, from top to bottom, the ability to speak on-the-record and in-representation of your company?

The easy money says mass chaos. Inevitably, you’d find a bad apple who wasn’t happy about his status with the company, and he’d sing his criticisms from the balcony the first chance he got. While you can’t stop whistles from blowing, you can reduce the headaches by having a clear communications structure for your company. One that runs through a single source — your communications director.

To Handle the Drama

Now, if you’re a company of the 200-employee variety, it’s likely you already have a communications officer. But can you trust them to stay on point with the media? Do they have the temperament to respond to crises?

In the life of every business, trouble will come. Sometimes there’s a temptation to jump right on it without all the facts. This quick action creates further drama for yourself and your employees.

Communications officers know how to communicate about crises that are still forming without bringing further harm. They also help you form a strategy around your messaging when you need to share difficult or challenging information with the public or respond to criticisms.

They also know whether something is worth responding to, and that’s a valuable quality in itself. It’s valuable because not all of your critics are going to be fair or competent or relevant. And ignoring them often is a better course of action than giving their BS oxygen.

To Spread the Word

Part of growing your business is sharing the good news, offers, or giveaways you initiate with the public. Doing that takes work.

That work includes clear articulation of the message itself. Think grammatically correct press release that tells the public everything you want them to know.

It includes packaging the message into an appropriate format for the channel of communication you’re going to use. You will occasionally post your press releases on each social media channel as-is.

But for the most part, you’ll want to keep whatever you put out there relevant to the network itself. And a YouTube post will look different from a Twitter post will look different from an Instagram post, and so on.

Communications officers take the time to get it right — message, format, distribution. All of it. And they do each in a way that’s consistent with your company’s brand and voice.

To Let You Work on Your Business

The last and best reason to hire a communications officer is so you don’t have to take on all these responsibilities yourself in addition to running your business. That’s a good thing because, chances are, you didn’t launch your company to write press releases and blog posts.

It has to be done. But it also takes away from how you apply your time and energy to the growth and development of the business. Don’t let another area of specialization block you from yours.

Your Business Demands the Role of a Communications Officer

You need someone focusing on communications at your company. But the question you have to answer is who’s going to fill the role? It isn’t something just anyone can do. And the last thing you want is to use an employee who’s of more value elsewhere within your organization.

Doing that not only results in them burning out in the communications role but also in your company losing their expertise in the other area. The good news: small businesses don’t necessarily need a full-timer in the role.

That’s where a part-time Chief Communications Officer can help. If that sounds right for your organization, or if you’d like to speak further about how such a role can benefit you, email me today at aric.mitchell@gmail.com.

[Featured Image by Pixabay]