That you have heard or seen a Corporate Communications Manager performing functions which may typically fall under the PR docket is not an uncommon sight. Corporate Communications and Public Relations are like two siblings, with one being just older than the other. But their tools and mandate end up being fortunately similar meaning that they can both interlap at various functions.
Corporate communications and public relations share so many commonalities that you would be forgiven for using them interchangeably. They are often grouped together in universities and by employers seeking to fill communications positions. Both necessitate that you excel in fundamental communication skills -- speaking, writing, and an educated and innate ability to know what critical information needs to go to the people who need it, when they need it. There are some subtle and not-so-subtle differences, however, that may determine the path you choose.
Corporate communications encompasses all communication activities that an organization undertakes, both within and outside the organization. Internally, as a corporate communications professional, you help management build bridges between departments so that communication flows smoothly. For example, an internal newsletter or bulletin lets each employee know what is happening in each department, or alerts staff to any upcoming special visitors or events the organization has scheduled. Externally, you may do everything from writing annual reports to send to investors, to participating in community working groups for civic matters.
If you select a career in public relations, you will work closely with management in identifying, building and nurturing relationships between the company and various publics. Obviously good communication is inherent in this capability -- both writing and speaking. Key to building these relationships is promoting your organization’s reputation through highly visible channels, using reporters and editors to communicate about your employer based on information you provide. This sole function is often referred to as media relations. Controlling the messages that the public hears is also important, particularly if your organization faces a crisis and erroneous information or rumors could cause panic or tarnish the company’s image.
Choosing a Path
Consider your strengths and what you enjoy when determining which educational or career path is more suited to your skills, experience or aptitude. If you have experience as a journalist or enjoy understanding how the media work, public relations is a good fit -- but you will need persuasive skills and the ability to verbalize well, in addition to keen writing. Plan also to act as your organization’s spokesperson, so you must be comfortable in interview situations -- including on-camera -- while aptly articulating the necessary messages specific to any circumstance. If you are better at writing than speaking, or have other creative skills such as graphic design or video editing, corporate communications is a better path. You should expect to still verbally communicate with audiences but if your job duties don’t incorporate media relations, you won’t have to worry about extemporized speaking scenarios.
So whether PR is more your thing but you find yourself playing more corporate communications roles, the trick is to find a balance and deliver accordingly.