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Director of External Relations: Job Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a director of external relations. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and experience required to find out if this is the career for you.

A director of external relations is typically an experienced professional working to create and maintain a positive image for a company through media and communications. This person may supervise the writing of a number of documents relating to public relations and advertising and work with executives in other departments. They also have managerial duties.

Essential Information

A director of external relations is a communications manager tasked with creating a positive public image for a company or entity. This type of public relations job requires an expert communicator with extensive industry experience and at least a bachelor's degree.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Knowledge of the specific industry;
experience in public relations
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% for PR and fundraising managers
Average Salary (2015)* $119,390 for PR and fundraising managers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties of a Director of External Relations

The director of external relations proactively creates the corporate identity of a company through traditional and new media channels. Directors may do this by overseeing the writing and editing of event scripts, speeches, shareholder documents and reports, advertising and promotional materials, press releases, interviews and any other external communications. In the case of an unforeseen issue, crisis or other potentially problematic situation, the director of public relations generates communications to maintain a positive image for the company. Working with managers in marketing and advertising, the legal department, financial advisors and other top executives, the director of external relations reviews public communications to ensure a consistent brand identity and message.

Managerial Duties

The director of external relations also serves as a manager for the public relations staff. He or she may coordinate work schedules, assign staff to projects, direct market research and industry trend analysis, manage communications budgets and oversee the creation of public relations strategies. As a visible member of the public relations department, the director of external relations must develop cooperative relationships with business contacts, journalists, public officials, government regulators and investors to maintain the company's reputation, while paving the way for future business partnerships and opportunities.

Requirements to Become a Director of External Relations

Educational Requirements

In October 2011, job postings listed by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and on CareerBuilder.com noted a bachelor's degree as the main educational requirement, with some employers expressing a preference for individuals with an advanced degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) explained that it is beneficial for aspiring public relations managers to obtain a degree in a communications field like journalism or public relations, and that coursework that emphasized business administration and various types of public communications would be most helpful.

Undergraduate and graduate degree programs in public relations help students to develop a keen sense of audience and gain experience in the types of communications strategies that they will utilize in directing external relations. In a bachelor's degree program, students develop their speaking, listening and writing skills through introductory communications and public relations courses, eventually progressing to public relations management courses and field or internship experiences. At the graduate level, public relations programs emphasize ethics and law, corporate communications and management, research, consulting and global communications.

Experience Requirements

Besides education, job postings also overwhelmingly emphasized the importance of public relations and communications experience, as well as industry-specific knowledge, as essential requirements for potential directors of external relations. Employers sought applicants with at least 5-15 years of experience developing and managing public relations and corporate communications objectives, with proven leadership and excellent written and oral communication skills. Additionally, many employers preferred candidates with background knowledge in the specific field or industry of the company. In this case, job experience or an undergraduate degree in a discipline other than communications could be beneficial to job seekers because they would be familiar with the technical language of the respective industry.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary earned by public relations and fundraising managers, the category under which directors of external relations fall, was $119,390 in May 2015. The employment of public relations managers is expected to grow by 7% between 2014 and 2024, per the BLS.

A director of external relations works to develop, create and maintain the reputation of a company or organization. This job is a senior position with many responsibilities, including managing staff, overseeing or supervising PR efforts, such as written communications or interviews, and working alongside other executives. At least a bachelor's degree in communications or a related field is expected; graduate programs in public relations also exist.


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