Communications & Public Relations

What Does an Internal Communications Manager Do?

What Does an Internal Communications Manager Do?
Poor internal communications strategy can result in less productivity and lost income. It can even impact all-important external communications (how can employees share an employer's vision if they don't understand it?). Image from Pexels
Lucien Formichella profile
Lucien Formichella January 25, 2022

The best internal communications managers increase productivity for an entire organization. They oversee a team of communications specialists to ensure that company messaging goes through the proper communication channels to accomplish this goal.

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While many organizations prioritize external communication strategies like advertising and public relations, they sometimes ignore the critical role internal communications can play. According to the IBM whitepaper “Improve Employee Engagement Through Live Video,” “72 percent of employees do not believe that they fully understand their company’s strategy” regarding their brand. That’s a sign of poor internal messaging.

Poor internal communications strategy can result in less productivity and lost income. It can even impact all-important external communications (how can employees share an employer’s vision if they don’t understand it?).

Top organizations help employees align their jobs to the goals developed by upper-level management and other stakeholders. Internal communications managers play an integral role in facilitating employee communication to meet the company’s objectives.

For a more detailed answer to the question what does an internal communications manager do?, continue reading this article, which discusses:

  • What is an internal communications manager?
  • Does an internal communications manager need a strategic communications master’s to succeed?
  • What is a master’s in strategic communications?
  • Top strategic communications master’s programs

What is an internal communications manager?

PR Week reports that an internal communications manager’s role is to ensure employees of organizations are well-informed and driven. Though job descriptions differ on specifics, communications managers must ensure that internal communications aligns with the organization’s external communication strategy. This could mean alerting employees to new developments in brand strategies or internal crises.

Internal communications managers also work with executives and others on the management team (such as the communications director) to craft external communication plans. They prepare press releases or internal memos to project a consistent positive image of their organization. A hectic pace and often-heavy workload requires such traditional management skills as time management, project management in addition to communication and writing skills. The ideal candidate has excellent interpersonal skills to motivate their communications team and facilitate employee engagement.

What are internal communications managers’ responsibilities?

Internal communications managers oversee a team of communications professionals that utilize multiple communication channels, including email or a company magazine, to broadcast internal messaging. They must create a good work environment for business communications to occur. They write copy and design art across different platforms. Managers also play an essential role in planning and strategizing during crises.

Where do internal communications managers work?

This job title is most common in large public and private sector organizations. That could include massive multinational conglomerates, large charities, or government agencies (federal, state, and local). Small business owners typically don’t need internal communications managers. (They just lean across their desks and tell each other what they need to know.)

How much do internal communications managers earn?

According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for internal communications managers is $96,382. However, much depends on the company and industry. The average manager at Cisco systems earns $141,096 per year. An internal communications officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence earns between $65,56 and $112,240.

Does an internal communications manager need a strategic communications master’s to succeed?

Internal communications managers do not need a master’s degree. Minimum qualifications are typically a bachelor’s degree and several years of experience in a relevant job, such as a lower-level internal communications position.

That said, a master’s degree can be helpful, especially if you intend to advance to one of the more competitive, higher-paying jobs. A master’s equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed and helps you stand out from other candidates. Additionally, good alumni connections and work samples can help you land a better position after graduation.

What is a master’s in strategic communications?

A master’s in strategic communications provides graduates the expertise they need to promote a company or organization’s communication agenda, including in public relations and marketing. You’ll learn to implement communication strategy across multiple traditional, digital, and social media platforms to meet campaign goals.

How long does it take to earn a master’s in internal communications?

Though part-time students may take longer, most master’s programs last two years. Several high-quality accelerated communications degrees take less time.

Admission requirements/prerequisites

Regardless of their focus, graduate programs typically ask for undergraduate transcripts with a 3.0 GPA, letters of recommendation, a resume, a personal essay(s), and standardized test scores. Many programs also ask that applicants have at least two years of relevant work experience in a related field such as public relations, marketing, or journalism.

Always be sure to check a program’s requirements, as they may deviate from the norm. For instance, many programs no longer require Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores, and many high-quality master’s degrees are designed for career changers.

Curriculum

Most curricula include a mix of theoretical and practical coursework. They can consist of research methods, leadership strategies, and best marketing practices.

Specialization

Strategic communication is a specialty, meaning you likely won’t pursue a specific track during your education. However, electives and projects (including a capstone project) can be an excellent way to focus your studies. Additionally, some schools require an internship (sometimes called a practicum) through which you can pursue a specialized focus area.

Top strategic communications master’s programs

There isn’t a definitive list of top strategic communications master’s programs. The following is a breakdown of well-regarded universities with relevant programming.

Columbia University

Columbia’s program mixes theoretical and practical strategic communications. This 36-credit program is shorter than the average master’s degree; students can choose to complete either a 12- or 16-month track. The longer track can include a practicum. Course titles include Strategic Communication Management, The Compelling Communicator, and Communication Research and Insights. Columbia also offers an executive master’s program for more experienced applicants.

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Minnesota’s 30-credit Master of Arts in Mass Communication—offered through the journalism school—has an academic focus. That means students learn to conduct and present research and typically pursue careers outside the corporate structure. The program takes two years to complete; students must maintain a 3.0 GPA to graduate. Applicants should have two or more years of relevant experience. The university also offers a Professional MA in Strategic Communication which “is designed for communications and marketing professionals who are working full-time.”

Stanford University

Students can choose a communication MBA or executive Master of Science (MSx) at Stanford. Both offer courses, coaching, and tailored workshops to help you develop your communication skills. The MSx is designed for “mid-career experienced professionals” and lasts one year; the MBA is a two-year program. Both programs prepare graduates for advanced leadership positions and offer all the resources of a top university.
Students in both tracks can complete coursework that includes Essentials of Strategic Communication, Political Communication: How Leaders Become Leaders, and Reputation Management: Strategies for Successful Communicators.

Online/hybrid options

Two well-regarded universities offer online or hybrid communications master’s options.

Butler University

Students learn effective communication strategies to plan and execute campaigns in this 30-credit online Master of Science degree. They also learn research techniques to identify and refine best practices. Graduates are prepared to work successfully in all communications formats, including digital media. Half the courses are electives, providing a high degree of flexibility. You can pursue education in areas like branding and crisis communication and gain management experience through a capstone project.

University of Denver

The University of Denver offers an organizational communication track as part of the Master of Arts in Communication Management program. Students can complete the program online or in-person through evening classes. Admissions requirements do not include standardized test scores, and you can graduate within 18 months. In addition to core communication coursework, students take concentration-specific classes like Dynamic Presentation and Training Methods, Building High-Performing Teams, Business Fundamentals for Communicators, and Persuasion and Influence.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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