If a corporation hopes to succeed in today’s highly connected world and maintain its reputation with the public, its leadership must be cognizant and purposeful about its larger role in society. Its customers, employees, and internal stakeholders—as well as government regulators and the general public—are all affected in one way or another by the corporation’s choices and actions, which include everything from its environmental impact to its role driving industry trends.
Larger companies need a jack-of-all-trades to stand at the center of the corporate communications whirlwind and advise top leaders on their next best move. That, in short, is the corporate affairs manager’s job. They are the voice that connects the public relations, human resources, public affairs, sales, and marketing departments.
Leadership consulting firm Spencer Stuart notes that the past several decades have elevated this role. Corporations are being held to a higher standard: they’re asked to recognize their impact on the planet, support employee growth, and treat social media as a “two-way dialogue” with their customers. Each of these requires strategic communications skills to define and sustain a company’s identity.
So, what is a corporate affairs manager? This article surveys job descriptions for the role and discusses how these professionals collaborate with a large executive team to advance organizational objectives. We’ll cover:
While corporate affairs managers play a role in both internal communications and external communications, the role shouldn’t be mixed up with traditional public relations. PR is just one of the puzzle pieces of the job.
The corporate affairs manager helps a corporation navigate major transitions and forge its public image. This means that the role must always have an eye on changing government relations, sales projections, marketing initiatives, external stakeholder engagement, and company morale.
When a top executive like the CEO or COO debates a company’s next move, a corporate affairs manager plays a major role in the decision-making process. These professionals then build a communications strategy to effectively announce the change to the company and public and help navigate the transition with everyone in mind.
Above all, the corporate affairs manager, director, or president—depending on the structure of the company—acts as the right-hand person to top decision-makers. They employ their knowledge of current market trends, communication campaigns, and regulations to help senior managers make judicious decisions that benefit the company.
A corporate affairs manager may work in tandem with the PR and media relations team should things go wrong in the company. They may write press releases, arrange press conferences, and assist in a strategic plan to navigate sales, marketing, and operations choices during the crisis.
Corporate affairs experts must have a keen knowledge of public policy and business law. They will likely work with the public affairs director and legal team to ensure key decisions are legal and favorable for the company’s goals.
Marketing and public relations make up a major percentage of this role’s daily activities, from shaping the public story of the company to measuring social media impact. A corporate affairs manager may highlight a company’s corporate social responsibility to sustainability, labor laws, fair trade, and transparent spending.
A corporate affairs manager also has a hand in the overall message sent to employees and internal stakeholders. They may help edit and shape company-wide communications, announce mergers and leadership changes, and navigate challenges along the way.
In addition to the public and internal pressures of business, corporate affairs managers understand the data and finances behind sales trends and major events in the industry. They use these tools to oversee marketing campaigns, advise executive choices, and manage crises.
As the name implies, corporate affairs managers work with major corporations through a range of industries. Their specialties and years of experience shape where they flourish. You’ll find corporate affairs roles in the headquarters of the biggest names in finance, retails, consumer products, travel, entertainment, and more. You may also find corporate affairs managers at PR, marketing, and law firms that provide services to multiple clients at once.
Glassdoor reports that the average national corporate affairs manager salary in 2022 is $81,111. However, if you look at recent Glassdoor job postings, salaries easily push into the six figures, particularly for large corporations like Microsoft and Chevron. Salary.com sets average salaries higher at $102,900, plus an additional $7,000 annually in incentive pay.
Corporate affairs managers also make more on average—about $142,000 according to ZipRecruiter—in New York City and other major metropolitan areas.
Take a moment to think about the biggest challenges that a corporate affairs manager faces. These professionals must have an expert, nuanced understanding of many moving pieces at once. The role requires an ability to merge sales, marketing, industry, and regulatory affairs into one clear message and disseminate this to leaders and decision-makers.
A master’s in strategic communications covers this intersection of several areas of business. Students explore the meeting points of public relations, marketing, sales, writing, and media. They receive a deeper understanding of today’s most effective communication strategies by investigating top research, data analytics, and modern tech for reaching each unique audience.
While the majority of job descriptions call for several years experience in a related field, both a related bachelor’s degree and master’s degree can be key to getting ahead in this profession. And, as you’ll read below, today’s top strategic communication programs strengthen a student’s resume by providing opportunities for corporate internships, hands-on immersions, and thesis presentations.
As the world becomes more connected each year through growing technology, so does the call to explore effective and ethical communication. A master’s in strategic communications aims to do just this.
Strategic communications studies how to reach an audience with the best language, tools, and timing. It uses data to measure its results and covers how to define and craft a specific purpose for sending the message.
These master’s programs welcome a wide group of professionals. Public relations and media relations pros, writers, journalists, project managers—and, of course—corporate affair managers all benefit from the program. Professionals from advocacy groups, government agencies, and the healthcare industry also benefit from strategic communications.
If you glance through the common career paths and concentrations listed on program websites, corporate relations and affairs top the list. American University even offers a specialization track for corporate communications and reputation management.
A master’s in strategic communications takes anywhere from 10 to 24 months to complete. Students often choose between a full-time or part-time as well as an online, in-person, or hybrid format.
The program requires between 30 and 36 credits for graduation, often with a culminating capstone project or professional-level internship. Columbia University also offers the option between a 12-month, 16-month traditional or executive master’s for working professionals with extensive experience.
While a strategic communications program may pull from a long list of industries, applicants must share a common language for consideration. Universities look for students with several years of experience in the field as well as a track record of working with communication campaigns.
The application itself consists of an essay question, letters of recommendation, and a strong resume. Butler University also requires GRE and GMAT scores for some applicants.
Overall, professional experience—typically anywhere from two to six years—makes a professional a great candidate for this master’s.
Let’s take a look at Butler University’s coursework as an example of a strategic communication curriculum. Students split their time down the middle—15 credits for each— between foundational courses in communication and elective topics. Foundational topics include exploring what strategic communications is, its research methods, visual strategies, and laws and ethics.
Electives allow students to specialize in their chosen area of expertise. A corporate affairs manager may take classes like social media strategy, global strategic communication, health and risk communication, and crises management.
Other universities offer interdisciplinary electives in industry-specific areas like nonprofits or corporate relations. Classes may also cover leadership, writing, and design, as well as how to measure the impact of each element.
The strategic communication’s master’s wide reach does not mean you can’t customize your education. Each program encourages students to select either a concentration track, a schedule of personalized electives, or a capstone project topic fit to their career goals. Students graduate from the program after filling in the specific gaps in their knowledge and resumes. Options may include:
American’s strategic communication program offers ultimate customization options with its five concentrations and list of electives. Students can choose between an online or in-person option either full or part-time. The university notes that 94 percent of students have a job or are in an additional master’s program just six months after graduation. Set in the political heart of the country, everyone from corporate employees to political and nonprofit professionals taps into American’s professional network.
Students can take advantage of Butler’s flexible seven-week course modules to expeditiously complete the master’s program fully online. Faculty members come from a wide range of industries, including law, tech, nonprofits, advertising, and PR. Butler also has a proven track record of graduates landing top positions in PR, fundraising, media, and communications.
Professionals looking to study in the Big Apple can choose this Ivy-League option. Columbia offers three full-time or part-time options over the period of 12 or 16 months, as well as its executive master’s program. A new hybrid online and in-person option will launch in the fall of 2022 as well. Students complete the program with a professional internship and capstone project presented to top executives.
It should come as no surprise that strategic communications is an ideal candidate for online learning. The majority of programs today offer an online or hybrid option. Students are only required to attend class in person for an immersion or culminating internship.
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