Lessons from the White House

Directors of communications are a growing presence in the modern world. The current White House administration provides a timely reminder of their importance today’s digital environment, and what happens if the job isn’t done right.

Engaging effectively and clearly with the public sphere is no easy task for high-profile figures and organisations. The ramifications of words used, and the ripples they create across our increasingly connected world are highly-visible. The internet-echo chamber of our digital world means one slip of the tongue will not easily be forgotten. It can destroy careers and reputations in days. Therefore, aligning messages and communication goals is vital to presenting a strong public image in the 21st century. Spearheading these campaigns across the globe are Directors of Communications (DoCs).

A degree in Media & Communications can open doors to many exciting career opportunities. Arguably one of the most challenging in the face of today’s omnipresent public eye is becoming a DoC. It is an understated but hugely significant role, owing to the rise of the internet and the vast communication channels it has thrust upon us. So what responsibilities do these masters of the communication arts assume?

Crafting a positive public image

While we can distinguish between private and public sector DoCs, professionals in this field are increasingly finding their skills are applicable in both. In British politics, Tony Blair was arguably the first British prime minister to wield the knowledge base of private sector communications experts, and channel it towards his own political agenda with great success.

A DoC can be called on to perform a number of responsibilities. Every day is guaranteed to be different from the last. From conjuring press releases and working with designers, to scheduling interviews and giving them on behalf of the client, a DoC must always be on their toes, ready to react and respond to unfolding events. It is certainly not short of excitement. DoCs are also likely to be required to work closely with marketing and advertising departments, along with web designers and media outlets.

In the political arena, the speeches they craft have the power to inspire seismic shifts in public policy and opinion. If it involves a high-profile institution or individual communicating with the public sphere, you can bet there’s a DoC behind it.

To align the messages and values of these public figures and institutions is more difficult than many would perceive. As we often see in both the private and public sector, people fall into the trap of contradicting themselves, and are held accountable by the ever-watchful eye of journalists. A DoC helps control the communication channels of their client, to ensure unity and clarity in all information being disseminated to the public.

White house woes

Perhaps no global figure better encapsulates the importance of needing a good communications specialist at the helm than the most scrutinized individual in the world today - Donald Trump. He is a man who is infamous for his outspoken Twitter rants, and proudly saying what he thinks. His two-finger-salutes to ‘the establishment’ were arguably the reason he won the presidential elections in the first place. Since December 22nd 2016 he has appointed and fired four people in the role of his DoC - each lasting no longer than an average of 44 days. So little faith has President Trump in people being able to express his own disjointed vision, he once famously used fake names and posed as his own DoCs, ‘John Barron’ and ‘John Miller’, when conducting phone interviews with the media.

A lesson to be learned

Trump’s outspoken attitude has been a double edged sword. While it was arguably his dismissal of more rigorous political communications strategies that won him the hearts of disillusioned American voters, since his election victory his contradictory statements and unpredictable social media outbursts have seen his approval rating sink to an all-time American-presidential low. Of the many things Donald Trump will be remembered for in history, hypocrisy and contradiction are two sturdy pillars on which his reputation will stand. These are the kinks in one’s public image DoCs are employed to iron out - with Trump and co. offering us the perfect example of what happens when DoCs are not given the reigns.

We are in the golden age of communications experts- the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a projected job growth in the industry of 7% between 2014-2024. If you see yourself aspiring to direct communications for high-profile institutions, now could be the time to embark on an MA in Media & Communications.

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