Answer: Strategic communication is a term used to describe the communication principles, strategies, and initiatives used to further an organization’s goals, mission, or values. It is a multidisciplinary professional field, drawing upon communication practices found in related disciplines, including public relations, mass communication, advertising, and organizational communication. Individuals with a graduate education in strategic communication might pursue employment in public relations, digital and online media, politics, corporate consulting, lobbying and social advocacy, government and nonprofit, healthcare, marketing and advertising research, or higher education, to name just a few possible career paths.

Strategic communication sits at the intersection of management strategy and communication, focused on the idea of purposeful messaging, whether between an organization and its employees or a nonprofit agency advocating for social issues. Its theories and practices help global marketing directors, public relations directors, corporate communication consultants, political operatives, chief branding officers, and other communication professionals plan, research, organize, and execute internal and external communication initiatives that align with their organization’s values or mission, anything from improving internal training materials to launching a digital campaign for voting rights. Strategic communication can be delivered in a wide range of mediums, including press releases, social media posts, radio and television advertisements, internal memos, interviews, white papers, and more.

Master’s in Strategic Communication Programs

Master’s in strategic communication programs introduce students to the rhetorical theories and models of effective persuasive communication, as well as an expansive understanding of the analytical processes and strategic practices used to build audience-based communication initiatives in varying organizational settings. These programs also explore how strategic communications function across industries in an increasingly digitally connected world. Students develop competencies in storytelling and digital strategy, quantitative research tool design, campaign planning and evaluation, and writing, preparing them to create effective messages that can be used in traditional (e.g., public relations and print media) or emerging communication channels (e.g., social media, podcasts, and digital media).

Strategic communication master’s programs cover topics throughout the field of communication and its related disciplines, including communication law and ethics, corporate communications, strategic marketing, public relations, organizational strategy assessment, public affairs, crisis communications, communication design, reputation management, visual branding, and more. The majority of graduate programs in strategic communication offer a curriculum with a focus on applied skill development in writing, research and analysis, and integrated communications strategies. Some of these programs are explicitly intended for students who already work in communication and want to advance their career, while others are designed for those looking to change careers and enter the field.

For additional information about strategic communication master’s programs, including sample curriculum plans and degree requirements, please refer to our Master’s in Strategic Communication Programs page.

Careers in Strategic Communication

A degree in strategic communication can open employment opportunities across a spectrum of industries, including public relations, politics and political research, public policy and legislative affairs, higher education, mass media, marketing, financial services, entertainment, government, healthcare, and more. Professionals with an educational background in strategic communication might pursue careers with public relations agencies, corporate communication organizations, political consulting and campaign firms, pharmaceutical companies, nonprofit organizations, multimedia and web publishers, global marketing agencies, or other organizations and groups requiring strategic communication services.

Effective communication, including both internal and external communication processes, is critical in business across the private and public sectors. Individuals with knowledge of rhetorical theories, human behavior, and strategic communication techniques are central to helping organizations, agencies, and businesses improve their internal communication structures, maintain positive relationships with clients and consumers, develop integrated marketing campaigns, organize efficient public advocacy initiatives, and create enriched employee training materials. Below are several career paths graduates with a master’s in strategic communication might consider:

  • Corporate Communication Consultant: Corporate communication consultants assist companies in improving their internal communication practices, and typically help with areas such as employee training, leadership development, human resources, and team-building. Working with senior leadership, corporate communication consultants bring clarity to a company’s long-term mission, along with creating clearer, more effective channels of communication between employer and employee.
  • Social Issues Advocate: Social advocates work for or with non-profit and political organizations to craft communications, often to engage local, state, and national legislators or garner support for legislation or policy changes. Some of their responsibilities might include creating comprehensive media campaigns or promotional materials, building relationships on social media, or generating awareness through local print publications.
  • Marketing Director: Marketing directors manage the external-facing communications and branding for organizations, businesses, government agencies, nonprofit groups, universities, and other entities. They develop multi-faceted marketing campaigns, manage junior marketing staff, protect the organization’s brand identity, and engage in other strategic practices to promote the company’s product and drive consumer awareness.
  • Public Relations Director: Public relations directors are responsible for an organization or company’s public and private reputation, including its relationship with consumers, the general public, stakeholders, and potential investors. Some of their duties include crafting strategic public relations campaigns, handling day-to-day external communications and relationships with the press, managing social media platforms, organizing speaking engagements and interviews for senior leadership, and promoting organizational events.
  • Political Strategist: Campaign strategists leverage their knowledge of domestic and international politics and communication techniques to plan, organize, execute, and evaluate political campaigns for candidates at the local, state, and national levels. They may write speeches, manage public relations issues, create digital marketing campaigns to reach voters, implement public sentiment surveys, or craft campaign messaging to further the candidate’s reach within their voting region.