Corporate communications is often associated with spin doctors who use ethically questionable tactics to manipulate opinions and distort truths.
In reality, public relations are but one facet of the corporate communications sector, which encapsulates a wide range of principles that include marketing, branding and internal communications. The job nature varies, depending on the structure and the set up of the company.
"Corporate communications managers ensure smooth communications between the company and the outside world, as well as within the organisation," says Stella Chiu, regional public relations manager at chemical company BASF.
They organise media activities that range from arranging executive interviews with news organisations, and planning events, to placing articles by corporate experts and responding to inquiries from reporters. It is also their role to maintain dialogue with stakeholders - such as non-profit groups, industry organisations and academia - through meetings, consultations, public speaking engagements and joint events. Corporate communications managers are responsible for the development of crisis communications systems to proactively minimise damage to an organistation's reputation from unforeseen events or accidents.
They also promote internal communications by organising orientation for new staff, implementing media training and educating colleagues about policies and processes that they need to follow in speaking on behalf of the organisation.
Judy Wong, managing director at public relations firm Joyous Communications, says corporate communications managers can be found in-house where they support a company's main business operations, or in agencies that provide services to external clients.
They typically begin their careers at public relations agencies. Executives are promoted to a managerial grade after about five years. At this point, they can choose to remain working at an agency or move in-house. Wong says corporate communications managers can expect to earn at least HK$30,000 a month.
Those with 10 years' experience or more may be promoted to a company's head of corporate communications, overseeing the overall corporate communications strategy.
Setting a well-recognised standard
The International Association of Business Communicators, which has a Hong Kong chapter, offers an accreditation programme which serves as a well-recognised standard in the corporate communications sector.
There are no study materials, but candidates are required to submit a portfolio which consists of work samples showing their ability to plan and work strategically on a range of communications projects, and take part in a 4 1/2-hour written and oral examination.
The exams test skills ranging from project and time management, media relations to employee communications, and presentation and communications ethics.
Ultimate test of skills
Every job requires some people skills, but the work of a corporate communications manager is probably the ultimate test of a professional's ability to engage and communicate with people from all walks of life.
Corporate communications managers must have strong English and Chinese writing skills because they spend a considerable amount of time preparing written documents, including internal memos, reports, press releases and articles - all of which have to be done quickly and accurately.
A background in journalism will be helpful, since such candidates are more than likely to have good writing skills, and are familiar with corporate events and press conferences.