Strategic Communication vs. Emerging Media Strategy

According to recent studies by the Pew Research Center, 69 percent of adults in the United States use social media to connect with friends and family, share content and information, and stay current on news and events. Beyond the ways people use online digital platforms personally, they have also become a major part of business communications.

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Understanding the influence of these new technologies is useful for organizations across every industry. Equally as critical is the ability to build effective communication strategies that help companies gain competitive advantage. Those considering communications as a field of study can choose to tailor their education by selecting communications degree concentrations — specifically, a concentration in Strategic Communications or a concentration in Emerging Media Strategy and Social Media — that can be helpful when it comes time to pursue a career.

Strategic Communication: Concentration Overview

Strategic communication refers to the methods that organizations use to promote their image and advance their overall mission. Maryville University offers a Strategic Communication concentration within its online Bachelor of Arts in Communication degree program that gives students the opportunity to specialize in designing compelling strategies to help organizations adapt to evolving technologies. These include new media and social trends.

Unlike the Emerging Media Strategy and Social Media Concentration, while the Strategic Communication concentration provides an overview of social media, it focuses more on overall communication and communication methods as a whole. In addition to the core communications curriculum, students in the Strategic Communication concentration take required courses in strategic communication, writing, and research and strategy as well as electives, such web design, issues and crisis management, and social media campaigns.

Emerging Media Strategy and Social Media: Concentration Overview

Social media has not only changed the way people share information and communicate with each other, it has also had a significant effect on how organizations share content and interact with the public. Maryville University’s Emerging Media Strategy and Social Media communications degree concentration differs from the Strategic Communication concentration in that it involves a deep dive into social media and emerging trends in digital communication. The curriculum focuses on the most current technologies and digital networking tools that are taking over traditional business communication methods. Required courses in this concentration cover social media campaigns, e-media and digital writing, advanced web design, and issues and crisis management, with strategic communications, writing, and research as electives.

Businesses hire communication professionals because they know modern techniques and strategies for creating digital content and leading effective campaigns. Both the Strategic Communication concentration and the Emerging Media Strategy and Social Media concentration teach students the necessary skills for developing relationships with audiences across different media, such as digital web content and social media. While a bachelor’s in communications degree can prepare students to pursue their desired career paths, additional experience, degrees, or certifications may be required in order to attain certain positions. The following highlighted jobs are just a few of the career opportunities in this field.

Social Media Specialist

Working as a social media specialist requires strong creativity and communication skills. The job involves running a business’s social media account on one or more online platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Social media specialists must understand how to promote the organization’s message and develop its brand reputation by driving audience engagement and sharing unique content.

In fact, much of the work of social media specialists involves interacting with the public, such as responding to questions and sharing news with followers. In addition to being excellent communicators, a professional in this position should have thorough understanding of the most popular platforms and networking tools. A bachelor’s degree in communication or a related field is typically required, though additional degrees and certifications may be needed to advance to higher-level positions. The median annual wage for social media specialists is $56,770 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Social Media Manager

Typical responsibilities of social media managers include collaborating with other department managers, marketing teams and public relations specialists to develop the overall social media strategy for an organization. Social media managers may also lead teams that are responsible for creating and sharing content online as well as managing relationships with customers and the general public. Strong analytical skills are necessary for determining the effectiveness of different social media tactics.

This position is more advanced than the social media specialist role, as it requires candidates to gain real-world work experience before becoming a manager. While a bachelor’s degree in communications, marketing, or other field can help candidates increase their earnings in this position, additional qualifications may be necessary.  According to the Creative Group 2018 Salary Guide, $59,000 is the median starting salary for this position.

Content Strategist

The content strategist is responsible for evaluating and understanding a company’s goals as well as the needs of their customers. They use this insight to develop a content strategy that will improve the delivery of content and promotions for the company. Content strategists tell the story of their client’s business, utilizing data and industry research to shape the content that will directly influence the experience of the audience. Other responsibilities of content strategists include search engine optimization, managing metadata, auditing content for consistency, creating style guides, and managing staff.

Analytic decision making is an essential skill for those in this position. They must also be creative, extremely organized, have excellent writing skills, and be able to generate unique content strategies and ideas quickly. The minimum requirement for this position is often a bachelor’s degree in communication or a related-field, though relevant industry experience may be required. According to Payscale, the average salary for a content strategist is $60,375.

Public Relations Specialist

Public relations specialists are responsible for helping their companies or clients develop, maintain or improve positive public images. They are responsible for drafting press releases, handling media requests for information, and writing speeches for executives and company leaders.

Unlike advertisers who purchase ad space in publications and on radio and television, public relations specialists contact people in the media and pitch stories to feature in newspapers, magazines, or televised news reports. A bachelor’s degree in public relations, communications, or other related field is typically a good foundation for a career in public relations, though additional experience and degrees may be needed for advancement. BLS reports that jobs in this field are expected to grow 9 percent from 2016 to 2026. This competitive field earns a median annual salary of $59,300.

Public Relations Manager

Public relations managers responsible for leading a team of public relations specialists and for creating and clarifying an organization’s messages for its target audience. They advise their companies on how to improve public images, keeping in mind any influential or applicable political, social, and economic trends. Public relations managers must be able to work with managers in other departments, such as advertising and marketing, to ensure that public-facing campaigns align with the organization’s image.

Public relations managers may also be required to work with company lawyers to verify that all messages meet legal standards of accuracy and clarity before being released to the media and the public. A bachelor’s degree in communications, public relations, or other field is generally required to be hired as a public relations manager, though this degree alone does not guarantee employment. Since this is a managerial position, relevant work experience in public relations is a requisite. Additional degrees, licenses, and certifications may also be required for this highly responsible role.

According to BLS, a 10 percent growth in employment from 2016 to 2026 is expected for public relations managers, and the median annual salary is $111,280.

Digital Strategist

Digital strategists collaborate with strategy and marketing teams to effectively boost sales for a company’s digital products or services. They must have a firm understanding of all digital media platforms and how consumers use them. These include social networking sites and mobile devices. Digital strategists must also have a thorough understanding of digital market trends and competing products and services. In addition to creating strategies for online marketing campaigns, this position is responsible for employing new technology in marketing, web outreach, sharing digital content, and spearheading branding efforts.

Strong technical, computer, and digital skills are needed in this position. While a bachelor’s degree in communications, marketing, or other relevant field of study are often required, this position may also require a higher level of education. It is important for candidates to have significant experience in the digital media or marketing industries. According to Payscale, the average salary for this position is $59,179.

Start Your Journey to a Communications Career Today

Communication is essential to the success of any business. Companies look to hire communications experts with the ability to create meaningful and effective content that will promote their brand and engage the public. Learn more about how Maryville University’s online bachelor’s in communication program with either a Strategic Communication or Emerging Media Strategy and Social Media concentration can give students a competitive advantage.


BLS, Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

BLS, Public Relations Specialists

BLS, Social Media Specialist

Maryville University, Careers with a Communication Bachelor’s Degree

Maryville University, Online Bachelor of Arts in Communication

Maryville University, Online Bachelor’s in Communication Curriculum

Oxford Bibliographies, Strategic Communication

Pew Research Center, Social Media Fact Sheet

Robert Half, Social Media Manager

Robert Half, Content Strategist

Payscale, Content Strategist Salary|

Payscale, Digital Strategist Salary

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