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This is a linkpost for https://probablygood.org/career-profiles/communications/ 

Probably Good is excited to share a new career profile for communications! Below, you can read a few excerpts from the full profile.

Work in communications can play a critical role in an organization’s success – if it’s done well. Through activities like growing brand awareness, raising funds, attracting customers, and persuading decision-makers, communications professionals can amplify the work done by the rest of the organization.

Because of this, a career in communications can be a highly promising path for some people. However, because communications roles serve primarily to draw attention to and assist the work of others, it’s crucial that people who want to have a positive impact seek out organizations that are doing high-quality work addressing important problems.


This career path comprises a diverse range of tasks and responsibilities, though they’re all united by one key goal: sharing the right information with the right people in the right way. Within this broad goal, specific types of communications work include:

  • Public relations: Public relations involves drafting public statements and press releases for an organization, potentially announcing new projects and updates, or even responding to controversy (known as crisis communications). 
  • Marketing: Marketing also often falls under the remit of communications. Depending on the organization you’re in, this could mean designing and implementing advertising campaigns, running publicity events, fundraising, writing newsletters, and more.
  • Active outreach: Communications professionals may also spend time reaching out and developing relationships with individuals outside the organization. This could include soliciting potential donors, raising awareness among important decision-makers, and more.
  • Internal communications: Especially at larger organizations, communications specialists can take on internal-facing communications tasks. These can include providing organization-wide updates, monitoring and improving internal communications processes, and developing materials such as newsletters and handbooks for staff. 
  • Personal communications: This type of communications work involves working on behalf of a (typically influential) individual to maintain their public presence. It can involve creating social media posts, public statements, or even helping prepare for interviews and panel discussions.


How promising is communications?

Working in communications can have a positive impact in at least a couple of different ways.

First, communications work can be a necessary part of the causal chain that transforms good work into having a real impact on the world. Here are a few examples: 

Change public behavior

Informing and motivating the wider public to change their behaviors can help drive positive change across many important problems such as climate changeanimal welfare, and public health. For instance, the Senegalese government was lauded for its response to COVID-19, keeping infections and deaths to comparatively low levels. A large part of this success has been attributed to its communications team, which deployed early and effective messaging to raise awareness and promote effective behavior changes to mitigate the spread of the disease.

Persuade relevant decision-makers

Good communications can lead decision-makers to take important actions, such as developing legislation or changing corporate practices. There are many examples of this many of the important policy changes we see are often the result of people and organizations working behind the scenes to make change happen. Unfortunately, oftentimes this means that policy changes are made to favor only specific private interests, but the same mechanisms can also be used to push forward socially beneficial decisions at a large scale. For instance, the Clean Air Task Force, a climate advocacy organization, has had impressive success in convincing policymakers to implement substantial positive changes to climate policy.

Drive public pressure and leverage it for change

Raising awareness for important issues can help sway decision-makers who are sensitive to public opinion. One organization that has been highly successful in this is The Humane League. The organization has been able to persuade numerous large companies to commit to exclusively stock cage-free eggs (which significantly reduces the suffering of hens) through a mixture of online advertising, grassroots advocacy, and private engagement with companies.

Improve communications within the organization

By smoothing out internal communications, you could help an organization collaborate and coordinate more effectively. Improving internal systems can bring large benefits to any organizations, which we know thanks to research in other contexts. For instance, a report by McKinsey found that making full use of “social technologies” within an organization can generate substantial productivity gains within an organization. 

Though there are multiple routes through which communications professionals can provide value, it can also be helpful to more generally think of communications professionals as multipliers of an organization’s impact. Working in communications usually means you won’t be involved directly with creating products or delivering services. Instead, you’ll often work to amplify your organization’s work, ensuring it reaches the right people and resonates with them. Though it’s hard to quantify, there’s reason to think that this multiplier can be significant. Because of this, our impression is that for people who are a great fit, communications careers can be highly promising. 

Naturally, because communications work is so closely tied to an organization, choosing the right organization and role is perhaps even more important here than it is for other career paths. We discuss this more in our section on priorities within communications careers.


Strategies and next steps

Getting into the field

It’s not always clear how to enter a new field. Though there are often many ways into any career path, here are some reliably helpful ways to get started in communications:

  • Undergraduate degrees – Communications roles generally require an undergraduate degree as a minimum. Typical subjects include journalism, marketing, English (or the relevant language in your context) and, of course, communications. Anything with a substantial writing component is likely to provide a good first step.
  • Subject specialization – Having said this, communications roles sometimes require subject-specific experience or education. For instance, a communications role in a climate-change nonprofit might require prior knowledge of climate science. So, if you’re wanting to work in a specific cause area, it can be beneficial to develop subject expertise (for instance, through a relevant college degree) and develop your communications skills alongside this subject expertise, rather than the other way around. 
  • Blogs or student publications – We mentioned starting a blog or joining a student publication as great ways to test personal fit, but they’re also a helpful first step into the field. By building a portfolio of writing, you’ll be able to demonstrate your abilities to potential employers. Writing samples are often part of the application process for communications roles.
  • Other work experience – In addition to a catalog of writing experience, being able to demonstrate other skills such as video editing, event planning, and marketing (among others) is highly advantageous for relevant communications roles. Professional experience in these skills is not required, but independent projects are also a great way to demonstrate your capabilities.

Excelling in the field

There are several techniques that can help you be a better communications professional:

  • Learn to wear many hats – Especially in smaller organizations, becoming skilled at many internal and external communications responsibilities will help you stand out from the rest. But even at larger organizations, understanding the various components of communications work can help you get a better view of the overall picture. 
  • Identify the most important people to reach – Great communication work can be wasted if it’s not directed at the people who can activate change. Working out who to reach is therefore key for amplifying your organization’s positive impact. The concept of ‘back-chaining’ could be helpful in this. This is where you identify how positive change will ultimately happen, and work backwards step by step to identify the people you need to reach, and the message you need to send, in order to reach it.
  • Use the right message and medium – Once you’ve identified the most promising target audience, it’s vital to reach them in ways they’re receptive to. For instance, if you want to raise awareness of an issue among a young audience, then you might want to produce engaging short-form video content. But if you intend to influence policymakers, then you may opt to take a more formal tone in branding and messaging, as well as communicating via venues that lend you credibility.
  • Stay up to date with new media channels – The way people consume media often changes, and this means the best ways of reaching people (especially across different target audiences) will change, too. Try to keep up with new platforms and content formats, as this will help you know how best to reach the people you need to. 
  • Be honest – For most organizations (including nonprofits), there are incentives to make misleading or even false claims in order to appeal to customers and donors or manage their reputation. It’s important to resist these incentives. To have a real impact, it’s crucial to be transparent about your organization’s failures as well as successes, even if this comes at a cost. 
  • Use best practices for measurement and evaluation – It’s hard to measure exactly how much value communications work adds to an organization, especially counterfactually. However, through identifying useful proxies and indicators, you can get some sense of how much value your work is adding. For instance, UNICEF’s communications strategy identified numerous metrics and indicators to assess their success, such as the share of attention they received on relevant news and media items, and the proportion of the public who understand UNICEF’s central mission.

You can read the full profile over at Probably Good.

Is there any content that you’d like to see from Probably Good? We’re eager to hear which content would be useful to the broader community and/or to specific groups. Let us know!





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I've been in marketing for my whole career (15 years) and am now also doing movement building in AI Safety. Always happy to chat to anyone interested in pursuing such a career - yannikyriacos@gmail.com

Executive summary: Communications careers can be highly impactful by amplifying the work of effective organizations, though careful consideration should be given to choosing the right organization and role.

Key points:

  1. Communications work can drive positive change by influencing public behavior, persuading decision-makers, leveraging public pressure, and improving internal organizational processes.
  2. Communications professionals act as multipliers of an organization's impact, making the choice of organization and role especially important for impact.
  3. Entering the field often requires an undergraduate degree, subject expertise, a writing portfolio, and demonstrable communications skills.
  4. Excelling involves versatility, identifying key audiences, tailoring messages and media, staying current with new channels, maintaining honesty, and measuring impact.
  5. Probably Good is seeking input on what additional content would be most useful to the community.



This comment was auto-generated by the EA Forum Team. Feel free to point out issues with this summary by replying to the comment, and contact us if you have feedback.

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