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Career Stories
How I Became a Communications Consultant
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Nichole Odijk DeMario
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When I was a little girl, I knew I loved asking questions. I was ferocious towards new information. Any writing assignment was met with excitement rather than my classmates’ dread. Meeting new people and learning what made them tick fell high on another one of my favorite things to do.


The thing is, I didn’t know any writers or journalists or communicators. I wasn’t even sure how to navigate that as a career path, but I knew it was the only thing that made sense to me. And so, I forged ahead, strategically taking positions I knew would help develop my need to be in the know, but furthermore help me find and tell the stories of a wide variety of individuals, companies and organizations.


What is a Communications Consultant?

No one day is the same. Keeping the line of communication open with my clients is paramount as I work to develop their communication needs. No one client’s needs are exactly the same. Some have no marketing or communications plan and others have started their marketing and communications efforts, but not to their full potential. They may need paid advertising, earned media, public relations, social media, internal or external communication tools, etc. 

 

This is where I come in. I sift through all of what’s being done and determine where to go next. I like to take a proactive versus reactive approach whenever possible. I utilize various organization tools including Evernote, Dropbox and Hootsuite to stay on top of my workload.

 

Communications Consultant Job Requirements

Organization and people skills are extremely important along with the ability to meet deadlines and exceed expectations. It’s crucial to be analytical, but not offend your client when you tell them what they’ve done well and where they need to improve. 

 

Being a great multi-faceted writer is something that I feel helps in every facet of communications consulting. You need to be able to write taglines for advertising, rewrite web content, put together social media pieces and more.

 

My Background 

My foray into this role was slightly unconventional. I have a degree in broadcast journalism, while I’ve seen others with business, marketing, English degrees and the like. I don’t believe this is the type of the position that has a hard and fast rule of what your background needs to be.


As my career and expertise grew, companies and organizations began reaching out to me to see how I could help them. And as they say, the rest is history.

 

Where I Worked

I started my career in media and transitions to communications roles. I’ve worked for for-profit and non-profits in traditional salaried positions. I’ve also freelanced for a multitude of companies. 

 

As a communications consultant, I work on a contract basis. Sometimes this is on a short-term or long-term basis depending on the needs of the client. 

 

Communications Consultant Salary  

This is very, very dependent on the marketplace as well as the type of company. As a freelance consultant, it’s important to do your research on the local market and get a sense of what people are paying for services. Also, be honest with yourself about the time you’ll be investing and work backwards. Think about what you’d like to make hourly, monthly and annually. That will help you set your rate. Don’t undercut yourself. Stress your expertise and you’ll sell yourself.

 

As an aside, I’ve heard of consultants invest so much time and resources, they’ve realized they’re barely making over minimum wage, which was not their intention whatsoever when they went down that road. 


If you work for a company, rather than freelance, the median salary is $81,600, according to PayScale for strategic communications consultants. Marketing communications consultants earn a median salary of $67,200. 

 

Why I Love My Job

I get to work with so many people and help them raise their profile to their existing clientele, target audience and the community-at-large. I get a sense of joy when they see what a difference this type of planning can do for their company. It’s not easy and there can be some back-and-forth, but it’s so worthwhile. I’m constantly learning and can’t wait to continue to grow and develop alongside my clients.

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