For political junkies and current events enthusiasts, these past few years may prove to be the golden age. From print journalism and television to numerous social media platforms, the window to the world is wide open and far-reaching. Politicians, business owners, decision-makers and industry professionals use these means of communication to reach their target audience, whether that’s voters, potential buyers, job candidates or the public.
Whatever message they’re attempting to convey requires a strategy. That’s where media strategists come into play. If digital media is something you genuinely enjoy and you’re passionate about marketing, working as a social media strategist may be your calling. The Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University can equip you with the learning outcomes and combination of soft and hard skills necessary to thrive in this highly competitive, highly rewarding role. Through online courses such as Maximizing Social Media and Digital Strategy, you can obtain the qualifications employers look for in strategists to lead high-quality media campaigns.
What does a media strategist do?
Media strategists’ tasks tend to vary depending on their employer. For example, a strategist who works for a business may be charged with building or establishing a brand’s reputation or image. This is easier said than done, and it’s part of the reason why successful media strategists must excel in creativity, which is a soft skill that can be learned through practice.
Media strategists may also speak on behalf of public officials or candidates running for office. Their focus here is also on communication, such as clarifying where an incumbent or challenging candidate stands on a particular issue or cause. This may require collaboration with other members of a candidate’s staff, such as political strategists, campaign advisors, press secretaries or consultants.
Above all else, media strategists serve as advocates for whomever they’re representing and rely on their experience to decide which outlets will best communicate a given stance, viewpoint, belief or message.
What can media strategists expect during a typical day?
Since media strategists work in several industries beyond strictly political communications, their day-to-day interactions are largely informed by their responsibilities and whom or what they work for. If employed by a digital marketing agency, for example, they may be a contributing member of product development teams and be actively involved in ongoing efforts that entail plan development or establishing a more firmly entrenched online presence to reach a broader, more diverse audience. The assignments of a social media strategist, meanwhile, may be much more targeted in nature. As noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one portion of the day may be devoted to fielding criticism on their employer’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feed. The next may be spent answering questions, comments or concerns on the same platforms.
Yet no matter what the average day brings, a strategist must adhere to one overriding mission: communicating the message that their employer desires through the established best practices of social media marketing.
“You have to make sure that whatever you’re posting reflects the brand’s mission and goals,” Lanae Spruce, social media specialist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, told the BLS. “And you have to have a strategy.”
Spruce further stated that the constant monitoring of brand messaging ― and doing so on multiple platforms – requires good time management skills because it can take up a good portion of the typical day, depending on web traffic. This real-time nature of social media management – interacting with people just as their messages come in or shortly thereafter – helps to make the job fun, challenging and interesting at the same time.
How do you become a media strategist?
Since the typical job description of virtually every media strategist position entails communication, an undergraduate degree in communication-related fields is generally preferred. These may include (but aren’t necessarily limited to) journalism, marketing, public relations and business administration.
On-the-job experience is always a plus, and depending on the academic program you pursue, you may have opportunities that allow you to gain some. The master’s program at the Graduate School of Political Management offers the Washington Residency. Usually completed in the last or second to last term, this capstone experience equivalent exposes students to what working on Capitol Hill is actually like and affords students a chance to interact with advocacy specialists, elected officials, political consultants and applied researchers. Some of these interactions may include media-related assignments that entail strategy, messaging and planning.
How much money does a media strategist stand to earn?
Although there is no specific listing for media strategist in the BLS’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, many of their responsibilities are similar to those of marketing managers, advertising specialists and public relations consultants. In 2019, the median annual salary for professionals in this field was $135,900. The lowest 10% made a median of $61,930, while the highest 10% had a salary of over $208,000.
Whether you foresee yourself working in politics, education or the nonprofit sector, communication management is critical. Media strategists are poised to grow, and an online master’s degree from the GSPM can help you attain the skills needed to thrive in this role. Contact us today to learn more about the curriculum and many areas of communications former students have gone on to work in.
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