What is Strategic Communication and Why is it Important?

Take your career to the next level with a master's degree in strategic communication from TROY.

Take your career to the next level with a master's degree in strategic communication from TROY.

Each and every day, we engage in communication. But sometimes our messages are not received the way we intended, which can lead to problems for us both personally and professionally. 

While thoughtful, effective communication is important for all of us, it’s crucial in today’s increasingly complex online environment for organizations to have professionals in place who have the knowledge and skills to develop, implement and evaluate communication strategies — from handling crises to managing social media.

But what is strategic communications and why is it important? As a journalist, public relations professional and academic, Dr. Robbyn Taylor is perfectly positioned to answer. 

Dr. Taylor is the director of the Hall School of Journalism and Communication at Troy University, where she teaches undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students. She is also a two-time graduate of TROY, earning an undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism and a master’s in strategic communication before completing her Ph.D. in communication at Regent University.

Before joining TROY’s faculty, Dr. Taylor was an award-winning journalist working in print and broadcast media and an international spokesperson and media coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

What is Strategic Communications?

Dr. Taylor explains that while communication is built into the very fabric of being human, not all communication is as efficient or effective as it should be.

“We all communicate daily, but we’re not doing it purposefully,” says Dr. Taylor. “So our messages don’t always hit the mark or come across as they’re intended. When this happens, we don’t always achieve the goal that we want to.”

Dr. Taylor explains that strategic communication is purposeful communication.

“With purposeful communication, you’re thinking about why you’re sending a message in the first place,” says Dr. Taylor. “You need to think about who you want to send that message to, how to achieve your goals and how you want your audience to receive that message because the channel is also important.”

But being an effective communicator isn’t just about broadcasting a message.

“Strategic communication is a two-way street,” says Dr. Taylor. “You’re asking for feedback so that you can fine-tune future messages.”

This feedback can present itself in many different forms.

“When we think about ‘old school’ communication studies, it was all about the transmission or sending a message out to the masses,” says Dr. Taylor. “But even back then, there was feedback.”

That feedback could come in the form of a consumer purchasing a product or service, signing up for a newsletter, or visiting a website.

“Whatever the goal is, the feedback comes in and enables organizations to understand whether the goal has been reached or not,” she says. “Where did the consumer or the target audience fall off? How do you fine-tune that message? There’s a lot of back and forth. It’s not just the initial transmission. It’s an actual feedback loop. We can’t just send off a message and be done. That’s not good communication.”

So how do you become an expert in strategic communication? Earning a master’s in the field can help.

Who Should Pursue a Master’s in Strategic Communication?

TROY’s Master of Science in Strategic Communication program offers a broad range of classes, from journalism and advertising to public relations and global communications.

“It’s a mix of all those disciplines because we know that our students will have an undergrad focus on a specific industry,” says Dr. Taylor. “But as you advance in your career, you realize that those industries no longer exist in a silo.”

Social media is an excellent example of where those previously siloed communication industries now coexist.

“With the advent of new technology and communication platforms, we’ve seen a huge push to understand how to do a little bit of everything,” says Dr. Taylor. “Our program helps to bridge those gaps.”

While many organizations are still finding their voice on social media, Dr. Taylor says some are taking a more strategic approach. She highlights the fast food restaurant Wendy’s as being particularly proactive.

Wendy’s biography on X (formerly known as Twitter) states, “We like our tweets the way we like our fries: hot, crispy, and better than anyone expects from a fast food restaurant.”

“Their tweets are excellent,” says Dr. Taylor. “I would classify their messages as strategic communication because they have picked a lane in social media and stuck with it. They know who’s following them and what they like. They really go to town roasting other fast food outlets and it drives traffic and audiences to their account.”

The emergence of brands, such as Wendy’s use of social media to communicate directly with its audience, has disrupted the communication industry’s landscape.

“You don’t have to go to a TV station, advertising agency, or public relations firm to find strategic communication teams,” says Dr. Taylor. “Strategic communicators are needed across many industries, from healthcare to tire sales. The internet and social media have really changed everything.”

Gain a Competitive Edge with a Strategic Communications Degree

Understanding how other professionals in the industry operate gives graduates with a master’s in strategic communication a competitive edge.

“It enables journalists to understand why a public relations professional might be crafting a message a certain way and understand how they’re using publicity and persuasion,” says Dr. Taylor. “Even if you’re a journalist who doesn’t intend to go into a different area, just understanding how those operations work and how to better read news releases and get rid of some of the fluff that comes along with those messages is incredibly powerful.”

Dr. Taylor has firsthand experience of how the various roles in the communication industry can work together.

“When I was first hired by PETA, I don’t think they quite understood how best to pitch stories to journalists,” Dr. Taylor said. “As a journalist, I knew that calling too much, and calling to see if someone received an email with no other purpose to the call could be detrimental to the goal of getting publicity. You need to be more strategic than that and have purpose.”

Dr. Taylor explained how the most productive relationships between journalists and public relations professionals are symbiotic.

“People don’t realize that with 24-hour news coverage most journalists are always in need of quality content,” says Dr. Taylor. “If you’ve got B-roll (video footage) or you’ve got photos, just send it to them. There’s a high likelihood your content is going to hit because they’ve got to fill so many spots throughout the day.”

Dr. Taylor frequently used this approach to build brand recognition for PETA.

“One of my favorite parts of the job was when I came in in the morning and checked the weather forecast to see where it was really hot,” says Dr. Taylor. “I would then call the weather anchors and simply ask them if they would remind people to bring their pets inside and not leave their dogs in the car. Everybody loves dogs. So that was an easy win.”

A Graduate Program Led by Strategic Communications Experts 

Dr. Taylor is one of many experienced industry professionals sharing their knowledge and expertise in TROY’s master’s in strategic communication degree program.

“While we are scholars and do communication research, we’ve all worked professionally in journalism, public relations, advertising, or as communications directors,” says Dr. Taylor.

Because of the faculty’s professional and academic backgrounds, students graduate from TROY’s master’s program understanding strategic communications theory and knowing how to apply it in the real world.

“We’re teaching theory, we’re teaching best practices, and we’re teaching industry standards,” says Dr. Taylor. “Students can use this knowledge to advance in their current profession, or they can use it to build out their portfolios and make the next jump to where they want to be.”

Balance Your Study Around Work and Family Commitments with an Online Master’s in Strategic Communication

As an online degree program, TROY’s master’s in strategic communication enables students to access a postgraduate education while balancing their professional and family commitments.

“This program was developed to be specifically delivered online,” says Dr. Taylor. “We wanted our graduates to be able to go out and start their professional careers and then still get their master’s degree online.”

She knows firsthand the benefits of online learning. Dr. Taylor earned her master’s degree from TROY while working full time.

“I was a professional journalist, and I could not quit my job to go back to school full time, but I could get my master’s in a year in a rigorous program, such as the one we have here at TROY.”

Earn More Money with a Master’s in Strategic Communication

If you are still asking, ”What is strategic communications, and why is it important?” Dr. Taylor has a very concise answer — money!

“Everyone in the communication industry is expected to have a degree now,” says Dr. Taylor. “A master’s degree is what sets you apart. This puts you ahead of the pack.”

A master’s degree can mean the difference between being on an organization’s communications team or being the director of the department.

“For our students who may have been journalism majors, it can be a big bump up in pay,” says Dr. Taylor. “I always tell students to think about their retirement plan. Journalism is calling. It’s an important public service. It’s also really, really fun, but in the real world, there can be a lot of burnout because of the demand placed on journalists. What’s your backup plan?”

Even before more senior roles are considered, the pay difference between communications jobs can vary wildly.

For example, in May 2021, the median annual wage for news analysts, reporters, and journalists was $48,370, while a public relations specialist earned $62,800, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. When graduates move into leadership roles requiring a master’s degree, their earning potential can move into six figures. Glassdoor reports the average annual salary for a communications director is $108,921.

“Strategic communication is a degree that helps students in any area, whether it’s journalism, public relations or advertising, move between industries,” says Dr. Taylor. “It will help their transition for them to be more versatile.”

Take the Next Step with a Master’s in Strategic Communication

Learn more about how a master’s in Strategic Communication from TROY can help you advance your career.