Three Things Your Communications Director Needs from Leadership

Guest post by Melissa Russom

Are you providing your communications leader with everything they need to successfully represent your organization and do the job they’ve been hired to do?

“Hire right, then get out of the way” is a mantra meant to prevent micro-managing, but sometimes it translates to a lack of direction and strategy.

Yes, employees need freedom to create, fail and learn. Trust in an employee’s abilities and decision-making process is absolutely essential. That’s not all, though, Executive Directors. You owe your employees more than freedom.

Before retreating to your office to wait for your new communications director to provide you with your marching orders for all things outreach, public relations, branding and media, be upfront in offering these three must-haves for any successful director:

  1. Direction. Wait, doesn’t this get into micro-managing? Didn’t you hire a director to take care of this? Yes and no. You owe your communications director the knowledge and context of where your organization is heading. The goals and strategic plan are critical here. The communications director is going to strategize and develop a plan for how their department can assist the organization in meeting its goals. Generally they are not charged with defining those goals (or, if they are, they’re more than your communications director).

  2. Accessibility. Your presence and input make a difference. If you are the one who sets strategy and direction for the organization, then accessibility to you is critically important. It keeps your organization’s voice authentic and your messages on-point. It keeps the organization proactive rather than reactionary.

  3. A seat at the table. When you’re discussing the future of the organization, challenges, opportunities or threats, the communications lead needs to be there. They can be either a contributing member, recognized for their knack for asking probing questions that help to clarify strategy, or a non-participating member of the leadership group. Communications pros understand nuance, tone and context - and they’re responsible for emanating this outward. Don’t let these critical elements get lost in translation.  

Bottom Line: Equip your communications director with direction, accessibility and a seat at the table then let them loose. Investing in these critical areas saves time for you and your employee (and your human resource department who wants this hire to stick!).


Written by Melissa Russom. Melissa empowers organizations to engage more intentionally with the people they need to propel their missions forward. A strategist, writer and storyteller, Melissa focuses on clear messaging and brand strategy to assist teams in engaging their audiences and motivating them to take action. She has more than ten years of experience directing communications within and alongside nonprofit organizations of all sizes, including founding a heart disease awareness organization in upstate New York that has raised more than $165,000 through volunteer efforts.

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