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A community relations director works within an organization to foster strong ties with the community and increase revenue. Institutions like hospitals and universities may maintain a community relations position as part of their business strategy. Requirements can vary, but may include a college degree in marketing or public relations, and three to five years of experience in such work. Industry experience can also be useful, even if someone doesn’t have specific public relations training.
One aspect of the job involves clearly communicating with the local community. The community relations director can work on advertising campaigns to familiarize people with the types of products and services the company offers. This can increase interest in the company and may lead to more customers. In addition, outreach can include discussions about issues of mutual interest, like addressing parking shortages, to indicate a willingness to cooperate to resolve problems.
To create a positive image in the community, the community relations director may organize special events. These can include lectures, art exhibits, and performances. These can allow members of the community to visit the site, learn more about the company, and develop positive perceptions of the organization. Community relations can also include setting up grants and scholarships and giving back through charitable endeavors like funding downtown landscaping or helping libraries buy books.
Integration between an organization and the surrounding area can be part of the job for a community relations director. Institutions want to be welcomed in their regions, and also want to be perceived as an integral part of local politics and culture. These strong bonds can be helpful when they want to apply for rezoning, expansion, or other activities that could potentially impact the community. If people have a positive perception of an organization, they may be more supportive of these endeavors, while an isolated or standoffish company might meet with resistance. Locals could, for example, oppose the construction of a helicopter pad at a hospital so it could expand its emergency services.
This job requires excellent communication skills as well as the ability to work with people from a wide range of backgrounds. The community relations director needs to be active around the region, and it is important to follow ongoing political and social events. If problems do arise, fast responses can be critical, and may make the difference between a peaceful and equitable resolution and a protracted battle. Small gestures can make a big difference, and community relations directors need to be adept at making them. For instance, a university with a noise problem could install barriers to cut traveling sounds and appease neighbors.
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