What do you do for work and what did you study?
I work as a consultant in a Berlin communications and policy consultancy. I look after various customers from the energy, trade, and financial sectors and support them with external communication and lobbying. I studied political science and history in my bachelor’s degree before completing a master’s degree in political science.
How did you get into your job?
I did a few internships during my studies to find out what kind of organization and, particularly, what kind of way of working suits me. A fellow student drew my attention to a communications consultancy that was looking for further interns at the time. At the beginning I had no clear idea what communication consulting is but I wanted to learn more about it. And it quickly became apparent that although the field seems very specialised, the range of activities within it is fairly big. For instance, I advise companies from the renewable energy sector how to ensure that enough space for new wind turbines will be available to be allocated in the future. At the same time, we plan the social media strategy for ministries and help companies to communicate their often complex topics in an understandable way. The varied topics and tasks resulting from the different clients/commissions as well as the very team-oriented work helped me to understand quickly that this is something I can imagine doing in the long term.
What are the most important competencies and character traits you need to work as a consultant?
If you want to become a communications consultant you need courage, openness, political interest, and a high level of personal commitment. It’s about accompanying companies and organizations on their path – and to also be able to ‘endure’ it when the customer needs some convincing at first. This is a skill that you will learn in the first couple of years and one which you will hone as time progresses. Above all, you need a high level of analytical ability, quick comprehension, curiosity for social developments, an understanding of political-communicative relationships, and strategic competence. Ideally, you enjoy presenting and can convince people of your ideas with confidence. But you do not have to be a stage hog to be a good consultant.
What were the last three things you did at work?
- Creation of a workshop presentation in which we showed the customer how companies can use Twitter in political work and what added value it has for lobbying
- Feedback discussion with a colleague for a position paper on the integration of renewable energies and the reform of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG=Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz)
- Planning the budget for the year 2021 for the individual client commissions that I am responsible for
How do you develop a communications strategy?
Most importantly: it needs to be individually created according to the demands and goals of the respective organization. This may sound obvious at first. But it requires a deep understanding of the issues as well as internal and external developments. How does an election year like 2021 affect my approach? How is my topic perceived by the public? What are my long-term goals and aspirations? Who do I even want to reach? Who has similar interests and who doesn’t? Is a large-scale campaign suitable or is it more about looking for a direct exchange with experts? These questions need answering before you can develop the right strategy.
How much responsibility do you have and what shape does this take?
I oversee a number of customer projects/commissions and take on tasks such as the strategic and content-related sparring. I am also responsible for our results when presenting them to the contact person our customer has selected. I am usually the first person of contact. But there are also internal tasks I am responsible for such as appropriate team structure, budget planning, and preparation of offers. For some of the team members I also function as a line manager: feedback discussions, personal development, etc.
To what extent is industry-specific knowledge important for your job? Could you advise any company?
Yes, I could. As a consultancy, we will not know the customer’s areas of expertise better than their specialist departments. Our expertise is communication. This means we will look closely at what the customer wants to achieve. If we think that’s realistic we can quickly familiarize ourselves with different topics and industries. However, over the years you acquire good specialist knowledge in a number of sectors so you don’t need to start from scratch everywhere.
Do you work in a team or alone?
I work exclusively in a team. That doesn’t mean that I don’t create texts, presentations, or ideas on my own as well. But I have the advantage of being able to discuss all of it with someone else from the team.
When do you consider your work successful?
When we have made a difference through communication: when doors open for discussion, when the target group understands the topic or the message and wants to discuss it, when questions are posed, and sometimes when resistance is shown. Generally, however, communication tends to be difficult to measure.
You studied political science. Looking back at your studies, how do you benefit from that most in your job today?
Most importantly, you need to be able to recreate contexts, and to both understand and classify different perspectives. You also need good time management and commitment, two things I needed when writing the numerous essays and assignments for my seminars. They are also important when counselling.
What is most interesting/exciting about your job?
Because of my job I am always up to date when it comes to political developments and discussions. In addition, you can see how major debates are reflected in the individual industries - from meta-discussion to concrete implementation. Two examples: climate protection and digitization. Both topics are relevant to all of our customers without exception. But how they use these topics for themselves, how they approach them and what contribution they want to make varies widely. That gives me a deeper understanding of these broader debates.
Your tips for young professionals?
A lot of people don‘t really know what communication consulting is or means: I therefore recommend doing an internship during your studies to get to know the working methods and different tasks you’ll be faced with.