External affairs, also often called external relations, covers a broad range of functions for an organization. These may include media relations, fund raising, marketing, communications, public relations, advocacy, outreach and government relations. External-affairs professionals may work in a variety of employment settings such as a large company, nonprofit organization or hospital.
External affairs departments are tasked with promoting the public image of an organization and advancing its financial sustainability. Organizations that are more heavily affected by government regulations may spend more time liaising with government officials, while others may focus more on fund raising or enhancing public awareness of the organization.
Specific job duties may vary by position level; however, external affairs professionals are typically tasked with creating and implementing public relations, marketing and/or communications strategies; developing fund raising plans; department budgeting; building and fostering relationships with constituents; and enhancing the organization's public image and brand.
Within the area of government relations, tasks may include acting as the government liaison, working with the executive team to develop the organization's legislative priorities and monitoring current legislation and government regulations. Fund raising tasks may include organizing fund raising events, direct mail campaigns, corporate donations and major gifts. Communications and marketing tasks may include overseeing the design of marketing materials such as brochures and advertising campaigns.
Higher-level external affairs positions, such as directors and vice presidents, typically require a bachelor’s degree in public relations, marketing, communications or related field, with an advanced degree preferred. At least 10 years experience in a senior management position is also typically required. This should include experience working with media, public and/or government officials.
In addition to education and previous work experience, a number of personal attributes are typically required for this field. Higher-level external affairs positions tend to be very visible so strong interpersonal and presentation skills are necessary, as is the ability to work well under pressure and within the public eye.
According to Indeed.com, as of July 2010, the average annual salaries for external affairs professionals are $74,000 for a director of external affairs, $91,000 for a chief of external affairs and $67,000 for a coordinator of external affairs.