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Amateur’s Guide to Being a Professional in Advocacy Communications

By Hannah Levin

Table of Contents:


What Is Advocacy Communications as an Industry?


Examples of Jobs within Advocacy Communications

A Day in the Life within Advocacy Communications Look Like?

Nick Dockery

Erin Chazer

How Do You Get a Job in the Industry?


Cal Poly Specific Recommendations

Where to Go from Here



Seemingly everyday, new stories are broadcast about a college student creating a life changing application for sexual assault survivors, strategies to clean our oceans, or programs to help support at risk youth. These individuals are able to act upon their passions and make a positive change in the world around them. Most college students, about “2/3” of us believe that we “are going to change the world.” (Wade) However, students are able to actively become the student that makes this statistic more than a fanciful college dream by advocating for their community and passions using technical communication skills to positively affect the world around them.

Advocacy communication is an emerging field that includes a cohesion of many of common job field such as media relations, event coordination, marketing, and journalistic communications in order to advocate for a specific cause.

This document is a guide to understanding and entering the field of advocacy communications for students at California Polytechnic. While advocacy communications as a field is constantly changing and adapting, this guide serves to concisely provide a brief introduction into the field as it currently stands.  

What is Advocacy Communications as an Industry?

Definition: Advocacy Communication is a cohesive and comprehensive field that includes many of the common fields of media relations, event coordination, marketing, and journalistic communications. However, in advocacy communications, an individual uses a congruity of these skills in order to advocate for various causes. For instance, an individual within environmental advocacy communications would operate as a public advocate for environmental causes through marketing, social media, and the documentation of current problems and solutions within environmental fields. This field is an emerging concord of existing fields, and therefore encompasses and relates to many other positions and job types.

For clarity, Environmental communications is a job field within the umbrella of advocacy communications, as environmental communications works to advocate for a cause: the environment, through communications work. Environmental Communications is a prime example of the cross disciplinary work of advocacy communications, and its power to reach a wide audience and spread change.

Due to the wide variety of jobs in the field, there are not solid statistics surrounding the ‘average’ job in the field in terms of average salary or career path. However, some advocacy communications jobs, as highlighted below, range from Communications Advocacy Director positions with salaries around $113,000 yearly (Earthjustice Glassdoor), to Public Advocacy jobs, averaging about $63,000 yearly (Public Advocacy Glassdoor). Of course, as is true with most jobs, much depends upon whether the job exists within the public or private sector, and the position within each company.

Examples of Jobs within Advocacy Communications:

1. Earth Justice, a nonprofit environmental law organization, offers the position “Advocacy Communications Director.” The job entails communications with lawyers, attorneys, journalism writers, press secretaries and associates, and marketers. Earthjustice describes the position as an opportunity to oversee “major advocacy campaigns, media relations, and special projects.” Typically, Advocacy Communications Directors are in charge of “messaging, press, and content development” as well as “community organizing, earned media outreach, online advocacy, digital storytelling, and thought leadership from individual attorneys,” building “momentum” in advocacy efforts, connecting with other organizations through “online and offline communications” and analyzing “ market research/polls...for program outreach.” On the managerial side, Advocacy Communication Directors are in charge of general managing, staffing, budget oversight, tracking, measurements of success, and internal/external reporting.” (Earthjustice)

2. The Leeway Foundation, an organization “working to support women, trans artists, and cultural producers working in communities at the intersection of art, culture, and social change,” offers the position Communications and Community Engagement Assistant. This assistant is in charge of “communications, outreach and visibility strategies, including print and electronic messaging, event operations, and liaising with community partners.” (Leeway Foundation)

3. UNICEF, The United Nations Children's Fund, employs an Advocacy & Engagement Intern who researches grassroots advocacy initiatives and identifies leading organizations or networks to partner with, and helps “draft and format written deliverables, presentations, and other communications materials” to shape the message and operations of UNICEF’s outreach. (UNICEF)

4. Beveridge & Diamond Law, an environmental law firm, offers a Marketing Communications Coordinator position, working with lawyers to “produce and distribute “intellectual content (e.g., alerts, blog posts, other publications) and promotional content (submissions to rankings and directories, brochures, pitch books, advertisements)” from the firm’s   website, email, and social media platforms. They collaborate with the “firm’s lawyers and Chief Business Development & Marketing Officer on public relations activities.” This position also requires “graphic design support for substantive and promotional PowerPoint presentations and infographics.”(Beveridge & Diamond Law) This job is an intersection of law, environmental advocacy, public relations, and graphic design, all falling within the grander communications advocacy umbrella.

5. Kaiser Permanente has a Communications Public Advocate who provides” public policy communications strategy, management, consultation, planning, implementation” and organizes events and projects for Kaiser Permanente” across a broad variety of internal and external audiences (KP leaders, employees, influencers, media, members, consumers, etc.)” to promote the brand of Kaiser Permanente. (Kaiser Permanente)

As the variety of these jobs demonstrate, advocacy communications spans a wide assortment of job fields, positions, and interests.

What Does a Day in the Life within Advocacy Communications Look Like?

Nick Dockery is a second year Cal Poly student, majoring in English and minoring in Integrated Marketing Communications. Nick has been interning this year as a content creator on the Marketing Team at Ulzi, a recent startup company that created content and an interactive map to reduce sexual assault by connecting family, friends, and fellow Ulzi app users. Nick’s typical week involves a lot of writing: pitching article topics about sexual assault, working on these pieces, publishing them, and editing peer’s work. However, like many jobs within advocacy communications, Nick’s work involves marketing as well, as he works to build a ‘voice’ for his brand through social media and web pages. Therefore, within Nick’s job, he utilizes his communication skills by not only writing publicly received and published articles but creating content and reaching out through multiple media platforms. (Nick Dockery)

Erin Chazer is a fourth year Cal Poly student, double majoring in English and Political Science. Erin is very involved within her community and is the president of Cal Poly Democrats Club, works with Planned Parenthood SLO, and has worked on numerous political campaigns. Most recently, Erin worked on Congressman Salud Carbajal’s campaign for Congress as a way to use her communication skills to advocate for environmental, minority, and women’s rights. In her daily job, she talked to constituents, “passing their messages along to the staffers that could help them with their concerns” and working “special projects” writing and developing brand messages for the congressman and his team. Through her work, Erin “learned a lot about what issues were serious to the people of the central coast” Her work utilized her oral and written communication skills and actively helped her understand and advocate Californian constinuents and concerns. (Erin Chazer)

How Do You Get a Job in the Industry?

Outlined are some helpful skills to have upon entering the advocacy communications field.

You Must Have:

• Strong writing skills

• A High tolerance for diversification of communication styles

• Outstanding organizational skills with demonstrated ability to maintain oversight of the range of communication activities

• Demonstrated awareness and sensitivity to the needs and concerns of individuals from diverse cultures, backgrounds and orientations, and ability to address this diverse audience

• A Bachelor’s Degree (required); a concentration in communications, marketing, political science, English, or a specific field of advocacy can be helpful; and advanced degrees are a plus depending on the position

• Be informed and passionate

• “Exceptional interpersonal and management skills, with an understanding of the difference between leadership and management -- and the ability to exercise both” (Earthjustice)

You Should Have:

• Some technological skills: social media platform experience, and familiarity with graphic design tools 

• A Network of friends and professionals in the field: Nick recommends “Networking is incredibly important.” As evidence of the importance of a network, Nick got “in touch with the head of the marketing content team through a friend. That connection led to a phone call, leading to a sample article and email correspondence over the course of two weeks, which led to three more phone calls, which led to my 4-week trial period (which just finished, and I am now working a full-time internship.” (Nick Dockery) In this case, Nick used his connections in his professional network in order to gain an interview and eventually, his job. 

• Experience within the field you are interested in joining: whether through volunteer experience, or a paid internship or job, is important in creating networking connections, demonstrating your passion and experience, and building your skillset

You Might Have:

• Public speaking experience 

• Multiliteracy in order to reach a larger public audience

Cal Poly Specific Recommendations:


  • Nick recommends Cal Poly’s “JOUR 312 Public Relations course with Dr. Eller. As well as introducing concepts as obvious as technical writing, the class made me think critically about the relationship between a content creator and their audience. The idea of being an ambassador between the company and its consumer base was particularly helpful for me and my work at Ulzi. “ (Nick Dockery)

  • Cal Poly currently has a Technical and Professional Communications Certificate. The certificate teaches how to package and deliver information through varied writing approaches, graphic design, and media content.

  • Classes specific to your passion or interest, to become more well rounded in your knowledge of the field

Clubs/On-Campus Jobs:

  • Join a club or organization that you are passionate about! Erin has been in “Cal Poly Democrats (which [she is] now the president of) since [her] freshman year” She “worked on the congressman's first congretional campaign in 2016…”So when [she] applied [she] had a proven history of being passionate about a lot of the same causes that the congressman cares about” (Erin Chazer)

  • Join a Greek life on campus! Cal Poly has many professional fraternities, including college specific honor societies, such as Cal Poly’s English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, and job field specific fraternities, such as Cal Poly’s law frat, Phi Alpha Delta. These help students build a network and develop professional skills.

  • Get a job at Mustang News! Nick says he “spent over a year at Mustang News”His experience at Mustang News not only looked impressive on his resume, but helped his confidence and experience in different disciplines, such as editing, which was helpful upon joining Ulzi. This could also provide an outlet for advocacy topics students are passionate about, and provide a written, published work to show as evidence of work in communications field.

Where to Go from Here: While vague and often times intimidatingly all-encompassing, advocacy communications provides a cross dimensional job for people interested in marketing and writing to advocate for their passions and make a mark on the world around them. By delving into your interests, joining the social and political climate of Cal Poly’s campus, and becoming involved with your community, you could be the next student in the news, changing the world for the better.


Beveridge & Diamond. “Marketing Communications Coordinator.” Beveridge & Diamond Marketing Communications Coordinator Job Opening,

Earthjustice. “Application: DC Advocacy Communications Manager.” Earthjustice, 23 Dec. 2016,

Earthjustice - Glassdoor “Salary: Public Advocate.” Glassdoor,,15_KE16,30.htm.

  Erin Chazer, personal interview, May 6, 2018.

Kaiser Permanente. “Director.” Director of Communications, Public Advocacy - Government Relations,

Leeway Foundation. “Community Engagement Assistant.” City of Green Bay,

  Nick Dockery, personal interview, May 4, 2018.

Public Advocacy - Glassdoor “Salary: Advocacy Communications Director.” Glassdoor,,32.htm.

UNICEF. “Summer 2018 Advocacy Engagement Intern at UNICEF.” Linkedin,

Wade, Lisa. “2/3rds Of College Students Think They're Going to Change the World.” The Huffington Post,, 7 Dec. 2017,

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