Kickstarting a career in Strategic Communications

15 Feb 2024

Rupert Bhatia, Senior Associate at DRD, offers some advice to those looking to start a career in media and communications.

Media, communications, and the arts have an often-deserved reputation for being difficult to break into. We’ve all heard the stories; endless unpaid work experience; job applications going unanswered; and, fundamentally, those at the start of their careers not quite sure how to navigate those critical first steps.

There is, however, more than a glimmer of hope. Lecturing at the London College of Communication, I’ve obtained some fascinating insights into the next generation of media and comms professionals.

The students were all bright, engaged and – most importantly – absolutely motivated to kickstart their careers. Some wanted to go into journalism or social media, others are considering communication-type roles.

The lecture itself explored the similarities and differences between journalism and strategic communications. This leaned on my 10-year background as a broadcast journalist, working on radio and television, and my experience of making the change to strategic communications seven years ago.

We also discussed how key stories are reported, like; the 2011 London riots; the 2012 Olympics; the two Malaysia Airlines tragedies and the Paris terror attacks. The students were keen to understand how my former journalist colleagues and I decided the treatment of each story and why a particular angle may be given more prominence.

This conversation then evolved into the way a youth orientated radio station like BBC Radio 1 or Capital might treat a more complex story. Taking the current reportage of the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea as a contemporaneous example and I explained that there is a belief, rightly or wrongly, that younger audiences only have a limited interest in complicated geopolitical stories – particularly those that require significant explanation and/or background.

Top tips for those wanting to break into media and communications:


  1. News is important. Make sure you’re up-to-date and consume as much news media as possible.
  2. Take-up paid internships to get a flavour for different companies and sectors.
  3. Be persistent. Media and communications does require a fairly thick skin. Try not to be disheartened if you don’t hear back from a job application or speculative email.

This is why a Houthi attack might only get 15 seconds in a 60 second news bulletin – which clearly isn’t enough time to give full context to the story. Ultimately, the way a news story is presented is intrinsically linked to the audience or the publication, radio station or TV channel.

We then moved on to strategic communications and how audiences remain a critical part of how any strategy is formed. Whereas journalists usually need only worry about two audiences – listeners (or readers/viewers) and management – in strategic communications there is far more nuance. Typically, we’ll be considering a wide-range of external audiences, including clients, customers, regulators and lawmakers. In addition, we’ll also be considering internal audiences like staff and board members, the client’s senior management and the individual or team with which we’re working.

It’s clear that the students today are discerning about what career they go into. Being involved with purpose-led organisations that align with their own values is a key consideration to their next steps.

For some, running their own YouTube or TikTok channel is their ultimate goal, for others it’s working in more traditional media and for at least a few, strategic communications is an active consideration. But regardless, all made clear that they aren’t afraid of hard work, long hours and the need to grab opportunities as quickly as possible.


Rupert Bhatia is a Senior Associate at DRD Partnership and a guest lecturer on the Media Communications and Critical Practice MA course at the London College of Communications.

To find out more about career opportunities at DRD Partnership, please visit our LinkedIn page.