Director of Communications

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Organization: Médecins Sans Frontières
Job Type: Full-Time
Country: United States
Experience: Executive Level (10 years)
Languages: English
Category: Communications/Advocacy
Topic: Health/HIV
Application Deadline: 27. June 2021

Job Description

The Communications Department is responsible for developing a coherent voice and delivering clear public messages to inform both US and international audiences of MSF, its field activities and the humanitarian principles that underpin them; to raise awareness about the plight of the populations we serve; to promote public communication aimed at exposing and describing the field reality, including dilemmas and challenges; and to garner public understanding for our advocacy messages related to field operational concerns and the Access Campaign, via the media, print and digital channels, public awareness and advocacy campaigns, conferences, etc.

Project

Communication plays an integral role in the medical, humanitarian work of Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).  As an organization founded by journalists as well as doctors, raising awareness about the situations that we witness through our work is a fundamental part of what we do.  The Communications Department of MSF USA has an important role in this global effort, being situated in New York City, a major hub for media reaching both American and international audiences.

The department’s core purpose is to increase awareness of the humanitarian, medical crises that MSF is seeking to alleviate, as well as increase the profile of the organization, via diverse media and in support of MSF’s advocacy, recruitment, and fundraising activities.  As part of this core purpose, department members are highly mobile, committed to supporting operational teams on the ground when required to support our activities.  MSF USA also provides specific support on content creation, editorial quality, strategic communications, and innovative use of digital tools that benefit the global movement.

We place a high premium on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the ways we portray our humanitarian action, our global workforce, and the communities we assist.

Reporting to the Executive Director, the Director of Communications plans, coordinates and directs strategies, activities and staff members engaged in developing messages and content designed to: inform both US and international English-speaking audiences of MSF, its medical humanitarian operations and the humanitarian principles underpinning them; raise public awareness about the plight of the populations we assist; promote public communication aimed at exposing and describing medical humanitarianism , including dilemmas and challenges;  and garner and broaden public understanding of MSF’s advocacy messages related to operational concerns and global health advocacy/access to medicines.

As a member of the MSF USA Management Team, the Communications Director participates in developing collective decisions and setting priorities for MSF USA, approving internal policies, and making collective recommendations to the Board of Directors, especially through the Annual Plan. The Communications Director contributes to the formulation of MSF USA strategic plans.  The Director also collaborates closely with other MT members to ensure cross-departmental interaction and coordination.

The Director of Communications works as part of a global communications network and is required to develop a strong working relationship with that network, to support and disseminate communications for the whole of MSF.  Through regular and intensive interaction with MSF Operational Centers, humanitarian project teams, and the Access Campaign communications staff, the Communications Director participates in defining and carrying out MSF’s communication strategies and activities. The director also maintains regular relationships and interactions with counterparts in other MSF offices in formulating and administering organization-wide communication strategies and messages, and, when warranted, working closely with the Director of Programs to ensure that MSF USA’s specific public positioning is appropriately represented.

Tasks

  1. Essential Functions and Responsibilities: 

STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP 

  • Leads and oversees the development and implementation of efforts to increase awareness of humanitarian crises and medical humanitarianism, along with MSF’s activities, accomplishments, concerns, expertise and values through the media, public events, print and digital publications.
  • Participates in defining communication strategies and policies for projects under the responsibility of the NY-based operational desk which currently manages medical projects in Haiti and Liberia, for example, with a particular focus on Latin America.
  • Oversees the organization of public conferences and speaking events that raise awareness of MSF’s activities, medical research and treatment recommendations, and medical-humanitarian values and principles.
  • Develops strategies, ensures preparedness, and executes crisis communications as they may be required in the US.
  • Works in MSF project countries up to six weeks per year to assist with high-level communications efforts, including production of special reports, managing emergency and/or crisis communications, in close coordination with relevant operational leaders.
  • Coordinates regularly and closely with communications directors of MSF’s operational centers to propose, support, guide, and help shape priority operational and advocacy communications.

Media Relations 

  • Supervises the Media Relations Director and collaborates in the implementation of media activities that target US audiences, US-based media with an international focus, and international correspondents attached to US media outlets with messages that bear witness to MSF field activities and support our advocacy messages.
  • Ensures that the Media Relations Unit assists and coaches MSF aid workers and senior representatives with preparation for media interviews, public speaking engagements, presentations, and preparation of articles and/or opinion pieces for publication.
  • Develops and maintains high level contacts across the journalistic and social media sectors.
  • Develops ideas and opportunities for feature articles, interviews, presentations, and other public relations activities that promote awareness of MSF, its field work and advocacy efforts.
  • Oversees preparation and editing of press releases, in coordination with Operations and communications counterparts.

Editorial Content Development 

  • Supervises the Editorial Director who plans, coordinates, and directs content creation and staff engaged in selecting and preparing material for www.doctorswithoutborders.org , MSF USA social media channels, print and audiovisual publications, e-newsletters, annual reports, etc.
  • Reviews quality of final print or electronic product before release.

Public & Internal Events 

  • Supervises the Public & Internal Engagement Manager who directs and oversees the strategic planning, including the development of themes and selecting target audiences in the US, for speaking events, online and in-person panel discussions, film screenings, and/or special exhibits that bear witness to MSF activities and support MSF’s advocacy messages.
  • Oversees and advises on the preparation and presentation (content and logistics) of public education projects.

Public Advocacy

  • Co-Leads the execution of public advocacy campaigns and political messaging through strategic partnership and collaboration with the Director of Programs.
  • Designs and executes communications strategies and activities aimed at garnering public and official understanding of MSF’s operations, concerns, and advocacy messages, often with the objective of influencing policies related to, or impacting, MSF patients and broader medical humanitarian priorities.

Support to Fundraising

  • Strategically collaborates with the Development Director to help meet MSF USA fundraising goals which adhere to ethical fundraising practices.
  • Ensures that information and messages in all fundraising collateral is accurate and coherent with MSF’s actual medical humanitarian programs, advocacy positions, and ethical standards (e.g. photo guidelines, patient confidentiality, program descriptions).
  • Coordinates with and supports the Development Director in developing, maintaining, and implementing MSF USA’s corporate gift acceptance policy, including the critical evaluation of corporate or other fundraising opportunities that fall within “grey zones” of existing gift acceptance policy.

Brand Management & Trademark Protection 

  • Supports the Executive Director, Executive Officer, and legal counsel, to ensure the protection of the “Without Borders” trademark and MSF logo.
  • Evaluates costs and benefits of licensing the MSF trademark for use in films, documentaries, or other channels in the US, and presents these requests and risk assessments to the Executive Director for approval.

DEPARTMENTAL MANAGEMENT

  • Leads team of 16 to create annual communications plan and budget of $3,250,000 (including HR costs).
  • Develops departmental budget for review and approval by Executive Director and the Board of Directors.
  • Analyzes activities, costs, and operations to determine department progress toward stated goals and objectives.
  • Confers with Executive Director and other administrative personnel to review achievements and discuss required changes in goals or objectives resulting from current status and conditions.
  • Coaches team in defining implementation strategies for annual goals, objectives, and key performance indicators.

INTERDEPARTMENTAL COORDINATION

  • Explores opportunities and advises on communications needs of other departments and organization-wide activities.
  • Reviews and advises on external publications produced by other departments, especially Fundraising, Program and Human Resources.
  • Works with marketing and other fundraising personnel to coordinate communications activities that support promotional and fundraising activities.
  • Works with Field HR to support outreach activities and develop communication tools that support the goal of recruiting qualified field personnel.
  • Participates in defining and communicating a strategic approach to the Internet, Intranet and Extranet with regards to the needs of MSF USA and the network.
  • Attends monthly staff meetings and several annual office-wide debates to participate in information sharing across all departments, and to keep staff informed on important MSF topics so they will be able to contribute to the organization’s ongoing development.

MSF NETWORK COORDINATION and REPRESENTATION

  • Participates in formulating communication strategies and carrying out communications activities to increase awareness of MSF’s activities and concerns, expertise and values through the media, speaking events, internal publications, via intensive contacts with other MSF sections, the field teams and via representation on international and OCP communications platforms.
  • Reviews and selects materials produced by others in the MSF network for adaptation and use in the US and/or internationally.
  • When warranted, coordinates with the MSF International Office, including with the International President and support staff, in arranging relevant media appearances, speech drafting, and other public communications support.
  1. Supervisory Responsibilities: 
  • Manages three subordinate supervisors (Media Relations Director; Editorial Director; Public & Internal Engagement Manager; who currently supervise eleven employees and special project personnel as needed, plus  an Assistant, all of whom may supervise and/or coordinate the work of office volunteers, interns and/or Work Study students.
  • Carries out supervisory responsibilities in accordance with the organization’s policies and applicable laws. Responsibilities include interviewing, hiring, and training employees; planning, assigning, and directing work; appraising and evaluating performance; rewarding and disciplining employees; addressing complaints and resolving problems and disputes.

IV. Working Conditions, Travel and Environment 

MSF USA is moving toward a hybrid work model requiring in-person presence (to be defined) in the New York City office starting in 2022.

Must be able to travel as required (minimum 25%) for standard domestic and international business travel as well as to MSF humanitarian projects.  While performing the duties of this job in humanitarian projects, the Director of Communications may be exposed to precarious settings under high security and/or very basic living conditions.

Qualifications

Required

  • Senior experience in managing big, diverse and opinionated teams, and leading change with strong HR values
  • Strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, to incorporating their principles into communications workstreams, and to upholding and modeling DEI values and best practices
  • Genuine interest in and commitment to the humanitarian principles of MSF, as well as its political positioning
  • Master’s degree (M.A.) or equivalent; or five to ten years related leadership experience and/or training; or equivalent combination of education and experience in media management, journalism, or public relations
  • An insatiable news appetite, along with instinctual and discriminating news judgement with respect to the US and global media landscape.
  • Experience in developing and managing crisis communications and digital engagement strategies
  • Strong familiarity with social media platforms, their utility in amplifying messages, and their role as conveyors of rumors, non-credible health guidance, and mis/disinformation.
  • Strong grasp of international affairs, geopolitics and the dynamics driving humanitarian crises.
  • Experience managing communications/PR crises and reputational risk.
  • Solid understanding of best practice in digital engagement, transmedia storytelling, and communications innovation
  • Strong familiarity with social media platforms, their utility in amplifying messages, and their role as conveyors of rumors, non-credible health guidance, and mis/disinformation.
  • Ability to think clearly and take decisions under stress, and analyze, synthesize and present complex information in a convincing, straightforward and clear manner
  • Ability to effectively present information on controversial or complex topics to top management, public groups, and/or boards of directors
  • Track record of data-led decision making
  • Fluency in written and spoken English
  • Willingness to travel and serve in the MSF humanitarian projects for several weeks at a time

Preferred

  • Fluent French and/or Spanish
  • Prior experience in an international non-profit work environment
  • High level political analysis and writing skills

Please note that relocation assistance and visa sponsorship will be offered for this position.

Apply now

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