Assistant Vice President for Communications and Media Relations

12 Jan, 2023


Assistant Vice President for Communications and Media Relations

American University
Washington, D.C.

About American University

American University (AU) is a highly selective student-centered research institution defined by its global outlook, practical idealism, and passion for public service. AU’s nationally and internationally acclaimed faculty are renowned for their commitment to excellence in scholarship and teaching and for sponsoring programs that draw upon the extraordinary cultural, scientific, public affairs, legal, business, international, and communication resources in the greater metropolitan area of Washington, DC. The student body is cosmopolitan and globally diverse, with over 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students represented by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and over 150 countries. Learn more about AU here.

Role overview     

The Assistant Vice President for Communications & Media Relations develops, implements, and assesses comprehensive communications initiatives to support AU’s institutional priorities and brand/reputation goals.  The AVP serves as a public spokesperson for the University, and works with school, college, and unit leadership and communications teams (Academic, Development, Enrollment, etc.) to coordinate communications activities.  The AVP creates and executes strategies for media engagement, develops strong relationships with key reporters; engages university stakeholders to understand key concepts, trains faculty, staff, and administrators for media and public engagement; manages administrative functions of the communications team; and conducts measurement of media activities.  He/she/they will work tirelessly to raise the profile of AU’s programs, faculty and other assets to a broad range of media outlets.  In addition, he/she/they will build a strong relationship with and have the confidence of the University President to ensure that her media and communications priorities are addressed.  He/she/they will be required to shift frequently between proactive and reactive (crisis) communications and will be accustomed to managing multiple story lines at a given time.

Leading the Communications team within University Communications and Marketing (UCM), the AVP manages four direct reports and external PR agency support, as needed.  The AVP has 3 peers in UCM (Publications/Creative, Marketing and Community & Internal Communications), each of whom reports into the Chief Communications Officer.  The entire UCM division is approximately 35.


  • Develop, implement, and measure media relations and communications strategies and programs that support university goals and priorities, including the AU Strategic Plan, the Challenge Accepted brand campaign, the Change Can’t Wait fundraising campaign, student enrollment/retention, faculty research, and other priorities across scholarship, learning, and community.
  • Manage the university’s engagement with reporters and media outlets, draft statements and releases, coordinate internal review processes with stakeholders to ensure accuracy and message alignment, and report on outcomes.  Foster and maintain strong relationships with key reporters and outlets to facilitate solid and responsible coverage of university messages, events, and programs.
  • Counsel university officials, including the President, on media opportunities. Develop and maintain strong relationships with university leadership to cultivate stories, promote information sharing, and advance key messages.
  • Support university-wide reputation efforts, developing impactful narratives (e.g. leadership, dynamic student experiences, faculty research, community impact, etc.).  Produce ongoing stories for external audiences and internal communications channels.
  • Respond to media inquiries regarding university policies, positions, programs, events, faculty, staff, and students.  Support issues management activity and crisis communications in partnership with the Chief Communications Officer, Assistant Vice President for Community and Internal Communications, and other university officials.
  • Manage the University Communications team. Drive a service model where UCM provides strategic communications counsel and tactical support to the schools, colleges, and administrative units that advances university priorities and constituent-specific goals. Ensure coordination of communications efforts and promote adherence to university messages and priorities.  Serve as a mentor and leader to the communications team, cultivating a positive and productive environment.  Participate in UCM senior leadership group and advance integration of communications and marketing efforts/teams.
  • Build strong relationships with academic leaders, faculty, administrative unit leaders, and other campus stakeholders to develop deep understanding of core issues and priorities.  Utilize relationships to inform communications efforts and support priorities of university schools, colleges, and administrative units.  Foster networks for efficient contributions to communications workstreams and review of materials.

Experience & Qualifications

AU seeks to review a diverse slate of candidates with 10+ years of media relations, communications or public affairs experience.  Relevant candidates may have experience in Higher Ed, PR firms, government (the Hill, White House, etc.), a newsroom, or other NGOs.  AU is seeking a highly motivated, dynamic individual for this role; someone who is passionate about media relations (proactive and reactive) and able to manage a heavy and consistent stream of media engagement.  He/she/they will be expected to identify and build key relationships with top-tier journalists and support interview preparation and participation for key leaders across the University.

Relevant candidates will be comfortable and thrive in matrixed environments with multiple stakeholders. The ideal candidate will be action-oriented, with a successful track record of project management, meeting deadlines and desired outcomes.   Candidates must possess exceptional professionalism, communication, and organizational skills as he/she/they will be viewed at all times as a strategic, trusted adviser to the Chief Communications Officer and University leadership.

The AVP will manage, mentor, and inspire a team of four highly capable individuals.  As such, he/she/they must be regarded as an exceptional manager and a motivational leader who brings out the team’s passion, collaboration and collective best work.

Additionally, appropriate candidates will have:

  •  Superior written and oral communication skills with attention to detail and accuracy.
  • Demonstrated ability to develop and execute communication plans with measurable impact.
  • Demonstrated experience writing various communications modalities, such as briefings, news releases, talking points, scripts, and general correspondence concerning the organizations initiatives, strategies, goals, and performance.
  • Extensive relationships with key reporters and publications.
  • Discretion and management experience working with executive stakeholders and handling confidential information and sensitive matters.
  • Ability to manage projects and programs, which includes planning, developing timelines, determining resource requirements, evaluating progress, and reporting results.

Education & Credentials 

The successful candidate must possess a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, Communications, English or other Liberal Arts field.  A Master’s degree is preferred, but not required.

Compensation & Benefits

AU offers a competitive benefits package including a 200% matching retirement plan, tuition benefits for full-time staff and their families, several leadership development certificates, and has been recognized by the American Heart Association as a fit-friendly worksite.   Click here to learn about American University’s unique benefit options.

To ensure the health and safety of our community, AU requires COVID-19 vaccinations for faculty and staff.  AU returned to the office in 2022 for at least 2 days per week (Wednesdays are required).  The remainder of the week can be remote work/WFH.

 To apply: Submit your resume using the following link:

Job posted: 2023-01-11