From Student to Senior Director: Communicating on a Global Level


Tom Phillips is the senior director of communications for the Microsoft Advertising Business Group, but he started where my classmates and I are today – the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.

Phillips also entered the workforce during an economic recession in the U.S., when it was very difficult to find a job. However, staying open minded about job opportunities and embracing new challenges helped him work his way to a top leadership position in one of the world’s largest corporations.

Phillips fulfilled many roles before reaching his current position at Microsoft:

  • Assistant account executive in a 10-person public relations firm and then promoted to public relations director
  • Senior account executive for a large public relations firm and then promoted to agency vice president
  • Co-founder of a successful public relations agency
  • Global managing partner for a public relations group
  • Vice president of public relations and investor relations

 Now as the senior director of communications for the Microsoft Advertising Business Group, he does “a little bit of everything.”

Phillips explained that, on a daily basis, he manages a small internal team of people at Microsoft. His job involves a lot of industry relations, and Waggener-Edstrom helps them to execute and craft many of their public relations campaigns. He also writes speeches for executives “higher up the ladder.” A large amount of his time is spent on media relations. Phillips often travels to New York and San Francisco to work with reporters.


A common challenge of working in technology on a global level is government and country relations.

“It’s not easy. As proud of our country as we are…there are differences – culturally and regulatory – U.S. PR solutions don’t work in Italy or Hong Kong. You have to be humble enough to know that.” ­

Technology adoption rates differ in each country, and it is important to understand these differences and embrace them. One of the most important aspects of a global company is having smart people in the different regions that know the media landscape. A lot can be lost in translation if a company is not careful to adjust its message for different international clients.

“You are on their turf when you are trying to tell stories outside of the U.S.”

Phillips added that it is important to get together with the international team once a year to see what is working and to develop a sense of community within the organization.


Phillips ended our conversation with some advice on how to break into public relations:

  1. A journalism degree isn’t essential, but candidates with a journalism degree will get moved “to the top of the resume pile.”
  2.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of internships. Nowadays, candidates are making themselves more competitive by entering the job hunt with multiple internships. Internship experience holds a huge advantage.
  3.  Know your social media channels. More and more work is done over social media and less is done through other wires like news releases. It’s not uncommon to implement campaigns through social media channels and follow up with more traditional media.
  4. Emphasis case studies and results on your resume. Demonstrate that you know how to write like a journalist.
  5. Master the art of writing. Many of the millennial candidates struggle with writing. While it is important to know your social media, do not sacrifice AP writing skills. For whatever niche of public relations you choose, know the media landscape.
  6. Follow the industry and know the reporters in it. Having a passion for your niche industry is important.

One response to “From Student to Senior Director: Communicating on a Global Level

  1. Pingback: Top Student Blog Posts From Last Quarter | The PR Post·

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