How do you follow a lecture about male and female condoms including a video demonstration about inserting the latter?

And in particular, how do you compete with an erotic discussion about “social marketing” (not to be confused with social media) with a lecture about financial statements, fiduciary responsibility and market psychology?

The answer is to remind students that it all boils down to dollars-and-cents and return on investment (ROI).

There is no doubt that condoms, both the ubiquitous male version and the relatively new offering for the female of the species, do help defend against nasty STDs. And I will humbly submit that knowledge about financial statements from the top-line-to-the-bottom-line may help guard against long-time unemployment. It may also make you wealthy and fiscally healthy.

Take a look at a 2006 PRSA/Korn Ferry International Survey of average salaries from public relations practitioners. Financial public relations/investor relations pros averaged $165,620 (serious money); Crisis management specialists, $150,000; Reputation management, $143,000; Public affairs (lobbying), $98,500 and Community relations, $59,910.

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Yes, the survey has grown some moss in the last five years and the world is now in a global economic funk, but I seriously doubt the employer preference for those who know how to work with investors and positively impact share values has changed. There may also be some cross over between financial/IR and crisis management/reputation management, but they are all handsomely compensated.

When you take financial statements into account, a job applicant should be less prone to state that “I really work well with people” in an interview with a perspective employer. What is the ROI (return on investment) in that particular overused assertion? How can you separate yourself from your competition for a job if your only claim to fame is working well with people?

Keep in mind that any firm – profit or non-profit, private sector or public sector – is making an investment in hiring any employee. One of the primary factors for the nearly 10 percent unemployment rate is the massive amount of private capital sitting on the sidelines waiting for certainty from Washington and Brussels…err Berlin…something that may not happen until 2013.

And if these firms are making an investment, they are asking what is the return on the invested capital. Will this new employee get quickly up to speed? Will she or he bring existing contacts to the job? Does her or his prior have experience that directly relates to the job? Can she or he solve a particular problem? Does she or he speak our language? Can she or he become fluent in the lexicon of our company?

Corporate fluency includes understanding how a business operates. And this also applies to non-profits that are also governed by the tyranny of the financial statement. They may be not-for-profit, but at the same time they cannot consistently lose money if they want to stay in “business.”

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Do you understand what constitutes the top line other than it is located on the top of the page? Hint it has to do with revenues. What about COGS? If you don’t know, you need to find out pronto. The same goes for gross margin. Is it expanding or contracting? Year-over-year? Sequentially? Is your function included in SG&A? If so, how do you feel about being an “expense?” Can you distinguish between gross margin and operating margin? What is the bottom line other than being on the bottom of the page?

Companies also must comply with GAAP, but some will also use pro forma or non-GAAP and are required by the SEC to reconcile the difference (Reg. G). Don’t be the reporter in Chris Roush’s “Show Me The Money,” who asked a CEO what the Southeastern Conference (SEC) had to do with his business…He was referring to a different SEC, the Securities Exchange Commission. Oops.

In this tough job environment, doing your homework prior to the interview is an absolute must. Included in this study is coming completely up to speed on the language of business and that includes the financial statement and fiduciary responsibility.

Adam Smith stated that the (fiduciary) duty of a capitalistic endeavor is to make a profit and remain viable. Economist Milton Friedman said the job of business is not only to survive but to do well.

So how can you help your perspective employer or present employer in doing well? If you can answer this question affirmatively and convincingly, you should do well as well.

Editor’s Note: I am presently working on my University of Oregon master’s project creating a course, “Communicating with Wall Street.” Any insights on market psychology, media relations, crisis communications, analyst relations, social media and employee communications are greatly appreciated.

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