Tag Archive: Chris Roush


Snap. Crackle. Pop.

Silicon Valley and other mass communicators are enamored when it comes to threes.

CNBC’s investment guru Jim Cramer talks about the three moving forces in technology: Social, Mobile and Cloud.

socialmobilecloud

Threes are easy to remember, fours or fives, not so much.

At LSI Logic, we were fond of talking about our three C’s: Communications, Computer and Consumer.

These were our three strategic markets. The three C’s were easy for customers, employees and owners (e.g., investors) or the acronym, C.E.O., (another three) to remember.

In this spirit, let’s talk about the Almost DailyBrett Communication Big Three.

These are an absolutely essential trio of communications skills, most in demand in the marketplace, and which need to be taught by our colleges and universities.

Drum roll: Persuasive Writing; Financial Communications; and Social Media.

Think of it this way: The first two are analog in nature and the latter is digital.

Compelling Writing Skills

Writing goes back to the first publicity campaign on behalf of the all-powerful Pharaoh, the Rosetta Stone. He was awesome, and if you need proof just check out the hieroglyphics on the smoothed surface.rosetta

Johannes Gutenberg speeded up the process with his Mainz, Germany printing press in the 14th Century, and now the acceleration is at warp speed with wireless communication devices.

Despite the unprecedented ability to communicate in nanoseconds to virtually any spot on the globe at any time, the old-fashioned skills of developing compelling, credible and accurate copy under deadline pressure has never been greater. For some, writing is a natural gift that comes easy. For others, it is a laborious process that can be perfected with practice.

Starting this fall, your Almost DailyBrett author is teaching Introduction to Public Relations Writing at Central Washington University. My 20 students are going to be asked to produce the following:

  • Curriculum Vitae or resume, emphasizing the student’s professional and academic accomplishments with quantifiable measurements
  • Twitter-style cover letter applying for an entry-level public relations position and emphasizing the student’s personal ROI or Return on Investment
  • Complete LinkedIn profile including the same elements of the resume, plus a professional mug shot, three references and at least 30 connections
  • News advisory targeting legacy and/or digital native media informing and/or inviting them to attend and cover an upcoming event
  • News release providing information about a breaking news story, employing the inverted pyramid and using the five W’s – What, When, Where, Who, Why – and the one H – How
  • Pitch to a selected reporter, editor, correspondent, blogger or news aggregator about a newsworthy story and offering assistance
  • Copy for a 30-second radio or television PSA or Public Service Announcement on behalf of a non-profit agency
  • Chief executive officer strategy letter to investors, analysts and employees outlining your selected company’s business strategy and future prospects
  • CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility letter to company employees about efforts your chosen corporation is making to safeguard employees, protect the environment and serve the communities in which the company does business
  • Crisis communications news release – written under deadline pressure – announcing steps a company has taken to address the crisis and pointing to the future
  • Four personal blog posts, emphasizing public relations skills and commenting on breaking news events
  • Two-page executive memo with bullets and subheads introducing a subject, examining the factors, and recommending a course of action

The philosophy behind these assignments is the only way to really become effective at persuasive writing is to Just Do It!

Financial Communications

Many right-brain types, the very people who opt for Journalism school, avoid figures at all costs. And yet, the numbers will find them.

We now live in a world of “big data,” particularly those companies that are publicly traded. Chairman Mao is probably rolling over in his grave as PRC-based Alibaba takes its predominate Mainland China digital retail play public this Friday with shares expected to be initially priced between $66 and $68.

alibaba

Right-brain students need to figure out how to make peace with numbers. UNC Professor Chris Roush (Show Me The Money) states ex-cathedra: “Behind every number is a story.”

Hmmm … that means there are stories to be told about these numbers. In addition, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) requires these stories to be told to all investors, if they are “material.” Translated: If a company has “material” information that would prompt an investor to buy, sell or hold company stock, then the company is mandated to disclose under Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure).

What this means is that each and every of the more than 5,000 publicly traded companies (NYSE or NASDAQ) in this country must issue news releases. The writers are not expected to produce the figures (there are oodles of accountants, auditors, controllers …), but they instead must tell the story behind these numbers.

That means that college and university communications graduates should know the difference between the income statement top line (revenues), the bottom line (net income or net loss) and everything in between (e.g., COGS, Gross Margin, SG&A, R&D, Operating Income, Taxes, Amortized Expenses …).

Sure wish someone had been kind enough to teach me these skills, including how to read a balance sheet, back in college.

Social Media

The world has already shifted from Web 1.0 (accessing websites) to Web 2.0 (wired and wireless devices talking to each other) and soon Web 3.0 (semantic web).

The Economist reported this week that nearly one-quarter ($120 billion) of the world’s $500 billion advertising business is coming from digital ads, increasingly being delivered to mobile devices. Yes there is no doubt that digital media is being monetized through search engine optimization (SEO) and other techniques, and that Genie is not going back in the bottle.

Facebook (friends), Twitter (140-character tweets), LinkedIn (connections), YouTube (videos), Flickr (photos), Pinterest (online scrapbooks), WordPress (Almost DailyBrett) all enjoy first-mover advantages in their respective social media spaces. There are challengers now and more competitors to come. The bottom line is that digital publishing through binary code is here to stay.

Companies and international public relations agencies are expecting that digital natives instinctively understand social media. This all circles back to the ability to write clear, concise, credible and compelling copy for an audience that is increasingly overwhelmed by information.

digitalnatives

And much of this data comes in the way of numbers, the ones with a story behind them. And increasingly, these stories no longer involve a gate-keeper but are transmitted though “owned” media (e.g., websites, blogs, social media sites).

Stating that compelling writing, financial communications and social media are the Big Three of Communications may entice the crisis communications, marketing, branding, reputation management, employee communications, public affairs and other dedicated professionals to take umbrage.

Fret not. Almost DailyBrett loves you too, and says to each of you that you need (or soon will need) graduates who can tell the story, and tell it well, through effective writing, numerical literacy and of course, proficiency with digital tools.

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-writing-skills-business-845.html

http://www.unc.edu/~croush/CV.htm

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/owned-media-an-answer-to-digital-change/

http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21615869-technology-radically-changing-advertising-business-profound-consequences

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s ask the question another way: Should left-brain quantitative types be teaching communications to right-brain qualitative types or at least overseeing their academic progress?

Recently, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) asked corporate executives if the Whartons, Haas’, Tucks, Kelloggs and oodles of other prestigious business schools should be teaching public relations to MBA candidates. The answer was overwhelming and loud and clear…”Yes!” wharton

Today, Almost DailyBrett is posing a different question:

Should the entire undergraduate and graduate sequences for the instruction of public relations and advertising (a logical extension) be taught by business schools?

This suggestion has been brought to my repeated attention by people who know both sides of the reporter/flack divide.

The thinking, which is credible, is that PR and advertising build, support and extend corporate brands. In most cases, brand is associated with a privately held or publicly traded company/corporation, directly flowing from a business strategy. Doesn’t it make sense for future PR and advertising professionals to be taught by MBAs and others holding advanced business degrees?

Strategic Business/Financial Communications

In creating an upper division college course as my master’s degree project, I was immediately struck by the opening of University of North Carolina Professor Chris Roush’s book, Show me the money: Writing business and economics stories for mass communication.

Roush recounted the story of the reporter interviewing the CEO of Humana Corporation. The CEO made several references to the regulatory SEC. The reporter asked: “Excuse me, but what does the Southeastern Conference have to do with your business?

How many students, majoring in public relations and advertising, do not know the difference between the Securities Exchange Commission and the Southeastern Conference?

showmethemoney How many more cannot explain the difference between revenues and net income?

Is gross margin increasing/decreasing or expanding/contracting?

And what constitutes accretive as opposed to dilutive when it comes to EPS?

Asking for a show of hands, there are always more than a few honest souls who openly admit they are majoring in public relations or advertising because they are not on friendly terms with numbers.

As a green public relations director back in the 1990s/2000s Silicon Valley, the author of Almost DailyBrett was asked to produce quarterly earnings releases (10-Q), the CEO letter for the annual report (10-K) and oodles of unplanned disclosures, including material  top-line or bottom-line misses, mergers and acquisitions and restructurings (8-K).

Help!

Why was I not taught how to read an income statement, a balance sheet, a cash-flow statement or how to track a stock back in college? The reason was simple: I went to journalism school.

The Five W’s, One H, The Inverted Pyramid and Who the Hell Cares?

Having acknowledged the lack of quantitative skills for the vast majority of journalism graduates, and this number definitely includes those majoring in public relations and advertising, there is still a compelling need for these students to learn journalism.

Some may differ because those who employ earned media (public relations) and paid media (advertising) are not objective. They have a point of view. PR and advertising pros want the public to do something that directly benefits their client or clients. True, enough.

Regardless, these practitioners still have an obligation to get the story right. They need to understand if a story is newsworthy or not for the intended audience(s). They need to pose the story in the inverted pyramid-style with the all-important what, when, where, who, why, how and who cares questions being answered in a concise and compelling manner.

invertedpyramid Are business schools equipped to teach journalism to PR and advertising majors? Do they want to teach journalism? Would they just outsource this responsibility to the journalism schools? They would still have ultimate oversight for these PR and advertising students.

Before these questions are all answered, let’s address another assumption, and a wrong contention as well. We are assuming that all public relations and advertising majors will be working for the greater glory and good of privately held (e.g., Dell, Subway) and publicly traded companies (e.g., Google, Amazon).

What about those who want to work in the public sector, politics, non-profits or NGOs? Yes, there are still bottom lines for all of these entities because they all have to stay in business. (Okay, the $18 trillion in cumulative debt federal government is an exception, but let’s avoid that subject for now).

Can business schools effectively teach issues management? Can they teach community relations? Can they really convey corporate social responsibility as opposed to fiduciary responsibility? Or will all of these subjects be taught by journalism schools? Do they want to teach these subjects and more? If not, why move public relations and advertising students to business schools?

The End of Journalism Schools?

If public relations and advertising students are transferred to business schools, what happens to journalism/communications schools?

First, the demographic makeup of business schools becomes more XX-chromosomes by means of the influx or public relations and advertising students, and the percentage of XY-chromosome journalism student bodies increases. Whether these results are demographically important or not, Almost DailyBrett will leave that analysis to those with higher pay grades.

Second, one must ask whether the tasks for already hard-pressed journalism school development (e.g., fundraising) professionals will become next to impossible if they lose students and graduates from two highly compensated professions?

Third, university and college politics are thorny enough without posing this transfer public relations/advertising students from J-schools to Biz schools. Is this a fight that anyone really wants to undertake? Would one jump into a venomous snake pit, if it was not necessary?

Maybe the answer lies with a hybrid approach? Keep public relations and advertising students under the J-school/Communications-school tent, but require them to take essential strategic business classes, particularly those that focus on brand management, reading income statements and balance sheets.

In return, business students should learn effective writing, grammar and persuasion skills offered by J-schools. The result may be more students, hailing from business and journalism schools, who are qualitatively and quantitatively equipped to serve as corporate public relations and investor relations technicians, managers, directors or vice presidents.

Heck, they will at least know the difference between the top-line and the bottom-line.

One can always dream. Right?

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/mba-admissions-strictly-business/2011/12/16/why-b-schools-need-to-teach-pr

http://www.socialbusinessnews.com/should-public-relations-be-taught-in-business-school/

http://www.businessweek.com/business-schools/public-relations-coming-to-a-bschool-near-you-12072011.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/are-public-relations-pros-journalists/

“You only have to go through one or two communications debacles as a senior executive to understand the importance of communications.” – PepsiCo chairman and chief executive officer Indra Nooyi

State Leadership: An Opportunity for Global Action: Michael Froman: Indra Nooyi

“Corporate crises often do manage to stick in people’s minds because business has such low credibility in the first place, reinforced by incessant media images of ruthless and profit-hungry corporations. A public that was already predisposed to hate big companies could not be completely surprised by what happened to the Exxon Valdez.” – Dartmouth Business Professor Paul A. Argenti

I flunked geometry in high school.

It was my one-and-only “falcon.”

I flunked it big time…and vowed to never take another math class for the rest of my life.

So far, I have kept my promise.

The obvious question that arises is why am I teaching J410 Strategic Business/Financial Communications at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication starting today? And why was the creation of this course the basis of my master’s degree in journalism?

Does not J410 Strategic Business/Financial Communications involve the very numbers that I so despised?

The answers are that I could have used this class repeatedly during the course of my professional career.

Many go into journalism, public relations and advertising because we don’t like math and/or we lack confidence in our arithmetic skills. The problem is the numbers will find us. We can run but we can’t hide from these little buggers.

We should remember that behind every number is a story. As communicators, we are trained to tell stories. Numbers do not appear out of thin air (okay, they disappeared at Enron…but that is a different tale).

One day I woke up as the press secretary of the Governor of California. Yes, the largest state of the union with approximately 37 million souls. Soon I was writing the news release for the state budget (12 agencies and 250,000 employees), about $70 billion (including bond funds) in the late 1980s. A quick Internet check can reveal the size and scope of California’s exploding budget and related bureaucracy today.

My job was to tell the story of the state budget, how it was balanced, how it did not require new taxes on the citizens of California, and how it even contained (gasp!) a $1 billion reserve for emergencies. Almost seems quaint when compared to the present day.

Shortly after arriving at LSI Logic (NYSE: LSI) in the mid-1990s, I was assigned to write the 10Q (quarterly earnings) releases, the 8-K (crisis communication) releases and the 10K CEO (annual report) letter to investors, customers, employees, partners, suppliers, distributors and other stakeholders.

Help.

What is market capitalization? What is the top line? What is the bottom line? Why is gross margin expanding (does it need to be put on a diet?). And is it better that a deal is accretive or dilutive…dilutive of precisely what?

Reading Professor Chris Roush’s book, “Show Me The Money,” I learned about the editor of a Kentucky newspaper, who was interviewing the CEO of Humana Incorporated, a major managed care company. The CEO referenced on several occasions the regulatory Securities Exchange Commission by its acronym, SEC. This prompted the editor to ask: “Excuse me, but what does the Southeastern Conference have to do with your business?”

roush

One of my academic colleagues recalled a day when she was interviewing a business executive who kept on referencing the S&P 500. She resisted the temptation to ask, what does a car race have to do with the executive’s business? (Do they use Indy Cars or Formula One in the S&P 500?)

There are approximately 5,000 publicly traded companies on the NYSE or the NASDAQ and each one has strict SEC mandated reporting requirements. There are also requirements to preclude the selective disclosure of “material” information…Factoids that would prompt someone to buy, hold or sell a company’s stock.

There are regulations that mandate that GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) are given greater or at least the same precedence as Pro Forma (Latin: “As a matter of form”) accounting. At LSI Logic, we reported using both methodologies with GAAP always coming first. One reporter from Reuters took issue with us employing both methods, prompting yours truly to reply: “You are the first reporter I have ever met that complains about more information as opposed to less information.”

I wish someone had taught me the rules of business communications as opposed to learning it in the School of Hard Knocks.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) announced in December 2011 the results of a quantitative survey of more than 200 corporate executives (vice president or above) on whether corporate communications/reputation management should be taught at leading business schools. Ninety-eight percent of these corporate leaders believe that U.S. business schools need to incorporate corporate communication and reputation management coursework into the standard MBA curriculum.

In addition, the PRSA survey revealed that 94 percent believe that corporate management needs additional training in core communication disciplines. Only 40 percent rated recent company MBA hires as “extremely strong” in responding to crisis situations, building and protecting company credibility.

I bet ya they would have similar sentiments about the business acumen of J-school graduates. It’s time to change these opinions through action.

The goals of J410 Strategic Business/Financial Communications is to instill in future journalists, public relations and advertising professionals with the quantitative abilities to tell the story not only about the numbers, but behind the numbers. For business majors, who are adept at numbers and spread sheets, the mission is to help them in storytelling.

The Securities Exchange Commission is a fact of life. Whether we like it or not, publicly traded companies must communicate (at least every 90 days) and they must instill confidence and conduct themselves in a manner that conveys trust. These skills cannot be outsourced with all due respect to the outsourcing nations.

SEC

The result of seven months of labor over a computer, churning out 61 pages, 15,000 words and more than 140 citations (and just about as many rewrites) becomes reality today. And if all else fails, I will always remember: Buy low, Sell high.

Almost DailyBrett Note: Roush deserves full credit for “Behind Every Number is a Story.” I will never forget this clever use of the English language.

Roush, C. (2004). Show me the money: Writing business and economics stories for mass communication. Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. Pages 1-407.

Argenti, P., Forman, J. (2002). The power of corporate communication. Crafting the voice and image of your business. New York, N.Y. McGraw-Hill. Page 250.

Argenti, P.A., Howell, R.A. and Beck, K.A. (2005). The strategic communication imperative. MIT Sloan Management Review. Spring 2005. Volume 46. Number 3. Pages 83-89.

http://media.prsa.org/article_display.cfm?article_id=2383

http://www.businessweek.com/business-schools/public-relations-coming-to-a-bschool-near-you-12072011.html

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.

gender7

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.”

investorrelations

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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